Most Southerners have never seen this incredible razor-thin line of sand drawn in the Atlantic. Bisected by a two-lane thread of asphalt, State 12, these islands are home to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, 75 miles of protected coastline. Check out a few of the unique and exciting things you can do while on vacation in the Outer Banks!
Driving the Beach
You can drive on many Outer Banks beaches without endangering wildlife, and there’s nothing quite like a windblown cruise along the Atlantic to get you into the adventurous spirit of the place. Bring your own 4X4 or rent one from Island Cruisers,islandcruisersinc.com, whose tiny Geo Trackers can show you a whole day of fun for a thimbleful of gas. They’re cheaper to rent than a Jet Ski (about $160 for eight hours). Owners Eric and Valerie Stump will outfit you with everything you need, including a tire-pressure gauge, maps, and the all-important number to call if you get stuck.
Lighthouses & Ferry Rides
You can visit five lighthouses on the Outer Banks. Some are open for climbing/touring. More information: Outerbanks.org/attractions/lighthouse. A current ferry schedule is essential on the Outer Banks (ncdot.org/ferry). Moving north to south, you can drive from the mainland to Bodie and from Bodie to Hatteras via bridges. But you’ll need a ferry to cross from Hatteras to Ocracoke (a free 45-minute ride) or from Ocracoke to the mainland (2 hours, 20 minutes; $15 advance reservation recommended). Ignore the people who tell you to avoid the longer ferry ride.
Seasonal Openings & Closings
The National Park Service closes certain beaches on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore during wildlife nesting seasons. To make sure your beach of choice will be open during your scheduled vacation, visit nps.gov/caha.