Outer Banks

 


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    There is something to be said for being "The First." My recent visit to the Outer Banks involved a lot of firsts. As I drove along Outer Banks Scenic Byway bordering America's First Beach, I was enchanted. That enchantment grew as our trip progressed.

     

    Our first stop was a place that affected the way people travel forever, The Wright Brothers National Memorial where on a cold December day in 1903 Wilbur and Orville Wright first made their "impossible dream" a reality.  Their first flight in the "Wright Flyer" only lasted 12 seconds but those seconds unleashed man's power to fly.

     

    Another first that changed the world involved "The Lost Colony." No, we didn't discover what happened to that first English colony in what was then the New World. What we did discover was the back story of the play of that name that reenacts the mystery of what happened to the settlers of of Sir Walter Raleigh's colony at Roanoke Island. The Tony Award winning play was not being preformed when we visited, all the technicians, costumers and other behind-the-scenes folks were busy prepping for opening night. We got to see all hidden magic that has captivated audiences for 81 seasons.

     

     What a thrill to see the very first grapevine brought to this country around 1584 by the colonists of that doomed first colony. The Mothervine is alive and well in Manteo on Roanoke Island. It is so large I couldn't get a picture of the entire plant.

     

    Kill Devil Rum in Manteo is the first to carry on a long tradition in the Outer Banks. Rum was always popular there but Kill Devil Rum is the first distillery to make it legally. Touring the distillery with Scott Smith, one of the four owners, shows their pride in making a product that was once believed to be "strong enough to kill the devil."

     

    Sea salt has become increasingly popular with chefs in recent years. Hatteras Saltworks created by Brian and Shaena McMahon is the first salt production operation in the Outer Banks. For a two year old company, this place is is amazing.

     

    Oyster farming is not new but the way it is done by Cape Hatteras Oyster Company is amazing.  Bill and Ryan Belter are a father son team who pioneered oyster farming in Cape Hatteras. They are local waterman who knew where to find the most pristine microenvironment in the waters of the sound. Here in their leased bit of the water with the perfect amount of salt present and currents that constantly rock and wash their oysters, they produce a perfect Atlantic Oyster that local restaurants clamor for.

     

    Captain Marc Mitchum may not have been the first but he is certainly one of the most fun tours you can take in the Outer Banks. His OBX Crabbing and Shrimping Charter adventure offers you a glimpse of the real Outer Banks life of a shrimper and crabber. He took us out into the sea where we spotted osprey and pelicans. Dolphins often frolic around here as well.  We helped him catch several different types of crab and learned how to tell male from female crabs. For those of us who love soft shell crabs, learning about "peelers" and how to catch the crabs just before shedding its shell was informative. Young and old will love this trip equally. Best part is you can take your catch home and prepare you own fresh seafood feast. 

    I don't know about you but when out on the water whether in a boat or swimming, safety is a first priority. Here in the Outer Banks, safety has been important for a long time. After all this was known as "The Graveyard of the Atlantic."

     

    One stop on our trip was the little known but fascinating Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station Museum. This is one of the most complete U.S. Lifesaving Stations left in the country. The original station was built in   1874 and the current station constructed in 1911. They have some of the original equipment from the late 1800s and early 1900s.

     

    Of course lighthouses played a big part in preventing shipwrecks before the days of GPS. Outer Banks have five lighthouses. We visited three.  Cape Hatters Lighthouse built in 1870 is the tallest brick lighthouse in the world soaring 210 feet over the coast of Cape Hatteras. It had to be moved in the past as the ocean encroached and the museum tells that story. 

    Bodie Island Lighthouse is only about half as high as the Cape Hatteras Light but deserves a visit. Roanoke Marshes lighthouse is often overlooked because of it's a tiny one and not the traditional shape. It's perched at the end of a pier at the east end of the Manteo waterfront which gives you a good excuse to prowl around the shops in downtown Manteo.

    Naturally with all this exploring, we needed to be fortified with first rate food. Coastal Provisions Oyster Bar & Wine Bar CafĂ© founded in 2006 by Dan Lewis and Scott Foster, both world class chefs, specialize in oysters. I tried the Oysters Rockefeller and it was the equal of Antoine's in New Orleans where the dish was invented. They have a varied menu besides the oysters and offer a market for folks who want to cook their own food. 

    A concept that began in the Outer Banks, Duck Donuts, is rapidly spreading across the country. You order your donuts which are baked right there and choose a coating, topping and drizzle. Yummy!! 

    If you are celebrating and want an upscale restaurant, Kimball's Kitchen at Sanderling Resort fills the bill. It's located on the Soundside of the Sanderling Resort and offers magnificent views of sunset over Currituck Sound. Naturally there is seafood but steak lovers will be equally happy. The menu is quite varied.

     

    OBX Trio Wine, Beer & Cheese also verges on the upscale. It's a bistro that offers some unique cheeses as well as wine and beer and a menu guaranteed to please everyone.  An interesting feature there is the WineStation self-service tasting machines that offer an opportunity to taste 24 wines. 

    Some of the other restaurants where I sampled delicious food were Diamond Shoals Restaurant where I suggest the steamed shrimp, Sam & Omie's Restaurant in Nags Head for the perfect breakfast, and Blue Water Grill and Raw Bar at Pirate's Cove Marina for waterside dining. 

    In the Outer Banks, there are many houses for visitors instead of staying at a hotel or motel. Of course there are great campgrounds, both National Park ones and private. We stayed at magnificent home named Take it to the Limit. Yes these homes have names and deserve them. Ours was a 16 bedroom, all with their own bath, three story mansion with an elevator, swimming pool, theater, dual professional kitchens and much more.

    Another first, this was my first trip to the Outer Banks. It sure won't be my last. This is just a small preview. Many of these places will be feature stories in the upcoming issues of American Roads and Global Highways.

     For more Info:

    Outer Banks Visitors Bureau: https://www.outerbanks.org

    http://www.nps.gov/wrbr/index.htm 

    http://outerbanksdistilling.com 

    https://www.villagerealtyobx.com/outer-banks-vacation-rentals/take-it-limit 

    http://thelostcolony.org/ 

    http://www.themothervine.com 

    http://www.chicamacomico.net 

    http://www.nps.gov/caha/index.htm 

    https://www.hatterassaltworks.com   

    http://capehatterasoyster.com/about/

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    Public Disclosure-- Please Read
    I recently learned of a FTC law requiring web sites to let their readers know if any of the stories are "sponsored" or compensated.  American Roads and Global Highways' feature writers are professional travel writers. As such we are frequently invited on press trips, also called fam trips. Most of the articles here are results of these trips. On these trips most of our lodging, dining, admissions fees and often plane fare are covered by the city or firm hosting the trip. It is an opportunity to visit places we might not otherwise be able to visit and bring you a great story. However, no one tells us what to write about those places. All opinions are 100% those of the author of that feature column.  

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