11 May 2016

The Lure of the Sea

North Carolina’s Outer Banks

We have come to North Carolina’s Outer Banks (OBX for short). It’s a slither of land that runs along the ocean. We drove over three long long long bridges to get here, we have finally left the I-40 which we have been travelling on since California, behind us.

Nags Head Beach Houses
Some pastels

Driving down through Nags Head I couldn’t help but think about the show Beach Flip and Income Property where they renovated some houses just like these. They are colourful weatherboards, two to three stories tall, often on stilts. Some small, some huge. The lucky ones get the perfect position right on the beach. There is a place here that has 28 bedrooms and 35 bathrooms and rents for $40k a week, who has that sort of money? Rents double after Memorial day.

Bodie Lighthouse

Bodie Lighthouse
The lighthouse was built in 1872 and still has it’s original Fresnel lens. The lighthouses try to make a notorious stretch of sea a little safer. They call it the Graveyard of the Atlantic where many ships and lives have been lost. You can only just see the tip of one shipwreck, just across the road from the Pea Island Wildlife Reserve.

Just near Bodie Lighthouse is Coquina beach. I had heard that the beaches around here are pretty special but the one five minutes walk from our campsite isn’t as it is covered with seaweed and the fishermen leave large wheel ruts in the sand as they drive to where they want to fish. Coquina beach is very nice. We found some other residents who think it’s pretty special too.

Digging his den
Watching us, if we moved they ran back into their burrows

The first three days there was just a light wind. Then we got a taste of what it is usually like here. It is afterall the sixth windiest place in America. Coming back from our day trip to Ocracoke Island, we saw hundreds of kite surfers and a few windsurfers. We couldn’t always see the sea, but we could see the colourful parachutes up in the sky as we drove along. It was perfect conditions for them with flat water and high winds. Back at our campground, peoples’ tents were getting squashed by the wind. Just after dinner another storm rolled in with high winds, lightening and heavy rain.

On Pea Island, just down the road from us is a Wildlife Refuge. They have numerous birds and some turtles.

Fishing Pier during the day

We had a copy of the tide schedule so planned to go back to the Fishing Bridge just before high tide. We were early, it wasn’t all the way in so we had a drink at the bar that is hidden behind the shop. There’s an outdoor area to sit that you can’t see from the beach giving you a fantastic view over the pier, beach and sea. We went down to the water’s edge at high tide but it was still too far out, so we couldn’t get the photos we were wanting. Then Lindsay remembered that the moon phase affects the height of the tide, sounds like we need to do a bit more research.

Fishing Pier near sunset, the light was only there for about two minutes
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

The Cape has been losing land to the sea for years. They have spent a lot of money moving sand around but it's a losing battle. The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was built in 1870, 1500 feet from the shore. It has a lovely candy-cane stripe, so is very recognizable. At 280', it is the tallest brick lighthouse in the world. But by 1980 it had waves lapping it's foundations and soon it would be lost into the sea. Hatteras Island is a barrier island and the wind and sea have been moving it westward for years. The Lighthouse station was relocated in 1999 at a cost of $11,900,000. It was moved 2900 feet southwest, again 1500 feet from the shoreline. It has more than 175,000 visitors each year, with many climbing the 248 steps to reach the top.

In 1917 German submarines operations began circling just off the cape. In 1942 the Germans were back again with their U-boats. By mid January 1942 nineteen U-boats were operating outside the Outer Banks. They sunk a US oil tanker which had a devastating effect on the Outer Banks beaches. In the spring of '42, during March and April, the Germans managed to sink a US ship a day without incurring a single casualty. On April 14, the Americans torpedoed and sunk the U-85, and while the Germans didn't leave, they didn't enjoy the success they had in the preceding months.

Coquina beach
Ocracoke Lighthouse
Manteo Waterfront

We had organised to meet up with Melanie and Bud for a drink when we got back from the pier. They have sold up everything and bought an RV to live and travel in. While Bud has been retired for three years, Melanie only just retired recently, so it’s a new phase for them. Their goal is to stay south of the frost line, sounds like a good plan.

Bud plays guitar and had invited Rick and Mark from the campground to join us to play some music. Rick plays guitar and fiddle (which is just like a violin but the bridge is lower) and Mark had an identical Taylor guitar to Bud; snap. We listened to a bit of John Denver, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, The Eagles and a few originals by Mark himself. While they don’t always know the songs each other lead with, they can just improvise. Rick plays fiddle with three bands back home, he used to live in Aspen and knew John Denver. Good music, red wine and good company; a night we will remember for a long time.

Bud and Melanie
Rick and Mark with Melanie in the background

Related Posts:
Wright Brothers Museum

Where we camped:
Oregon Inlet Campground


  1. The Outer Banks have been on our list for a long time. Love those iconic colorful beach homes and lighthouses. And an impromptu music jam -- how fun! Getting together with other people to play music is one of my favorite pastimes.

    1. Something very different for us, pity I can't sing!