The Outer Banks in North Carolina: A Touch of Paradise
By Anett Mende
I am not necessarily an early riser, but the sunrise-tinted sky reaching over the Atlantic coast in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina is worth sacrificing sleep. It’s a little past 5 a.m., and pink and violet clouds are hanging in the baby blue sky. The ocean is sending its waves, clearly audible, to the shore. Besides that there is nothing but silence. It’s a moment so peaceful that I’d rise that early all over again to experience it. And it’s going to get even better: A day filled with adventure lies ahead of us!
The Outer Banks – a slender chain of islands along North Carolina’s beautiful Atlantic coastline – stretches over 280 kilometers, from the Virginia border all the way down to Cape Lookout in the South. It’s nothing but powdery beaches and vast dunes as far as the eye can see: the perfect place to unwind.
Helicopter Flight Over the Island Chain
Our day starts with a helicopter tour with Coastal Helicopters. From high above, we see how narrow the chain of islands is. There are even some spots where one can see the sunrise as well as the sunset. And as opposed to many other coastal areas, I can clearly see from this vantage point that the beaches here aren’t crowded.
The water glimmers a beautiful turquoise color as we hover above it. The whales and mantas that our pilot has spotted earlier that day don’t show up but we see dozens of stingray schools and a family of dolphins with a baby dolphin.
History and Beyond at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
We fly to Buxton in the Southern region of the Outer Banks, where we visit the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. With its height of 63 meters, it’s the tallest brick lighthouse in the US. It’s well worth climbing the 257 steps all the way to the plateau at the top. From up here one has an excellent view over the “Graveyard of the Atlantic”. Around 2,000 ships lie here buried under the water, either stranded because of heavy storms and currents or sunk in battle. Today, the underwater cemetery is a big attraction for divers.
These waters are also prime for adventure: diving, kite-surfing, stand-up paddle-boarding or surfing. There are many ways to physically challenge oneself, and Kitty Hawk Kites, Kitty Hawk’s kite school, is known beyond North Carolina’s borders. The waves here are ideal for anyone who wants to learn how to surf.
A Sense of Freedom: Roaming Wild Horses at the Corolla Beaches
Our next stop is Corolla in Currituck County in the Outer Banks’ Northern region, a place where you can actually see wild horses on the beaches. Legend has it that they are the ancestors of Spanish Mustangs that swam to the shore after a shipwreck more than 400 years ago. More than a hundred of them are roaming Currituck’s coast. We see them at the beach, in the dunes and even at people’s houses. But you shouldn’t come too close since they are wild creatures and you wouldn’t want to fight with one of the stallions. It’s prohibited by law to get closer to them than 15 meters.
As we are driving back to Kitty Hawk in the evening, the sun is setting behind the dunes and I feel a sense of freedom that I haven’t had in a while. Peace and freedom, adventure and relaxation, great people and stunning nature – the Outer Banks in North Carolina is a jewel on the Atlantic coast and I am happy that I have found this treasure.