October 8, 2010 – On Friday, we left the apartment after work and drove a few hours into North Carolina. We had picked a hotel about 4 hours from home, so we could be most of the way to the outer Banks by Friday evening.
October 9, 2010 – Saturday morning we snagged a nice breakfast from Starbucks, and then drove the final few hours towards Nags Head. Along the way we stopped for a hike at Alligator River. We heard some very excited birds, although we were unable to see them. We also saw a large (4′ long) snake, and a rather large (2″ diameter) spider.
After that excitement, we continued towards the Outer Banks and lunch. We stopped at Sam and Omie’s; the food was fantastic, and included peel and eat shrimp, a fried shrimp burger, great battered fries, and a tiny bit of fresh tuna salad and she crab soup (thanks to our great waitress for the samples). Tony also saw another person wearing a Hokies shirt – the Hokie nation is strong, widespread, and slightly reminiscent of a cult (complete with a secret greeting of “go Hokies!”).
After lunch we stopped at the Outlets to get Louisa a couple hats, and then went to Jockey’s Ridge State Park. The park has giant sand dunes, which are the largest on the East coast at 80-100 ft high. We climbed around on the dunes, and watched people fly kites and attempt to learn to hang glide. One of the cool things about climbing on the dunes is that you can see both the Atlantic Ocean and the Sound on the other.
We took a quick detour to the Wright Brothers Monument and saw replicas of their glider and the motorized plane they built in 1903. Our next stop was the Collington Inn, our lodging for the next few nights. We enjoyed an eclectic afternoon, including wine and cheese, a tire swing and white cat, a hammock (and white cat), and an evening sack of chocolate chip cookies and milk.
Dinner was at the Outer Banks Brewing Station. While the atmosphere is classic brew house, the food is anything but. We had shrimp and grits, scallops and pumpkin risotto with caramelized apples, a red ale and a wheat ale with lemongrass flavor, blackened tuna Caesar salad, and rum balls – a chocolate filling, sweet fried dough outer shell, chocolate and white chocolate rum sauce, and slightly whipped cream. Everything was delicious, and we will definitely make a return trip on our next visit to the Outer Banks. That night we also stopped by the ocean to check out the stars. Despite some light pollution, we could still see quite a few stars, and the galaxy cloud.
October 10, 2010 – Sunday morning we got up early to check out the ocean sunrise and do some shell collecting. Once we got back to the inn, we had a breakfast of watermelon balls, a smoked ham/cheese/broccoli quiche, bran and blueberry muffins, tomato slices and bagel, and coffee and orange and cranberry juices. While some of the items were store bought, everything was very good.
After breakfast we drove towards Ocracoke Island. Along the way we saw an osprey, the Bodie Island light house, and lots of mosquitoes. At that point we turned back, went to Food Lion and bought some bug spray before continuing the drive. The timing turned out to be ideal, since on the way back towards Ocracoke we saw over ten dozen cormorants flying south. We also stopped at the Pea Island Wildlife Refuge to take a walk.
While we figured we would see lots of birds, we were unprepared for the swarms of mosquitoes that we encountered. However, we enjoyed looking at the turtles (including a large snapping turtle), a snake sunning itself on the railing, a few ospreys and some other birds as we made our way towards the observation tower. Once there, we hung out with some hard core birders, and watched a variety of egrets and ducks out in the water. There were several hundred cormorants (?) in one of the ponds, as well as some egrets and a few swans.
Once we decided it was time for lunch, we headed into town to the Atlantic Coast café. It was a bit hard to find, but the food was great – wonderful crab cake, fries, shrimp, meaty white fish, and great double stuffed fish tacos. After lunch we continued towards the Hatteras light house. This was the last weekend the lighthouse was open, so we got tickets to climb the few hundred steps to the top of the light. We were warned that the wasps were mating – fortunately, they were more interested in each other than they were in us. Although we didn’t mind the climb, we were glad not to be the light house keeper, who had to carry oil for the lanterns – 40 lbs of oil per arm – at least 3 times a day. It was a clear day, and we had great views of the ocean and the Outer Banks.
Our next stop was the ferry to Ocracoke, and the Ocracoke coffee company for some great coffee and a caramel espresso drink. We enjoyed our drinks while walking along the beach, and then caught the sunset ferry back to the mainland. We had a great view of the sun as it dropped behind the horizon, and were fortunate that the night was still clear. On the way back to town, we stopped for some star gazing and a view of the galaxy cloud.
Dinner was a reprise of the OBX brewing station, with the same food except for the addition of the house salad and grilled shrimp with blue cheese dressing, and vanilla bean crème brulee with a homemade cookie. There was also live entertainment. Matt McGuire was singing and playing guitar a la Dave Pahanish or Dave Matthews, with some ska and blues influences. When we got back to the B&B, we couldn’t resist having a treat of white cake with chocolate icing and milk before bedtime.
Monday morning we stopped back at the Pea Island Reserve. This time we had the viewing platorm to ourselves, and spent some time enjoying the nice views (and the lack of mosquitoes) before heading back to town.
We wanted to get some lunch before beginning our drive, so we went to Slice Pizzeria. Tony enjoyed their meat pizza, and Louisa liked the artichoke, tomato, and roasted red pepper pizza. We also split an order of garlic knots, which were fantastic. We couldn’t resist walking next door to Duck Donuts. The donuts were hot-off-the-line fresh; Tony had a glazed donut and coconut, and Louisa had a maple-iced donut with chopped peanuts. The donuts were a sweet ending to a very nice weekend, and were a good sendoff as we began the drive back to Charleston.