Worth the Drive in 2017

There’s bound to come a day in every vacation that you need a break from all that fun in the sun. That’s the perfect time to pack up the car and hit the road to experience some of the remarkable places that help to make the Outer Banks the greatest vacation destination on the East Coast. You’ll delight in discovering some of our most cherished sites – from lighthouses and aquariums to beautiful gardens and wilderness. Whether you make a day trip out of it, or just take to the road for an afternoon of exploring, be sure to check out these beautiful landmarks on your journey. You’ll be glad you did. We’ve compiled a list to get you started…

Wright Brothers National Memorial 

More than 100 years ago, Orville and Wilbur Wright proved to the world that man could fly. And they did it right here on the Outer Banks with the first successful airplane flights on Dec. 17, 1903. Enormous sand dunes, steady winds and wide open spaces drew the Ohio brothers to our shores. To commemorate their achievement, this massive monument in Kill Devil Hills marks the exact location where the brothers made history. Visitors can explore the aviation museum adjacent to the monument, view replicas of the 1902 and 1903 gliders, and climb the historic hill. Remember to check out the “hanger talk” with one of the National Park Service rangers. It’s an experience the whole family will enjoy. Note: The Visitor Center will be closed until the late summer of 2018, however, the grounds and outdoor exhibits are open. 1000 N Croatan Hwy, Kill Devil Hills • nps.gov/wrbr

Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge

Located on the mainland of Dare County just 15 miles west of Roanoke Island, this refuge contains more than 152 acres of wilderness and has been the home of efforts to re-establish the red wolf back into the wild. Established to preserve and protect a unique wetland habitat called the pocosin, it is home to black bear, American alligator, river otters, white-tailed deer, ducks, wading birds, shorebirds and the American woodcock to name a few. Habitat types on the refuge are pocosin, bogs, fresh and brackish water marshes, hardwood swamps and Atlantic white cedar swamps. Opportunities for the public include hiking, interpretive programs, boating along Alligator River, tours and the popular red wolf howling program. Manns Harbor, N.C. • fws.gov/refuge/alligator_river

Jockey’s Ridge State Park

A visit to the Outer Banks isn’t complete without a trip to Jockey’s Ridge, the tallest active sand dune in the eastern United States. Slip off your shoes when the sun starts dipping down into the Roanoke Sound and treat yourself to amazing views of the ocean and sound from the top. Participate in an interpretive ranger-led program, try your hand at wind sports such as hang gliding or come and fly a kite. Jockey’s Ridge is an experience any time of day you visit. Let your children explore these dunes by running or sliding down the steeper slopes, or hike to the soundside beach. Don’t forget to stop by the visitors’ center to learn more about these amazing dunes and the animals that call it home. 300 Carolista Dr., Nags Head • jockeysridgestatepark.com

Dolphin Tours

Watching dolphins frolic and play from a boat is an unforgettable experience. Taking a dolphin tour provides a unique perspective of these delightful creatures. Atlantic bottlenose dolphins appear in the warmer summer months and early fall. There are a number of tours that will take you out to see the dolphins playing in their natural habitat . Guides will share their knowledge of these beautiful creatures, their habits and migratory patterns and behaviors. Tours book quickly during the height of summer, so be sure to call ahead.

Roanoke Island Festival Park

This 25-acre interactive historic site is a unique attraction for visitors of all ages. Home to the Elizabeth II, a 16th-century representative ship,  visitors can spend time on deck with the crew and practice their hand at some of the daily chores that took place on board. The park also features the Algonquian Indian Town, English Settlement Site and Roanoke Island Adventure Museum. Both the young and old will delight in the interactive components of the park and the costumed interpreters. A variety of performances are also held throughout the year at the Outdoor Pavilion, including concerts such as the Island Bluegrass Festival. 1 Festival Park, Manteo • roanokeisland.com

The Lost Colony

Step back in time at the Waterside Theatre on Roanoke Island as you enjoy The Lost Colony, America’s longest running outdoor drama about the first English colony and its mysterious disappearance. Guests will experience exciting battles, Indian dances, the royal court, and the birth of Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the New World. More than 200 actors, technicians and designers have come together each summer since 1937 to put together this popular production. A must see while you are on the Outer Banks, The Lost Colony was written by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Paul Green. 1409 National Park Dr., Manteo •  thelostcolony.org

Elizabethan Gardens

Immerse yourself in the beautifully landscaped Elizabethan Gardens, located on the site of the First English settlement on Roanoke Island. During the summer, stroll along paths that feature blooming hydrangeas, crepe myrtles, coneflowers and other native plants. Beautiful statues and historic treasures are dispersed throughout the gardens. The Elizabethan Gardens are a must-see for gardening lovers and history enthusiasts. 1411 National Park Dr., Manteo • elizabethangardens.org

Oregon Inlet Fishing Center

Whether you want to experience the joy of catching your own dinner or you are a seasoned angler, the experts at Oregon Inlet Fishing Center will guide you – providing you with the gear and instruction for a great fishing trip. There’s something for everyone at the fishing center, which offers everything from offshore fishing charters to half-day excursions in the sound. Even if you don’t fish, you’ll definitely want to stop by the fishing center in the late afternoon to see them bringing in the day’s catch. 98 N.C. 12, Nags Head • oregon-inlet.com

Lighthouses of the Outer Banks

Visit the five beacons of the Outer Banks, which are an integral part of the area’s maritime history. While all are worth the trip, if you want to climb and see the spectacular views from the top, visit Hatteras Island, Bodie Island and Currituck Beach lighthouses.These three beacons also offer interpretive programs and exhibits for the public. Keep in mind that climbs, which involve more than 200 steps in each lighthouse, can be very strenuous for some visitors. Bodie Island Lighthouse  |  Currituck Beach Lighthouse  |  Cape Hatteras Lighthouse  |  Ocracoke Lighthouse  |  Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge

Spend the day among the shorebird at this refuge located just south of the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge. More than 365 species of birds – including ospreys, snowy egrets and tundra swans – visit the refuge that includes 10 miles of beautiful, untouched beaches. Stop in the visitor’s center  on N.C. 12 to learn more about interpretive programs, environmental education, fishing, boating and wildlife observation opportunities. Kayak eco-tours also provide a great way to see many species of avian life from the water. In the fall, the refuge is also host to many Wings Over Water Festival programs. Pea Island Visitor’s Center, NC 12, Hatteras Island • fws.gov/refuge/pea_island 

Ocracoke Island

Don’t miss the opportunity to experience Ocracoke Island. Take the free Hatteras-Ocracoke Ferry and enjoy. You’ll love Ocracoke’s wide-open, undeveloped beaches and charming village. Enjoy life on this island that is alive with art, local music, and community events like the popular Ocrafolk Festival, but also provides opportunities for unrivaled solitude. Visitors can easily get around this quaint island on bike. Stay for the day or the week. Ocracoke Island •  ocracokevillage.com

North Carolina Aquarium

Explore the world under the sea at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island. Home to the largest collection of sharks in the state, the aquarium features the Graveyard of the Atlantic exhibit and the interactive sea turtle rehabilitation center. There are plenty of new exhibits this year. Visitors of all ages will love wandering through a sunken ship in the Sea Treasures exhibit, getting up close with sting rays at Sea Senses touch tank, watching river otters play, and exploring the Ironclad Sanctuary. Be sure to let the kids run around the Nature Play area located on the aquarium grounds. Check out the website for weekly events and programming. 374 Airport Road, Manteo, NC • ncaquariums.com

The Whalehead Club

Make a day out of a visit to the Whalehead Club and the 39-acre Currituck Heritage Park in Corolla. This Art Nouveau-style residence was restored in the 1920s and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The club  features a copper roof, curved rooflines, ornamental chimneys, Tiffany lighting and distinctive porches. Visitors can go on a self-guided or docent tour of the club. Also on the grounds are the Currituck Beach Lighthouse and the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education. Visit the website for hours, special events and programming. 1100 Club Road, Corolla, NC • visitcurrituck.com

Jennette’s Pier

Whether you want to cast a line from the pier, take a fishing lesson from the experts or enroll the kids in an adventure camp, Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head has something for everyone. Explore the pier’s indoor aquariums to learn more about local marine life and spend the day. Pier staff works diligently to conserve and help protect the recreational fishery, sea turtles, marine mammals and shore birds for the next generation. Clean wide beaches, free parking, a bathhouse, and a shop that offers tackle, beach supplies, souvenirs, gifts, snacks and cold drinks make Jennette’s Pier the perfect place to spend a day at the beach. 7223 S. Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC • ncaquariums.com/jennettes-pier

Corolla Wild Horses

The Corolla wild horses were some of the first settlers on the Outer Banks! Originally left behind by explorers nearly 500 years ago, these horses are of Spanish decent and were recently recognized as the state horse of North Carolina. Known for their hardiness, the horses have weathered centuries of storms and feed on the salty marsh grasses native to this area. Current herd size fluctuates between 120 and 150 individuals. They roam freely north of Corolla, in an area that is accessible only by 4WD. There are several tour companies that offer excursions in search of the horses, or if you have a suitable vehicle you can strike out on your own. Just remember that the horses are wild and very unpredictable. It is illegal to feed or come within 50 feet of them, so be sure to bring a zoom lens! For more information: corollawildhorses.com

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