Paddler’s Paradise

Grab your paddles and head on down to the Outer Banks, where paddling enthusiasts can soak up every opportunity to venture the fresh water ways and smooth coasts.
By Joe O’Grady of Coastal Kayak Touring Company

The Outer Banks of North Carolina offers some of the best coastal kayak touring options in the country. In one day you can kayak in six distinct ecosystems: fresh, salt and brackish marshes, maritime forest, swamps and the ocean. Each of these ecosystems offers different wildlife opportunities, and each system plays a vital role in the ecology of the Outer Banks. Most of the tours are conducted on the sheltered side of the Outer Banks where the waters remain calm and are typically shallow.

The marshes of the northern Outer Banks are fresh water because of the distance from the tidal influences of the Oregon inlet 30 plus miles away. The Pine Island Audubon Sanctuary and marshes further north extend across the state line of Virginia like a maze designed for kayakers. These marsh islands and creeks are inhabited by river otter and many nesting osprey.

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, located just south of the Oregon inlet on Hatteras Island, is the Outer Banks premier salt marsh for kayaking. Known as a “birder’s paradise,” 365 species of birds have been documented on this refuge. The waters are quite clear due to its close proximity to the tidal waters of the Atlantic Ocean, making this a great location for viewing sting ray and a wide variety of other aquatic life.

Ginguite Creek, which meanders through Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve, is one of the world’s only preserved maritime forests. More than 1,800 acres have been protected from development by efforts of the Nature Conservancy. This location also explores brackish marsh where freshwater and saltwater species mix. Since the protection of the Nature Conservancy, both bald eagle and osprey, two formerly endangered species, have begun nesting on this preserve.

The Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge is a swamp tour. Don’t let the word swamp fool you; this is one of the most beautiful locations to kayak anywhere. The waters here are the coloration of dark tea from the tannic acids of the bald cypress, loblolly pine and Atlantic white cedar. Winding creeks lead to mirror image lakes where alligators can often be seen sunning on floating grass fields (slough grass) or a protruding cypress stump.

By choosing a reputable kayak touring company, you can relax and leave all the planning to them. The tours include basic instruction and all necessary kayak gear. In addition to providing instruction, your guide will also give you a narrative on local history and coastal ecology. A kayak tour on the Outer Banks will be the highlight of your vacation.

OBX Dolphin Tours

Up Close and Personal
Meet the majestic and curious creatures of the Outer Banks on a Dolphin Tour where you can come face-to-face with a loving animal of the deep

The sighting of dolphins along the Outer Banks delights and amuses many summer visitors. Many people view these chance encounters as a treasured highlight to a relaxing vacation and will happily spend hours observing the dolphins’ antics. What few people realize is that they are likely viewing the same group of dolphins, day after day and summer after summer. Some bottlenose dolphins will spend their summers in the waters of the Outer Banks and then migrate south for the winter only to return again in the early summer the next year. This early migration has led some people to call them the “Retirees of the Sea.”

While you might have a chance encounter with a dolphin while kayaking or sailing, one of the most certain ways to get “up close and personal” with a dolphin is to take a ride on one of the popular Dolphin Watch boat trips. While no guarantees can be offered on these trips, they usually have a better than 90% chance of encountering dolphins.

One benefit of a Dolphin Watch trip is to be able to get really close to the dolphins, since they usually swim right near the boat. If you look closely you might even be able to see that the dolphins’ fins (which appear smooth at a distance) are actually covered with nicks and scratches. Dolphin researchers use these marks to identify over 300 dolphins in the Outer Banks. The most famous of these is Onion, perhaps the easiest dolphin to identify on the entire East Coast. Onion and his family spend their summers in the Nags Head area, and their winters off of Beaufort, N.C.

Dolphins are social animals and spend their entire lives in the company of other dolphins. The pods of 3 or 4 (and up to 40) dolphins will range in age from newborns to 50 years old, and physically mature adults range in size from just under six feet to nearly 12 feet and weigh from 330 lbs. to 1430 lbs. Living together in the protective sound waters improves their chances of finding food, increases the likelihood of avoiding predators such as sharks, makes it easier to encounter a suitable mate and increases the learning potential of youngsters.

A close encounter with a dolphin in the wild is a thrilling and memorable experience. Who could remain untouched by the amazing agility of a bottlenose dolphin as it leaps into the air beside a boat or as it exhales a breath of air causing a cloud of spray to shoot 10 feet into the air before disappearing under the surface again, or a young calf breathing out of the water in stride with its mother, never missing a beat? These are the kinds of experiences that stay with people for the rest of their lives.

Hang Gliding at Jockey’s Ridge

Jockey’s Ridge has been witness to the entire evolution of hang gliding!

When hang gliding gained popularity in the 1970s, Jockey’s Ridge became one of the premier spots in the world for beginners to safely learn the sport. The combination of inspiring views, soft sand and ocean winds draws adventurers from all over the world to learn to fly.

hang gliding

In the first days of hang gliding, pilots could be seen walking out to Jockey’s Ridge with a roll of cellophane, an arm full of bamboo and a roll of duct tape, to build their glider and fly it. The sport was just beginning, and Jockey’s Ridge was a perfect place to practice. These dunes are still a perfect place to practice, although we have come a long way since the “Bamboo Butterfly.”

  • Gliders have become so efficient that:
  • Pilots can stay aloft for hours
  • It is now statistically safer than most other forms of personal recreation
  • It has become very popular
  • Is pursued by thousands of people in the United States alone

    The origins of hang gliding can be traced back to the 1950s, when Dr. Francis Rogallo (1912-2009) decided there must be a way for the general public to experience the joy of flying.

    At the time he was working for what would eventually be called NASA, and although they would not allow him to pursue his theory as an official project, they did authorize him to work on his concept on his own time.

    With the help of his wife Gertrude, Dr. Rogallo designed a flexible wing that could be steered and could glide forward through the air as it descended. All future hang gliders would be based on Rogallo’s patented design, giving Dr. Rogallo worldwide recognition as the “Father of Hang Gliding.”

    He was revered not only by all hang glider pilots, but also by the entire aviation community. Thousands of people a year flock to Jockey’s Ridge to understand what it felt like for the Wright Brothers, Rogallo, and others to take their first flight.

    The most common flights on the dunes are training flights (short flights from the top of the hill to the bottom).

    hang gliding


    Jockey’s Ridge’s resident hang gliding school, Kitty Hawk Kites Flight School, which is the largest hang gliding school in the world, offers these training flights daily. Kitty Hawk Kites has been teaching the world to fly on Jockey’s Ridge since 1974.

    The school has contributed to hang gliding history as the host to the longest running hang gliding competition, the Hang Gliding Spectacular, held on Jockey’s Ridge each May.

    Just as the dunes saw the dreams of Dr. Rogallo come to life, the dreams of thousands of people each year come true as their feet pull away from the earth and they glide over the sands of Jockey’s Ridge.


    Kids on Vacation

    For some kids, a plastic bucket, shovel and plot of sand are all they need for a day’s worth of entertainment. From swimming to sandcastle building, shell searching to just plain goofing around, family fun on the beach is what makes an Outer Banks vacation so memorable.


    Here, the beach is their playground, and kids of all ages find a variety of ways to entertain themselves with surf, sand and maybe even their siblings. But beyond poking at jellyfish and covering your body with wet sand, there are numerous beach activities the whole family can enjoy. Try a family surf lesson and see who has the best balance when tested against the waves. Or just rent a few body boards and watch as the youngsters and teenagers unite over the wave-riding fun.


    From playing sports to spotting wildlife, racing go-karts to exploring maritime forests, the Outer Banks is full of fun and enriching ways to entertain the whole family. And no matter what time of year you are visiting, be sure to take in one the dozens of festivals and special events designed with family fun in mind.


    Outer Banks Golf Guide

    There’s a Track for All Levels of Play

    In recent years, golfers visiting and living on the Outer Banks have relished the arrival of seven new golf courses, prompted by a worldwide boom of this gentlemanly game. Currituck County has been the target of this craze in golf course development, with six on the mainland along Highway 158 just minutes from the Outer Banks and another sitting right in the heart of Corolla. Combine the incredible popularity of our beaches and generally mild climate with a roster of 11 courses and you’ve got yourself a golf destination. There’s a track for all levels ranging from more than 7,000 treacherous yards of championship links-style-play to nine holes of Chip ‘n Putt family fun.

    For the more serious and avid weekenders, a deep respect for nature’s elements is highly recommended. Fairways winding through dense forest, rolling dunes and marshland combining with gusting coastal winds often leave “mainlanders” scratching their heads. These natural hazards bump up the challenge of playing golf on the Outer Banks to a new level–often compared to that of Scotland, where it all began.

    The Carolina Club
    The local’s favorite, featuring the best greens on the Outer Banks. Considered one of the area’s best conditioned courses for over a decade… groomed for the pro but available to the visiting public! Only 15 minutes from the Wright Memorial Bridge, 127 Carolina Club Dr. in Grandy, NC 27939 (877) 421-0612

    Holly Ridge Golf Course
    Affordable Family Fun… now managed by LPGA Major Winner Cathy Johnston-Forbes & husband Foster. Play 18 (walk or ride), hit the driving range or take a lesson with one of the area’s best instructors. Seasonal Twilight Rates Available. Located just 1 1/4 miles north of the Wright Memorial Bridge. (252) 491-2893

    The Pointe Golf Club
    Same plush A-1 Bentgrass Greens as in Augusta…among the finest putting surfaces in the Eastern United States.  The area’s best practice facility with full driving range, putting green, chipping greens & practice bunker to groove your game!  Just 3 ½ miles north of Wright Memorial Bridge at 308 Pointe Golf Club Dr, Powells Point, NC 27966 (877) 736-1461

    Swimwear 2014

    Endless Possiblities for an “Endless Summer”

    By Jill Bennett*

    It’s hard to believe that it’s been 50 years since Bruce Brown produced and directed a low budget surf documentary that became an iconic representation of surf culture and the search for “The Endless Summer.”  The film is now preserved in the National Film Registry and is still just as much fun to watch today as it was back in the day.  “The Endless Summer” 50 year celebration is a reminder to all of us that we simply never stop looking for warm beaches and blue water!  As I write this it’s February on the Outer Banks…we’ve just experienced the largest snowstorm in over 10 years, I had to have our parking lot plowed to open the store, and we’re still selling swimwear!    Our February customers are all leaving for far-away beaches to find their own endless summer somewhere much warmer than the OBX!  And there are endless possibilities for them to choose from with a nostalgic “vintage/retro” theme that takes you back to the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s.  Here’s what to look for in 2014 swim styles:

    CHEEKY BOTTOMS: Think California surfer girl and hit the gym!

    HIGH WAISTED RETRO BOTTOMS: No gym needed…these “pin-up girl” inspired bottoms cover everything you want to cover, and still make a bold fashion statement!

    ATHLETHIC TOPS, CROPPED RASHGUARDS, AND STRONG BACK TREATMENT: Functional yet fashionable tops with interesting center back treatment like knots, braids, macramé, and crossing straps make it easy to dive in!  And SPF 50 cropped rashguards with short or long sleeves make a fashion statement this season when paired with a bikini bottom!

    BUSTIERS AND FLOUNCE TOPS: These lingerie inspired tops accent the bust and give a more feminine edge to your swimsuits, especially with accents of crochet, ruffles, and lace!

    MONOKINIS: This crossover between a one-piece and a bikini hides the tummy while accentuating the back…a sure winner for the woman who wants the best of both worlds!

    BRIGHT COLORS, BLACK AND WHITE, AND SHADES OF BLUE: Black and white graphics and color blocking are especially appealing.  And it wouldn’t be summer without brights!  Shades of coral and orange still exist, but blue tones are prominent in 2014.  From navy, to royal, to turquoise and aqua, blue is the color of summer waves!

    EXOTIC, GLOBAL PRINTS: Those searching for an endless summer would adore this mix up of crossing cultures!  Swim manufacturers highlight tribal prints from Australia, Hawaiian floral designs, African animal prints, and of course Ikat and Turkish textiles straight from a global bazaar!  And since every traveler must have aa camera and photos, there are photo-realism prints on a variety of men’s and women’s suits!

    AND FOR THE MEN…SHORTER SWIM TRUNKS: A few years ago the standard outseam of a man’s trunk was 22”.  Customers were always asking if we had any shorter trunks.  Now the standard length is a few inches shorter, near 19” and it’s going up!  Some manufacturers are even making them as short as 13”!  You only have to look at surf photos from the 1960’s to realize that everything comes back around again.  And thankfully we will always have “The Endless Summer” to remind us of that.  Happy 50th from your very grateful fans!

    *Jill Bennett is the owner of Birthday Suits, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  Voted “Best Place To Buy A Swimsuit” by the Virginian Pilot’s readers, BS is a world renowned surf boutique specializing in  selection, style, and service.

    Local Libations

    Locally Produced Wines and Beers are Making a Delicious Mark on the Outer Banks

    When visitors come to the Outer Banks, they’re looking to experience the unmatched beauty of the gorgeous beaches, explore the activities that can’t be found anywhere else and taste the delectable seafood and fresh-grown veggies that are bountifully harvested from the ocean and land. The same can be said about the delicious beverages.

    Imported beers and wines can be found anywhere; it’s the local wineries and craft breweries from right here on the Outer Banks that leave visitors and residents longing for a taste and always craving more.

    The mainland of Currituck County has traditionally been a land of fertile farm fields and abundant harvests. Now in the areas that once produced cotton, soybeans and corn, neat rows of vineyards have appeared.

    Muscadine is a popular grape for this region that produces a sweet, dessert-style wine. It’s close relative the scuppernong grape comes specifically from North Carolina near the Scuppernong River. When made correctly, muscadine wine retains a refreshing and often nostalgic taste of the grape itself.

    However, many vineyards have chosen to plant the classic wine grapes of California and Europe—cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc, syrah and zinfandel.
    A winery that experiments with a little of both is Sanctuary Vineyards, located in Jarvisburg. Sanctuary Vineyards consists of almost 10 acres under cultivation and features a tasting room inside the historic Cotton Gin with complimentary tastings, cellar tours and a gift shop. The vineyard now has wines made exclusively from their own grapes that are suitable for every preference. Pair their Wild Pony White or the Biltmore 2010 Viognier Reserve with a delicious meal, or sip on Sweet Serenity or Life’s a Peach, two of their sweeter varieties, at any time of day.

    Martin Vineyards & Orchard on Knotts Island produces award-winning wines from their coastal vineyards that thrive in the sandy soils and ocean breezes. Their bottles are packed with varietal flavors, nicely oaked with a good balance on the finish.

    If you prefer hops to grapes, you’re in for a treat. Some of the tastiest microbrews to tempt your discernible palate are produced right here on the Outer Banks. Both use in-season ingredients to produce their different varieties of beer, and both have received excellent reviews from beer drinkers locally and nationally.
    Outer Banks Brewing Station has gained popularity not only for their eclectic range of handcrafted beers and three-time World Beer Cup medal winners, but also for being America’s first wine powered brewery! The Outer Banks Brewing Station takes pride in being innovative and conscious about the environment while helping others learn as much as they can about renewable energy and sustainability. Their environmentally friendly restaurant celebrates the uniqueness of the Outer Banks and its history which can also be seen in the distinct variety of beers they produce. A popular selection, Olsch, is known as THE thirst quencher, a refreshing pale, delicate beer with a lively aroma. Have a glass with lunch or dinner, or try a flight which includes four handcrafted beers served
    in six oz. glasses.

    The Full Moon Café & Brewery, located on the Manteo waterfront, specializes in British and Irish style beers. They use Marris Otter malt as their base, adding various combinations of malts and barley to the mix, depending on the beer. The brewery is located within the Full Moon Café & Grill where owners Paul Charron and Sharon Enoch first opened in 1995. Depending on your taste, you may enjoy the Lost Colony Ale, a sweet, malty brew with caramel, coffee and molasses flavor, or perhaps you’d rather fill your glass with Baltimore Blonde, a British pale ale with citrus flavors and a peppery hop finish. Another favorite is Charon Stout, a dry Irish stout with molasses, caramel and toasted malt flavors, perfect after a delicious meal at Full Moon Café & Grill.

    While sampling beers and wines on your vacation , you’ll definitely want to bring a few home to share with your friends and also to relive your Outer Banks vacation simply with the pop of a cork or cap. Several Outer Banks gourmet markets offer a wide selection of local wines and beers along with tastings.

    Coastal Provisions Market in Southern Shores not only has a great selection of hand-picked wines and microbrews on the retail shelves, but Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings, you can also enjoy the same great selection along with a fantastic dinner menu in the relaxed atmosphere of their Wine Bar Café. With over twenty wines by the glass or half glass, a menu featuring several small plates as well as signature entrees like Crab Cakes, Prime Steaks, and Outer Banks Catch, and the full wine shop selection available at regular retail prices (no corkage fee), it’s no wonder the Wine Shop Café is one of the Outer Banks highest
    rated restaurants.

    One more favorite, Bacchus Wine & Cheese in Corolla will enhance your visit to the Outer Banks with a great selection of fine wines, gourmet foods, imported cheeses, Thuman’s deli meats, as well as their famous sandwiches. Come learn how to properly taste wines, expand your knowledge of varietals, and enjoy a wide selection of gourmet foods. Tuesday Night Wine Tasting Events allow guests to enjoy 6 different wines served with hot and cold appetizers and sumptuous desserts. Family operated, they are celebrating more than 20 years in the Outer Banks.

    Whether you prefer wine or beer—or if you like to delve in both passions—you can find it all right here. Spend a day on the Currituck Wine Trail for some wonderful vineyard visits, schedule an educational tasting, or just stop by one of many shops to pick up a crisp, light bottle for a picnic on the beach. Enjoy another day visiting the two microbreweries and sampling some of their famous beers, having a bite of juicy apple brat and learning a thing or two about sustainability. Come have a taste of local flavor, and raise a glass—or a growler—to homegrown drinks on the Outer Banks.

    Outstanding Eats on the Outer Banks

    by Patrick Evans-Hylton

    Native Americans inhabited the Outer Banks and lived off the land and sea for centuries before the first Europeans explored the area. The Roanoke Colony was a 16th century effort by the English to settle the region, financed and organized by Sir Walter Raleigh.

    There were several voyages between the colony and England, and the opportunity to explore the New World. Among the explorers was Thomas Harriot, who later chronicled his findings – including observations of the foods and foodways of the Native Americans, in his 1590 A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia; the region at the time was called Virginia.

    Not surprisingly, seafood was a major part of the diet. He writes, “After they have taken store of the fish, they get them unto a place fit to dress it. There they stack up in the ground four stakes in a square room and lay four posts upon them and others over that … they make a fire underneath to broil …” and “Their women know how to make earthen vessels with special cunning … [they] fill the vessel with water and then put in fruit, flesh and fish and let all boil together … they put it out into dishes and set before the company and then they make good cheer together.”

    Indeed, broiling fish and seafood boils are today time-honored ways to enjoy the fresh seafood of the Outer Banks, and such dishes can be found at many of the region’s top restaurants.

    The unique foodways of the Outer Banks is a confluence of coastal cuisine and traditional Southern offerings. It’s not unusual to find restaurants with fresh catch on their menu next to eateries serving up barbecue.

    On the Outer Banks, there are menus peppered with ingredients and dishes that epitomize the eats of the area. In every season, there is something fresh and local to celebrate on plates and palates.

    The rich farmlands of Northeast North Carolina provide many of the seasonal vegetables and fruits, while the ocean, sounds, and tributaries surrounding the Banks offers a number of seafood items.

    In warmer months, generally blue crabs (with the delicacy, soft shell crabs, available in mid-spring), Spanish mackerel, mahi-mahi, mullet, shrimp, and tilefish can be found.

    Cooler weather typically offers bluefish, croaker, flounder, kingfish, king mackerel, oysters, sea bass, grey sea trout, spotted sea trout, spot, and striped bass. Year-round seafood includes clams, grouper, snapper, triggerfish, and tuna.

    Seafood is the signature comestible on the Outer Banks, and to ensure folks are getting the freshest catch from local watermen, the Outer Banks Catch program was established in June 2010.

    Membership includes fishermen (many of whom are multi-generational watermen), seafood markets and grocers, community members, and restaurants. The group works in tandem to get Outer Banks-caught finfish and shellfish from the sea to serving platters.

    Many restaurants in the region serve approved Outer Banks Catch seafood; a platter with the initiative’s name and stylized fish logo can be found near the eatery’s entrance to identify themselves as a member. Knowledgeable waitstaff can guide diners through what is in season, and the best preparation methods.

    See here for more OBX Cuisine Scenes!

    Renting an Outer Banks Vacation Home

    Endless Possibilities in outer banks vacation rentals!
    By Shirley Mozingo

    Imagine a magical place that combines the best memories of summer camp with a grown-up wish list – a place infused with a whimsical spirit that beckons you to come and play and carries you back to those carefree days of childhood.

    It’s a place where the only thing that rushes is the surf and the tallest high-rise is a lighthouse; where neglected dreams are stirred alive again and waves wash the worries from your mind.

    Imagine 100 miles of unblemished sand imbedded with waterways, golf courses and wildlife sanctuaries and lined with beach houses designed solely to ease the demands of everyday life.

    While others may fantasize of a place like this from their uptight-snap-your-fingers kind of world, you get to live the dream on this narrow strip of paradise.

    Pocket your car keys and stroll the Atlantic shoreline. Feel the breeze in your hair and the sand between your toes. Chase a crab. Catch a fish. Climb a dune. Smell the cedars and salt air. Discover a new comfort zone.

    Settle down. Watch hang-gliders and wind surfers. Chat with fishermen. Keep an eye out for wild horses, pelicans and dolphins. Talk to your son. Listen to your daughter. Slow down. Catch up. Welcome to the Outer Banks.

    “There’s no other place like this in the world,” said Robert Kissell, who has vacationed here since he was an infant and is the Internet Marketing Specialist for Southern Shores Realty. “The Outer Banks is undoubtedly the best family beach destination in America. The history of the area feeds right into that. Learning about our maritime history, the Lost Colony, the Wright brothers’ first flight and much more are so intriguing that people can’t help but become entwined in the tradition and history of this place.”

    In addition to its natural beauty and rich heritage, the barrier islands have an abundance of privately-owned vacation beach houses that are a key part of the area’s appeal. Visitors can find everything from a two-bedroom condo to a 20-bedroom home. Most offer a perfect pairing of innovation and relaxation.

    “We have something for everyone. Every person has different needs so we spend time trying to help them find just the right place,” said Jodie Herman, Marketing Coordinator with Joe Lamb Jr. & Associates. “We have cozy bungalows for people who just got married and large houses for family reunions.”

    Renting a beach house, especially for large groups, makes sense financially.

    “Even in a recession, the beautiful thing is that you can come here and rent a house and that can almost be your only expense. You can cook your own meals so you eat out less. You don’t have to buy souvenirs or entertainment tickets like at Disney. Because this is a drive-to destination, the rental market here is almost recession proof,” said Richard Hess, Vice President/Sales Manager of Sun Realty.

    Visitors can choose from thousands of stately beach houses, nostalgic cottages, cozy bungalows and high-end condos that span the beach between the four-wheel-drive area of Carova and the tip of Hatteras Island — and each one has a chemistry all its own. Often it’s the little things, like an art display, that make it unique. Other times, it’s the practical touches, such as an elevator, that make the difference.

    “Oceanfront and pet-friendly homes are popular, but sometimes it’s the cute beach-box that was just renovated that can have the most appeal, especially for smaller families,” said Stuart Pack, Chief Operating Officer with Resort Realty. Every year brings a new list of features that enhance the “cool” factor of these hot properties, making vacation beach houses more like personal resorts.

    Alongside modern comforts are amenities that indulge the home’s owners and guests —  saunas, heated swimming pools, swim-up cabanas, wine chillers, private bedroom suites, fully-equipped recreational rooms, massive patio fire pits, bowling lanes, man caves, fountains, tiki bars with fully-equipped kitchens, and 12-person hot tubs.

    “Many homes now include Keurig coffee brewers and ice-cream makers. Some have whole-house intercom systems so guests can talk from room to room or pipe their music through the house,” said Janice Farr, Senior Vice-president of Sun Realty.

    Wi-fi is mandatory. Beach houses with multiple gathering areas, elevators, home theaters with surround-sound, dual gourmet kitchens, and expanded outdoor recreational areas with poolside cabanas are in high demand.

    “Putting greens, big-screen TVs and beach access are popular; but, whether buying or renting a beach house, it’s still about location, location, location,” Pack said.

    Billy Casper, Vice President of Property Management for Corolla Classic Vacations, agrees. “If they can afford it, people want to be as close to the ocean as they can. Next, it’s the amenities, price and value. Guests look for amenities they don’t have at home because, when they go on vacation, they want to be more pampered.”

    This is especially true of guests who stay in event homes. “We have several homes in Corolla that are 20-plus bedrooms set up for weddings and events. They are loaded with upgrades and even have separate event halls,” Casper said.

    Whether it’s for a special event or a family vacation, the focus is on experiencing the Outer Banks to the utmost.

    “As society has become more successful, vacations are hard-earned. It’s now all about expectations. We have a massive community of privately-owned vacation homes that were designed to keep guests happy. These aren’t timeshares or condos. That is very unique,”
    said Herman.

    One of the most coveted benefits of staying in these beach homes is that guests get to enjoy private time with friends and family away from the daily grind. There are no schedules. No pretenses. No dressing up. No morning traffic.

    “It is an award-winning family vacation destination,” said Barry Breit, Sales Manager with Carolina Designs Realty. “Single-family homes with large lots prevent our area from becoming too dense, like other East Coast vacation destinations. Plus, the minimal number of condo complexes allows our beaches to remain less crowded and, therefore, creates a more pristine, natural vacation environment.”

    Outer Banks beach houses accommodate nearly every whim and family member, including the four-legged ones. “It really depends upon what a group wants, but we have homes that fit all their needs. Some are remote and secluded; others are within walking distance to lots of activities. There is baby equipment for little ones and video games for teen-agers. More than half of our houses allow pets and have dog runs, crates and even dog rooms,” Farr said. The number-one search request on the Carolina Designs Realty’s web site is for pet-friendly homes.

    “To meet this demand, we currently offer over 100 vacation homes that allow families to bring up to two dogs,” said Elaine Breiholz, Property Manager with Carolina Designs Realty. They are also seeing an increased demand for homes with 12 to 18 bedrooms.

    “Our larger homes, reserving at 28 to 32 weeks, are grossing between $360,000 and $400,000 and are typically booked up to a year in advance,” Breiholz said.

    The way that square footage is designed and divided also makes a difference to vacationers.

    “I’m a fan of interesting floor plans and neat decorations. My family habitually falls in love with the things that give the homes their ‘charm.’ Impressive amenities are a way for homes to stand out, but having homeowners who put their personal touches on things gives many of our homes that distinct factor that most cookie-cutter homes don’t have,” said Kissell.

    Regardless of what brings them here, many guests admit to falling in love with their beach houses, which isn’t surprising since the word “amenity” comes from the Latin root amoenus, akin to amore, “to love.”  This “love” infuses the real estate market with a steady stream of buyers and renters.

    “The market is moving. New construction is up dramatically. Building permits are way up everywhere. Interest rates are still low. We have a huge amount of cash buyers looking for investment homes they can sell later. Others are buying smaller houses and taking them out of the rental market to use as second homes. The wedding business is crazy big and event homes are bringing in gobs of money. Can’t ask for anything better than that,” Hess said.

    According to Breit, lenders are now offering first-time homebuyers an opportunity to buy property with only 10 percent down if their debt-income ratio is within guidelines.

    “With affordable homes on the market and low interest rates, this creates an ideal environment to make a purchase,” he said. “Owning a vacation rental home is not only an investment, but also is an asset that can be enjoyed with family and friends.”

    People who buy these properties as cash-flow investments understand the complexities of competing in a tourist-driven area. So they fill their homes with tantalizing amenities and place them in a management program that lures vacationers back season after season.

    “We have guests who have been coming to us for years, so we know their stories and their families. I have a lady I’m working with now who is in her eighties and has been coming to the Outer Banks for 52 years. She started with us when our company was founded 46 years ago,” said Herman.
    Vacation homes provide a setting for families to reconnect with each other, creating memories that will last a lifetime.

    “I think it’s called ‘togethering,’” Casper said. “It means having the space to get the whole family together in one place with all the amenities anyone could possibly want. It’s an advantage that we have over hotels.”

    Even outdoors, these homes are designed to invite socialization with their abundance of colorful beach chairs, porch swings and hammocks. Take-out meals take on a new meaning. At the drop of a wind sock, dinner or drinks can be served from a screened-in porch, covered deck, gazebo, outdoor kitchen or fire-pit grill.

    Over time, a personal connection develops between buyers, vacationers and the folks who help them rent or own these magnificent homes. Company staff almost become an extended family as a sense of place and a feeling of belonging bind them together.

    “Our guests tell us how caring and kind our staff is. We pay attention to detail and give guests a relaxing vacation experience,” said Pack.
    Before they have that experience though, the majority of potential guests and home buyers are cruising another site looking for vacation rentals.
    “What has changed over time is how visitors can now preview the beach houses on the Internet before committing to rent them. A vacationer should easily find a vacation rental home’s amenities, photographs and pricing in the first 10 seconds of opening a webpage,” Kissell said. “ We strongly recommend that all of our homeowners invest in digital floor plans. This allows website visitors to go room-by-room and angle-by-angle throughout the homes in just minutes.”

    Updated company websites are crucial today because people are shopping year round for escape routes. Consequently, the Outer Banks has become a four-season destination. Many homes are now occupied during Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and
    other holidays.

    “Plus there are special events, like Valentine getaways, Taste of the Beach, Bike Week, festivals and marathons that attract visitors. Fall continues to grow in popularity because the beaches are quieter, restaurants and shops are open, and the weather is still typically warm. It’s become a favorite time of year for Outer Banks’ veterans,” Pack said.

    The Outer Banks is one of those rare places where you can spend a few days without spending a small fortune. It’s a gentle reminder that you shouldn’t get so caught up in earning a living that you forget how to live.

    Outer Banks Cottages, Hotels and Motels

    Cove Realty    (800) 635-7007 •
    Dewey Cottage    (252) 441-5128
    Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates    (800) 552-6257 •
    Nags Head Fishing Pier Cottages    (252) 441-5141
    Rentals On The Ocean    (252) 441-5005
    Nags Head Realty    (800) 222-1531 • (252) 441-4315
    Outer Banks Resort Rentals    (252) 441-2134
    Resort Realty    (252) 255-3500 •
    Seaside Vacations    (866) 884-0267 •
    Stan White Realty    (800) 338-3233
    Village Realty    (800) 548-9688 •

    Beach Realty & Construction & Kitty Hawk Rentals    (800) 635-1559•
    Carolina Shores Vacation Rentals    (252) 715-1901
    Cottage Court    (252) 441-7331
    Golden Strand Condominiums    (252) 441-7860
    Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates    (800) 552-6257 •
    Land and Sea Realty    (252) 449-5263
    Outer Banks Beach Club    (252) 441-6321 •
    Sun Realty    (800) 334-4745 •

    Atlantic Realty    (800) 334-8401 •
    Barrier Island Station    (252) 261-4610
    Beach Realty & Construction/Kitty Hawk Rentals    (800) 635-1559 •
    Carolina Designs Realty    (800) 368-3825 •
    Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates    (800) 552-6257 •
    Kitty Dunes Realty    (888) 860-3863
    Resort Realty    (800) 458-3830 •
    Salt Air Cottages    (252) 261-3286
    Sea Dunes Realty    (252) 255-5504
    Sea Scape    (252) 261-3837
    Seaside Vacations    (866) 884-0267 •
    Shoreline OBX    (800) 449-2036
    Sun Realty    (800) 334-4745•
    Wright Property Management    (800) 276-7478 • (252) 261-2186 •

    Elan Vacations    (866) 760-ELAN •

    Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates    (800) 552-6257 •
    Southern Shores Realty    (800) 334-1000 •

    Atlantic Realty    (800) 669-9245 •
    Barrier Island Station    (800) 237-5177
    Beach Realty & Construction & Kitty Hawk Rentals    (800) 635-1559 •
    Brindley Beach Vacations    (800) 962-0201 •
    Carolina Designs Realty    (800) 368-3825 •
    Duck’s Real Estate    (800) 992-2976
    Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates    (800) 552-6257 •
    Resort Realty    (800) 458-3830 •
    Sun Realty    (800) 334-4745 •
    Twiddy & Co. Realtors    (866) 457-1190 • (252) 457-1100

    Beach Realty & Construction & Kitty Hawk Rentals    (800) 635-1559 •
    Brindley Beach Vacations    (800) 962-0201 •
    Corolla Classic Vacations    (866) 453-9660 •
    Karichele Realty, Inc., Corolla    (800) 453-2377 •
    Paramount Destinations    (866) 753-3045 •
    Resort Realty    (800) 458-3830 •
    Seaside Vacations    (866) 884-0267 •
    Shoreline OBX    (800) 449-2036
    Sun Realty    (800) 334-4745 •
    Twiddy & Co. Realtors    (866) 457-1190 • (252) 457-1100
    Village Realty    (800) 548-9688 •
    Pirate’s Cove Realty, Nags Head/Manteo Causeway    (252) 473-6800 •

    Colony Realty Corp., Avon    (252) 995-5891
    Dolphin Realty Inc., Hatteras    (252) 986-9942
    Hatteras Realty, Avon    (800) 428-8372
    Midgett Realty, Hatteras Island    (877) 874-9539
    Outer Beaches Realty, Hatteras Island    (800) 627-1850
    Sun Realty Salvo Real Estate, Salvo    (800) 345-0910 •
    Sun Realty, Salvo & Avon    (800) 843-2034 •
    Surf or Sound Realty, Hatteras Island    (800) 237-1138

    Beach Haven, Kitty Hawk    (252) 261-4785
    The Beach Inn, Nags Head    (252) 441-8466 • (800) 421-8466
    Beacon Motor Lodge, Nags Head    (252) 441-5501 • (800) 441-4804
    Best Western Ocean Reef Suites, Kill Devil Hills    (800) WESTERN • (252) 441-1611
    Blue Heron Motel, Nags Head    (252) 441-7447
    Buccaneer Motel & Beach Suites, Kitty Hawk    (252) 261-2030
    Cavalier Motel, Kill Devil Hills    (252) 441-5584
    Colonial Inn Motel, Nags Head    (252) 441-7308
    Comfort Inn North Oceanfront    (252) 441-6333
    Comfort Inn Oceanfront South, Nags Head    (252) 441-6315 • (800) 334-3302
    Cypress House Bed & Breakfast, Kill Devil Hills    (252) 441-6127 • (800) 554-2764
    Days Inn Mariner, Kill Devil Hills    (252) 441-2021 • (800) DAYSINN
    Days Inn Oceanfront, Kill Devil Hills    (252) 441-7211 • (800) DAYSINN
    Dolphin Motel, Nags Head    (252) 441-7488 • (800) 699-1962
    Driftin Sands Motel, Kill Devil Hills    (252) 441-5115
    Ebb Tide Motel, Kill Devil Hills    (252) 441-4913

    Fin n Feather Waterside Inn, Nags Head Causeway     (888) 441-5353
    First Colony Inn, Nags Head    (252) 441-2343 • (800) 368-9390
    Hampton Inn & Suites, Corolla    (252) 453-6565 • (800) HAMPTON
    Holiday Inn Express, Kitty Hawk    (252) 261-4888 • (800) 836-2753
    Islander Motel, N ags Head    (252) 441-6229
    Nags Head Inn, Nags Head    (252) 441-0454 • (800) 327-8881
    Ocean House Motel, Kill Devil Hills    (252) 441-7141
    Ocean Side Court, Nags Head    (252) 441-6167
    Outer Banks Inn    (252) 715-3500
    Outer Banks Motor Lodge, Kill Devil Hills    (252) 441-7404 • (877) 625-6343
    Owens Motel, Nags Head    (252) 441-6361
    Quality Inn Carolina Oceanfront, Kill Devil Hills    (252) 480-2600 • (800) 854-5286
    Quality Inn – John Yancey, Kill Devil Hills    (252) 441-7141 • (800) 592-6239
    Ramada Inn at Nags Head Beach, Kill Devil Hills    (252) 441-2151 • (800) 635-1824
    Rodeway Inn & Suites    (252) 441-5242
    Sanderling Inn Resort, Duck    (252) 261-4111 • (800) 701-4111
    Sandspur, Nags Head    (252) 441-6993 • (800) 522-8486
    Sea Foam Motel, Nags Head    (252) 441-7320
    Sea Ranch Resort, Kill Devil Hills      (252) 441-7126
    Sea Side Inn, Kill Devil Hills    (888) 253-1628
    See Sea Motel, Kill Devil Hills    (252) 441-7321 • (800) 635-7007
    Shutters on the Banks, Kill Devil Hills    (252) 441-5581 • (800) 848-3728
    Surfside Motel, Nags Head    (252) 441-2105 • (800) 552-7873
    Tar Heel Motel, Nags Head    (252) 441-6150
    Travelodge Nags Head Beach Hotel, Kill Devil Hills    (252) 441-0411 • (800) 578-7878

    Dare Haven Motel, Manteo    (252) 473-2322
    Duke of Dare Motor Lodge, Manteo    (252) 473-2175
    Elizabethan Inn, Manteo    (252) 473-2101 • (800) 346-2466
    Island Motel & Guest House, Manteo    (252) 473-2434
    Scarborough Inn, Manteo    (252) 473-3979
    Tranquil House Inn, Manteo    (252) 473-1404 • (800) 458-7069

    Breakwater Inn, Hatteras    (252) 986-2565
    Cape Hatteras Motel, Buxton    (252) 995-5611 • (800) 995-0711
    Cape Pines Motel, Buxton    (252) 995-5666 • (866) 456-9983
    Hatteras Island Inn    (252) 995-6100
    Hatteras Marlin Motel, Hatteras    (866) 986-2141
    Lighthouse View Motel, Buxton    (252) 995-5680 • (800) 225-7651
    Sea Gull Motel, Hatteras    (252) 986-2550
    Sea Sound Motel, Rodanthe    (252) 987-2224
    The Villas of Hatteras Landing    (252) 986-1110