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Trip Report Eastern Circuit via the Outer Banks, 2009

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On one of my other postings a correspondent noticed that I had been planning a trip down the east coast along the Outer Banks in 2009. She wondered how it had turned out, as she is intending to travel to that area from New Zealand this August. That’s my excuse for submitting this tardy report. This is for you Enid, though there might be others planning a similar trip for whom it might provide ideas..

Some of the information might now be obsolete, and we went in September, post Labor Day. There might be weather and expense issues as a result. Maybe others can refresh and elaborate on my skeletal effort.

Our Itinerary:-
Flying into DC from the UK, we arrived late in the evening so stayed overnight at an airport motel.

To Richmond VA via Montpelier, James Madison’s place. Three nights in Richmond spent exploring the former Confederate capital.

Southeast across the causeway onto Hatteras Island. The Wright Brothers Center is a must. Miles of lovely sandy beaches [Jockey Ridge is the tallest dune on the east coast and is well worth scrambling up], interesting towns & lighthouses. Climb aloft for a better view.

Take the free ferry across to Ocracoke Island, a delightful little place. We watched an otter play with a fish on the quay while we drank a cool beer in “The Jolly Roger” at sundown. There is a sad little memorial to HMT Bedfordshire, a British trawler sunk by a German U-boat in 1942.

A toll ferry [book by telephone beforehand] takes you from Ocracoke south to the mainland, where the live oaks and Spanish moss start to appear and confirm your arrival in the South.

A leisurely drive to Charleston, with overnights on the way in Atlantic Beach and Wilmington, where we stayed at the Wilmingtonian. Its faded appearance is balanced by its history. Book a balcony table at the Riverboat Landing Restaurant if you want a romantic dinner on a warm sunny evening, overlooking the Cape Fear River. The town has a number of interesting places to visit. We toured the Burgwin-Wright house & garden.

Charleston is special! I will not duplicate all the things that you can glean from previous Fodor contributors, but I recommend calling at Georgetown on the way down, a pretty little riverside town.

We loved the Gullah tour of Charleston – if Alphonso Brown is still doing these DON’T MISS IT! It was he who suggested lunch at Virginia’s Restaurant on Kings. Delicious local food at reasonable prices.

Then we went northwest to Columbia. There is stuff to see in the city but the Capitol was what impressed us the most. Congaree National Park [no fee] is on the doorstep and if you can book a guided paddle you will be luckier than us. Spaces are snapped up as soon as the lines open. We settled for the “Owl Prowl”.

Up the road is Camden and we were fortunate to stumble on their annual Blues weekend. Local legend Drink Small was playing, as was Mike “Lightnin” We just loved it!

Our route back to DC took us up the Blue Ridge Parkway. At that time of the year the leaves are just turning, to add to the spectacle. If you only ever stay at one US B & B you should try Debbie and Don’s Mountainside Lodge in Banner Elk. A wonderful setting and the chance to meet some really nice people. You need mountain goat skills to get up their drive, but our standard rental coped.

Peaks of Otter Lodge is a good overnight stop on the Parkway, as is Front Royal, where we spent the night before our return flight. You can learn about Belle Boyd and her part in the town’s defence.

As with any tour, you can do as little or as much as suits your taste and budget. I hope this whets your appetite and gives you a few ideas, and that the weather is kind for you. Have a great time Enid.

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