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Need advice for exploring the coast: Georgia up to Chincoteague Island

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We have 10 days in July to drive from Orlando to Chincoteague Island, and are looking for suggestions about places to stay, eat, and explore. My husband will leave the trip on day 8 from New Bern NC, so we're trying to figure out a good itinerary for the jointly traveled 8 days plus the solo couple of days to follow. Already on the itinerary are Savannah and Charleston, and we're probably not lingering in Florida. We like poking around the waterways and beaches, but this won't be a sit on the beach kind of trip - at least not much. We'd rather rent a motorboat and explore an interesting river or bay. We enjoy hiking/walking, discovering local eateries, seeing historic sites. We're not big shoppers, although I am keen on local handicrafts and anything relating to textiles. For hotels, we're hoping to stick to a relatively moderate budget, so probably no expensive resorts in the Outer Banks. We like small towns with character, and are wondering about New Bern and Wilmington as places to stay overnight. In a nutshell, we'd like to visit anyplace coastal that is more small town than resort.

We hope to at least get a glimpse of the Outer Banks at the end of my husband's part of the trip - so around day 7-8. Two questions about that: is it reasonable to stay in New Bern and just take a day-trip drive over there on a Wednesday or Thursday? Or is there a reasonably priced hotel in OBX that's an easy drive to New Bern (flight leaves in the afternoon). After I drop him off, are there any must-see places between New Bern and Chincoteague?

Another big question is whether it's even reasonable to try to fit in OBX before he flies out on day 8. With a couple nights each in Savannah and Charleston, it seems like it could work, but we're open to suggestions that we should slow down!

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

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