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Virginia Beach - Outer banks last minute Dec trip

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I'm looking for suggestions for what area to stay from VA Beach south to the Outer Banks. I have a surprise birthday present to leave this coming Sunday (driving from VT) for a romantic week vacation and I've always wanted to check out the Outer Banks. We like nature walking areas and we like to take in the ocean. We'll see some of the historical sites here and there around Norfolk etc. I know nothing about the coastal area and I'm wondering what town might be a good base. We'd like to stay on the ocean in a place (hotel/inn) with a kitchen so if anyone has a favorite place, please feel free to mention it.

Thanks! Polly

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