Just back from Outer Banks, NC

Old May 24th, 2002, 08:56 AM
  #1  
sonia
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Just back from Outer Banks, NC

We're just back from our first visit to the Outer Banks. Here's what we thought (and please note that this is my opinion only, very subjective!):

- My mental model of what OBX is like was probably true 15 years ago, but no longer. We met folks who last visited there 17 years ago, and were stunned by the changes. We were disappointed to see the rows of McMansions that line the shore side by side -- some big enough to be apartment houses! We stayed in Duck at a B&B called Advice 5 Cents. (See Ratings for more on that...) I'm sure OBX was once very beautiful. To my eyes, that beauty is now being obscured by over-development that seems totally insensitive to any environmental concerns. And I can't imagine what the traffic must be like in July and August on that 2-lane road!

- We explored from top to bottom, Corolla to Okracoke. Going N - S, Corolla and Duck are similarly being rapidly built up with many huge houses. Construction must be a very profitable business there! Southern Shores was a bit more low key, then you dive into the more honky-tonk towns of Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, and Nags Head. There are some hotel/motel options there, and it's probably good for family entertainment if that's what you need. We visited Wright Brothers site, where visitor center is under construction. Heading on south, you come finally to the National Seashore area -- dunes, limited beach access, wildlife refuge. More how I thought OBX would be. There are some pockets of big-house development around the towns, and Hatteras has a blend of old and new. We ferried over to Okracoke, which is much less developed, has lovely beaches. We liked it better. (YMMV.)

- Weather was cool and windy, so not good beach weather (until the day we left!) The beach in Duck is quite narrow at high tide, as others have said. Beautiful blue-green surf, still cold of course. But we weren't too tempted anyway after seeing warnings about sharks and rip tides! I would be very watchful if I was there with young children. Be advised: we saw no sign of any beach facilities in that area, not even so much as a Portapotty! Which is fine if your house is right on the beach and that's where you stay -- more problematic if you're beach walking a few miles like we were.

- Lots of choices for eating out. As advised, we visited Blue Point in Duck: very good meal, but we could only get a 5:30 reservation. Which was annoyingly early, even more annoying when we sat next to 3 empty tables the whole time! But the food was excellent.
We really enjoyed Red Sky Cafe, too -- driving back from our trip to Okracoke we had to wait an hour for the ferry, and by the time we were back to built-up areas, many restaurants had stopped serving (9 pm). We went on the offchance to Red Sky which our B&B had recommended. No-one in the place except manager and chef, getting ready to close (by then it was 9:40). We asked if we could get anything to eat, and were told of course, come on in, what would you like? They fired up the range while we sat at the counter with a glass of wine, and served us excellent seafood pasta, salad, home-made bread, good conversation. It was so good we went there for lunch later! That's what I call hospitality.

So I'm glad we went, and it was interesting to see. But I'm not sure we found anything (good or bad!) that you can't also find on the Jersey shore, Cape Cod or other beach areas in the east.

<editorial comment> It's sad that the uniqueness and character of the different beaches and shorelines is being developed out of existence. What will be left for our grandchildren to see? And what are the environmental costs for future generations?
 
Old May 24th, 2002, 10:06 AM
  #2  
red snapper
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I wouldn't worry too much, Sonia. Hurricanes once every 10-25 years have a way of removing all the development. I just hope we weren't too stupid to support all the building with federal backing of flood and storm insurance.
 
Old May 24th, 2002, 12:33 PM
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sonia
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You know, Snapper, we had the same thought. Can't imagine what flood insurance must cost for those houses!

We've all seen the news footage of hurricanes pounding coastline piers and buildings. I hope those who choose to build in a beautiful but risky location are prepared to pick up the tab (which is not just financial) when the Big One comes. As it inevitably does, sooner or later...
 
Old May 24th, 2002, 02:03 PM
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Mothra
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It's absolutely awful. The whole thirty mile stretch is now a wasteland. Sorry. I remember our family rented a house every summer back in the 70's. We eventually changed locations due to the influx of so-called "money," or poor taste. I hadn't been back until last year for a fishing trip. Overloaded with strip malls, empty mansions, and New Jersey tags. Thanks for "civilizing" yet another stretch of the south!
 
Old May 24th, 2002, 02:17 PM
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Beach comber
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A very thoughtful and accurate report, Sonia. We first visited the OBX in 1974, nothing north of Duck and I thought, gee, if I had any money I sure would like to build toward Corolla. Good thing I didn't since my idea of a "beach house" and the developers' don't look anything alike.

I think it is beyond tragic that no one even tried to rein in the developers out there. The cookie-cutter oversize palazzos are an abomination and show not one tiny bit of true understanding or respect for the sea or shore natural life. It's criminal to have these big expensive boxes with hot-tubs, multiple bathrooms, game rooms, and lots of electric toys. The drain on the infrastructure is reaching Floridian proportions (what about good water and waste disposal?). At least Mass. had the sense to shut down development when the Nat'l Seashore went in and allow it only under very careful guidelines thereafter.

Glad you liked Ocracoke: my favorite too, and I just love it when someone complains that "there's nothing to do there."

But just one comment re:hurricanes. National news coverage always shows hurricanes dropping expensive beach houses into the drink, because it's an easy shot from a helicopter and sensational enough for the 6 o'clock news.

BUT: as happy as I would be if every last one of those monstrosities disappeared, you MUST remember that for every one of those, there are hundreds of people inland who actually LIVE in NC, who try to make a living, and who can be devastated by hurricanes. Fran and Floyd wrought billions of dollars of damage in NC, most of it rather distant from the coast. People died; whole towns collapsed; jobs disappeared; property was trashed. So don't get too utzy about flood and disaster insurance and FEMA. I'd love to see those luxury houses excluded from all that insurance, but hurricanes hurt "average" people in their year-round homes -- sometimes as far inland as Raleigh and Durham.



 
Old May 24th, 2002, 02:21 PM
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sam
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those empty mansions bring in 10K per week in the summer, that is the motivation for building and owning one
--
 
Old May 24th, 2002, 05:36 PM
  #7  
$$$
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There is also no excuse for anyone charging or paying $10,000/week for any aedifice, let alone one on a fragile coastal area.
 
Old May 25th, 2002, 01:49 PM
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Gretchen
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Sonia,
Did you have the opportunity to head up the four wheel drive area in the northern part? Was that area secluded at all?
 
Old May 28th, 2002, 09:10 AM
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sonia
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Beachcomber, you're right about the unpredictable and random nature of hurricanes, and who is affected by them. Our daughter was at Davidson College near Charlotte when Hurricane Hugo came through. Even that far inland, there was significant damage to buildings and beautiful old trees. I live in northern Connecticut, and we've had occasional hurricane damage locally. My sympathy is with all those who are threatened by the cruel vagaries of Weather -- but much less with anyone who chooses to build expensive property in what might be considered "harm's way"... It's not nice to poke your finger in Mother Nature's eye, she might poke back.

Gretchen, we were driving a rented Ford Taurus, so off the road adventures were not on our schedule! We did go right to the end of Rt 12 in Corolla and saw the off-road access spot -- which seemed quite busy, not what I expected. I believe some local companies offer guided off-road tours in 4-wheel drives or ATVs, where you're more likely to really explore the area without getting stuck up to your axles.
 
Old May 28th, 2002, 09:19 AM
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Gretchen
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Sonia,
Would two women in their early 40's with 3 teenagers be able to drive that area do you think? The house I wanted to rent is in that area but my sister is nervous about driving it. We do have a chevy blazer.
Thanks for the input!
 
Old May 29th, 2002, 09:02 AM
  #11  
sonia
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Gretchen, I'm really the wrong person to ask. If you post the question directly, with a catchy title, you might get some better information from Fodorites.

If you Google "Outer Banks NC" you should find local sites with more information. My only input would be that you are pretty far away from things up there, depending on where the house is -- so consider how far it might be when you need a gallon of milk or want to eat out... Other factors: are you experienced off-road drivers? and how would you handle the vehicle if you got stuck?
My 2 cents, worth just about that much.
 
Old May 29th, 2002, 09:34 AM
  #12  
Gretchen
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Sonia,
Thanks for the help! I'm a very laid back person, who likes to be away from crowds which is why this area appealed to me. I'm sure we would want to go out at different times though and I thought if we got stuck we could just use the cell and call a tow truck or the likes.
Thanks for the help!
 
Old May 29th, 2002, 12:02 PM
  #13  
S
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It's nice to see that others echo my opinion of Duck. But I'll disagree on the other points. I LOVE renting those spacious luxurious ocean-front beach homes with private pool and hot tub. But I do prefer the more isolated beaches.
 
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