Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Outer Banks Escape

Sunrise from the Southern Belle. Photo© by Judy Wells.
Resort lovers who want to be able to make a quick run to a McDonald's or Starbucks head north to Nags Head and Duck when they reach North Carolina's Outer Banks. Those seeking a get-away with local color and new experiences turn south toward Bodie Island, Rodanthe, Avon, Frisco and Cape Hatteras.

Locals down here brag that you have to drive 45 miles to reach those Golden Arches.

"You got to get used to this place," said tour guide Danny Couch, a 10th generation Carolinian who married into island life. "It's not like it is at home."

You can find Wi-Fi connections, but no chain restaurants, hardly a sacrifice with a plethora of home-owned, home-sourced cafes and restaurants. Lots of things to do and see, too, if looking at, walking along and swimming in the ocean isn't entertaining enough.

Leveler tip #1: Get an elevator.
These are among the smaller beach houses. Photo © by Judy Wells.

It isn't a luxury. Forget cozy little one-story beach houses. If you want oceanfront - and who doesn't - McMansions are the rule. These pastel-hued two-, three-,  four- and more-story belles of the beach are designed for group gatherings. A week at the beach rental destination with three to six bedrooms, large porches, viewful turrets, entertainment systems, elaborately outfitted kitchens and, if the owners are smart, an elevator.

First floors are for tucking in the car and letting the Atlantic roll through. Second floors are usually all bedrooms and baths and living spaces begin on three. That's a lot of schlepping up stairs.

The Southern Belle - 23 steps up to the second floor. Photo © by Judy Wells.
The Southern Belle, where we five journalists stayed, came with a 3-person-sized  elevator, a good thing when there are 23 steps up to the second floor. Trust me, you'll want one.

Leveler tip #2: Plot your access to the beach. 
You may have a long walk plus stairs to reach the beach. Photo © by Judy Wells.

If you snag beachfront accommodations, plan on negotiating stairs. The dunes developed in the 1930s and '50s have grown and it can be a long walk to reach the stairways down to beach level.

It's legal to drive on the beach. Ramps at mile marker (Outer Banks method to relay locations) 49 and 23 are recommended.

Easy-walk beach access. Photo © by Judy Wells.
The only level place to park and walk to the beach is in Avon between Koru Village Beach Club and the Avon Pier.

Leveler tip #3: Eat local.
Photo © by Judy Wells.

Look for the "Outer Banks Catch" sticker on the door of restaurants to ensure they're serving fresh, local catch.

Leveler tip #4: Getting connected. 
The Dancing Turtle. Photo © by Judy Wells.

If your rental doesn't have Wi-Fi and you feel the need for connection, make a beeline for The Dancing Turtle Coffee Shop in Hatteras Village. They have that plus good coffees and teas, enticing pastries, comfy chairs and tables and a warm camaraderie.

Leveler tip #5: Need groceries?

The Food Lion in Avon is the only major grocery store in the southern Outer Banks.

Leveler tip #6: Speak like a native.

Pamlico - PAM-lick o

Bodie - body

Manteo - Man-TEE-O

Rodanthe - Row- DAN- the

Ocracoke - OH-crah-coke

Leveler tip #7: Be friendly OBX native-style.

When driving along the two-lane road that runs down the island, "chuck a howdy" - a casual one- or two-finger wave with a nod of your head - to cars you meet.

 Next: where to eat and what to see and do on the Outer Banks.

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