Monday, July 6, 2015

Exploring the Outer Banks {2015}

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After leaving New Bern, the next little travel adventure for our family was a drive out to the Outer Banks.  I wanted the kids to have at least one beach day since we were so close, and I also wanted to show them some of our state's most beautiful treasures.  I think this narrow stretch of land along our coastline makes some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and I don't think I am alone here.  And since it also makes our coastline some of the most dangerous in the world for ships, we also have some pretty well-known lighthouses.  Our first stop on this drive was spending the night in Morehead City on Thursday night after Daddy was finally finished with his teacher academy work in New Bern.  Morehead City is less than an hour away and is just across the sound from Atlantic Beach. It was late afternoon so we dropped our stuff and the dog off at our new hotel and then headed off to Atlantic Beach to find a good seafood restaurant for dinner.  We ended up heading south down to the town of Indian Beach for dinner and then took a little evening swim in the ocean.  It was just so hot this year in June so an evening swim was much better.  Evan begged to play putt-putt because there was a putt-putt place close to where we ate, but there just wasn't time.

Atlantic Beach, NC

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Our first taste of the beach life for the year. 
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Brody was definitely not disappointed in "sacrificing" putt-putt for the beach. 
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We all had a little fun in the cooler evening.   And yes, I was a little paranoid because of all of our shark attacks this year.  It has been an unprecedented year for shark attacks here, but it has also been a great year for fishing, and the sharks follow the food.  I just didn't let the boys get out far or use their boogie boards this year.  Most of the attacks occur close to fishing piers or to people using such flotation toys that make the sharks mistake them for fish.  
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Baby Mattox's first time at the beach!  He wasn't too sure about the waves and moving water.  He likes his water calm and relaxing, thank you!  

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It was Mattox's feeding time so this Mommy multitasks and feeds babies while building sandcastles.  Haha! 

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The sunset was beautiful. 

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

On Friday morning, we awoke early to get an early start on a long day.  We wanted to take the boys up to the northern Outer Banks to see Cape Hatteras National Seashore and some lighthouses.  If you are unfamiliar with the Outer Banks, you may not appreciate the difficulty of driving there in this state.  Since the Outer Banks are mostly separated from the mainland by large bodies of water called sounds, there are few spots narrow enough to make it feasible for a bridge.  The only bridges are the Wright Brothers Memorial Bridge north of Kitty Hawk which is the route most northerners take to get to the beach.  These beaches are a popular destination for northerners because they are less crowded and commercialized.  Kitty Hawk is also famous for being the location of the Wright Brothers' first flight.  Eddie and I made many trips out to this area in our first years of marriage because we could get there in less than an hour from our home in Elizabeth City and could just spend many Saturdays at the beach for the day.  The other bridge is on Highway 64 at Roanoke Island and the town of Manteo, which is also historically known for being the location of the first English colony in North America established by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1587.  The story is shrouded in a centuries' old mystery because the colonists just disappeared after Governor John White left the colony to return to England for supplies.  He left behind his daughter, Eleanor Dare, and his new granddaughter, Virginia Dare, who was the first English child born in the New World.  Governor White hoped to return to the colony with the supplies they needed for survival within just a few months, but England's war with Spain kept him from returning until 1590.  By that time, the colonists had just disappeared although they left a clue to their whereabouts by carving the word "CROATOAN" into a tree.  Before White had left the colony, he had given them instructions that if they had to leave the settlement to carve the name of their destination into a tree along with a Maltese cross if they were in danger.  The absence of the cross leads us to hope that the colonists left with a friendly Native American tribe to live on the island of Croatoan and that they just became assimilated into that tribe through the years.  Before English settlement, the area had a very old history as a settlement for Native Americans.  You can watch the story of The Lost Colony here in the second longest running outdoor theater production in America.

So aside from the northern Wright Brothers Memorial Bridge and the southern Virginia Dare Memorial Bridge to Manteo, your only other travel route to get to these islands is by a very long ferry ride south of Hatteras Island.  You actually have to take two ferries, one to Ocracoke Island and then one to Hatteras Island.  Since the ferry rides can take all day and be more unpredictable, we chose the longer drive up through Manteo.  We stopped for lunch in Manteo before heading down to Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

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We plan to spend a week exploring more of this area, including the northern beaches of Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, Southern Shores, Duck, and Corolla.  Corolla is the site of the wild horses that roam the beaches and is a very exclusive beach community where you have to drive on the beach to reach some pretty big beach houses.  I know when Eddie and I lived up in this area, Tom Cruise and his previous wife, Nicole Kidman, had a beach house up there.  I think Nicole got it in the divorce.  Ha!  

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Our first stop was to see this lovely striped lighthouse.  The current lighthouse is the third one to stand in this general area and was built in 1872. It has only been climbable to the public since 2013 after some major renovations. We didn't climb this one.  We saved our energy for the bigger Hatteras lighthouse.  Bodie Island Lighthouse is 156 feet (48 meters) tall.  

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Family picture time.  Mattox was sleeping in the car so we just took a few quick photos without him.  It was also very hot here with no shade.  

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Next, we journeyed further south to the Hatteras Lighthouse.  At 210 feet tall, it is the tallest brick lighthouse in the United States, and according to Wikipedia, the 14th tallest in the world.   Since it stands at sea level, it needed to be built taller to warn passing ships about the dangers of passing too close to its shores. The original lighthouse built at this location was built in 1803, but due to its natural color of dark sandstone, height of only 112 feet above sea level, and weaker light, it was only visible in clear weather at a distance of 18 nautical miles. The height was raised to 150 feet in 1854 with better lights added, but the lighthouse's light was destroyed in 1862 during the Civil War.  Due to the dangerous coastline of this part of North Carolina where Hatteras Island juts out further into the ocean with lots of low lying sandbars under the ocean, the coastline became known as "The Graveyard of the Atlantic" because of all the ships that wrecked here.  Arguably, the Hatteras Lighthouse was the most important one in America.  Due to the importance of having a better light to warn passing ships, including our U.S. Navy vessels, Congress appropriated $80,000 to the construction of a better lighthouse in 1868.  The new structure was completed in less than two years at a cost of $167,000.  But the real history of the lighthouse had only just begun.  The most amazing history didn't occur until more recent years.  After years of dangerous sea encroachment because of the lighthouse being positioned so close to the ocean, the lighthouse was in danger of falling into the ocean.  The surf finally reached the tower in 1935.  For many years, the government and civil engineers attempted to stop this process by using dikes and beacons.  Finally, in 1999, the huge relocation process began.  The remarkable feat of moving a 210 foot structure 2,900 feet inland from its perilous location only 15 feet from the ocean began.  The Cape Hatteras Light House Station Relocation Project became known as "The Move of the Millenium."  

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At almost 150 years old, this lighthouse still stands proudly in its new safer location.  It's black and white color pattern match other lighthouses in North Carolina, each with its own distinctive pattern to allow ships to know which lighthouse they are passing.  

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We took some family pictures before Evan and I made the journey up 268 steps to the top.  Brody and Mattox weren't old enough for the journey so Daddy took them to cool off in the gift shop and then to the car to wait.   Climbing the light house was something I had wanted to do, but it wasn't open yet the last time I visited in the early years of our marriage. 

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I was afraid the journey up would be more difficult due to the heat, but it wasn't too bad inside.  The brick kept things cooler along with the large windows on every landing.   The windows offered beautiful views of the ocean. 

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We made it to the top!  In the bottom left picture, you can see the cleared, straight path the lighthouse took on its journey.  Most of the cleared space is now used for visitor parking.  You can just see the little grass covered mound at the ocean's edge where the lighthouse originally stood.  It is just amazing that the lighthouse has stood for almost 150 years at that spot and survived so many big storms and hurricanes.  Hatteras Island gets pounded by hurricanes because of its jutting out into the ocean, and it gets flooded during those big storms.  The main road down the island always washes out and gets covered by sand from the bottom of the ocean.  That road has probably been dug out and repaved more times than I can count.  When Eddie and I last ventured down that road, I remember beautiful views of both the sound and ocean on either side with a very flat expanse of land between.  Now, the view is obscured by big sand dunes built up on either side of the road to help protect it from the ocean. 

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My handsome boys love the ocean.  The water here was just so gorgeous and clear and the perfect temperature on a hot summer day.  It wasn't too hot and was just cool enough to be refreshing.  I could have stayed in it all day.  My sweet husband went back to the car for the boys' swimsuits so they could enjoy it more. 

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My handsome big boys with their names in the sand. 

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Just enjoying the beautiful Atlantic Ocean. 

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Mattox was not as happy with the ocean as his brothers. 

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I am so glad Evan got this little beach time during his much shorter summer break. 

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And of course, this boy can never get enough of water. 

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Okay all you Nicholas Sparks' fans, do you recognize this house?  Yep, you guessed it...the Inn from the movie Nights in Rodanthe!  When that movie was filmed, this house sat abandoned because it too was about to be lost forever to the Atlantic Ocean.  After the movie was filmed, all of the movie props, including the iconic blue shutters, were removed, and the house was again left to ruin.  In 2010, a couple from Newton, NC who loved the movie, purchased the house and a nearby oceanfront lot to relocate the house.  They utilized the same house movers who helped move the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.  They furnished the house as it was furnished in the movie, complete with blue shutters.  Now, for the bargain price of about $4,000 a week, you too can have the romantic vacation of your dreams in this iconic house.  Ha!  
The state of the house before it was moved. 
You can see the house in the background of this movie poster.  And well, I just love any picture with Richard Gere in it.  Ha! 
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And one last stop before we journeyed home for one day of rest and laundry before packing up again for more adventures.  The pirate ship was a surprise treat.  I stopped to show the boys the Queen Elizabeth II which is the life size replica of the ship that the Roanoke colonists arrived on from England.  When we have more time for exploring, we will enjoy exploring this ship.  And now, I guess we will be adding a trip on a pirate ship to our list of future adventures.  Haha!    

3 comments:

  1. Okay, I totally want to come back to North Carolina and explore New Bern and the Outer Banks. These look like AMAZING spots. And I love lighthouses!

    Thanks for sharing so much history because I find it all fascinating.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love all of the history too. I am going to have to watch the Nicolas Sparks' movie. I love his books! The beaches look just amazing!

    ReplyDelete
  3. You could absolutely teach a class about North Carolina history and then after the class be a tour guide for current North Carolina hot spots. Because every single one of your posts makes me want to visit.

    I have heard of the Outer Banks, but I am pretty sure I have never been. I'll have to check with my parents because maybe we did when I was younger and I just don't remember. They certainly are beautiful. Love all the lighthouse pictures.

    ReplyDelete

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