One of the things that goes into creating a great community are the things that bring people out time and time again. In that sense the Outer Banks is a lot like every other small town in America–although stretched across 90 miles or so of shoreline.
There’s this one event in particular that just seems to epitomize that feeling . . . that feeling of community and continuity. The first Friday of every month, the town of Manteo host First Friday.
OK. The name’s not all that original, but the event is a wonderful combination of small town, street fair community gathering. Centered around the old courthouse–that’s now the Dare County Arts Council gallery, there’s live music on the steps of the courthouse, great art inside, food along the sidewalks and stores all staying open late.
It is so easy to forget sometimes, that quality of life is as much about slowing down as it is doing things, and with its small town feel and emphasis on taking a moment to speak to one another, Manteos First Friday has really become that moment to slow down.
Now that summer’s just about gone, it’s time to think about what there is to do on the Outer Banks in the coming months. And there is a lot–sort of a subset of the Peak Season.
Actually there’s so much to do we’ll just hit a couple of highlights and then put a few links out there so readers can check out out what’s coming up for themselves.
September is all about activities, with the the Eastern Surf Association (ESA) Championships will kick off September 14 at Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head. Running through the 21st, it’s a week of some of the best surfing around.
OBX Pridefest weekend is the 13th through the 15th. Sponsored by OBX Pride it is a celebration of the joy of life and beauty of the Outer Banks as well as a gay pride festival. Evening activities are for more adult audiences, but daytime activities are geared for everyone.
October is festival month, and honestly, if you can find a way to show up and just stay here for the first two weeks you’ll see some of the best live music around.
The 2nd Outer Banks Bluegrass Festival kicks things off October 3-5 at Roanoke Island Festival Park in Mateo. Rhonda Flemming and the Rage return as headliners.
The following weekend is Columbus Day weekend and two great shows that don’t overlap are happening.
Friday and Saturday, it’s the 3rd Annual Mustang Music Fest in Corolla. Two days of non-stop music. Followed by the 7th Annual Duck Jazz Fest on the town green in Duck on Sunday. Beautiful setting, great music–an amazing day.
Wow! Too much to even write about. Check out these links for more information. Outer Banks Visitor’s Bureau or the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce.
Here’s some important information about the Outer Banks: there’s probably more really good restaurants per square mile than any other place anywhere. I realize this sounds like pure local boosterism, but I am continually amazed at both the quality of the cuisine and the diversity of what is offered.
I took my daughter to dinner at Firefly down in Nags Head the other night. The restaurant specializes in Southern cuisine and I realize it’s hard to think of fried food and collard greens as “cuisine” but these guys really take it to another level. I had what may have been the best fried flounder I have ever had. Huge serving . . . and I mean HUGE . . . fresh, flaky with a light breading that brought our the brought out the mild, slight sweetness of the fish.
My daughter got the lobster mac and cheese–monstrous portion . . . easily a meal the next day. And it was wonderful.
Last night I met a friend for dinner at the Beachside Bistro in the Sea Ranch in Kill Devil Hills.
Another great meal. We both ended up getting the grilled mahi-mahi with shrimp risotto. It was very, very good. The view was nice too. The Bistro sits right on the Ocean and with storms rolling through last night we got to watch the weather move out to sea.
All this just says to me, Guy Fieri of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives fame needs to make a second visit to the Outer Banks with a new list in hand.
The Outer Banks is a great place to live, but here’s a little piece of information that everyone who lives and works here knows: we don’t really get much of a chance to do all those things tourists do. Especially in the summer . . . because honestly, we’re all working to hard to make sure our visitors are having a great time.
So this afternoon when I realized that the stars had aligned for my daughter and me to have four hours to play visitor from another land, I didn’t hesitate. Put the notepad down at work, picked her up from Driver’s Ed at school, made sure to get the BFF and headed up to Duck.
The weather wasn’t all that great, but what a wonderful reminder of how much fun it is to be on the Outer Banks.
We started at Scarborough Lanes Shoppes. Stopped in Outer Banks Popcorn . . . a couple of samples later we walked out with bags of Italian seasoned popcorn that I know BFF and Daughter are munching on as they watch some movie for the umpteenth time. Strolled over to the Sweet Duck and had some gelato and got serious about shopping at Clothes Out 2. Well, BFF and Daughter got serious about shopping . . . Dad just stood around with a glazed look.
Walked over to Scarborough Faire and picked up a few more knickknacks at Ocean Annie’s and Island Attic and headed home.
All in all, a great day, and a great reminder that sometimes it is the quality of the time not the quantity that you spend with the ones you love.
Just about everybody has a favorite late night place to go and unwind. It doesnâåÛåªt mean that any one place is better than another, itâåÛåªs just that particular setting works well for the individual. One of the nice things about the Outer Banks is how many choices there are.
For me, though, Trio, in Kitty Hawk, works well. Live music–usually acoustic–an amazing selection of wines and something like 28 beers on tap. Oh and they have wonderful cheese plates and sandwiches too.
IâåÛåªm thinking of this, because I stopped by last night and Jug Tucker, one of my favorite Outer Banks bands was playing. Jug Tucker is kind of bluegrass but with a twist. Extraordinarily accomplished musicians, their a lot of fun to see and the arrangements are just enough off kilter from traditional bluegrass that it keeps my interest.
That âåÛå÷s not to say Trio is the only late night place to visit. In Kitty Hawk alone thereâåÛåªs Ocean Boulevard and Barefoot BernieâåÛåªs and IâåÛåªm sure IâåÛåªm forgetting something.
If you prefer bigger venues with bigger sound, thereâåÛåªs the Outer Banks Brewing Station or Port OâåÛåª Call in Kill Devil Hills. Or KellyâåÛåªs Outer Banks Tavern in Nags Head.
And this is just a small sampling . . . but for me, a quiet glass of wine, good music and great conversation.
Joe Lamb Realty's Director of Sales, Tim Moore, took this photo of a loggerhead sea turtle track leading to a nest in South Nags Head this past week! Tim is one of about 35 N.E.S.T. (Network for Endangered Sea Turtles) ATV riders that daily ride on the oceanfront from Corolla to South Nags Head looking for these sea turtle tracks so they can identify the nest site and protect it. Once a track is discovered the N.E.S.T. volunteers gather to carefully dig to find the actual sea turtle nest, which will contain about 110-130 eggs. One egg is collected for DNA sampling and the site is then marked for its protection. In approx 60 days the eggs hatch and the hundreds of tiny turtles make their way to the ocean. Only about 1 in 1000 make it to be adults. The mother turtles don't lay their eggs until they are 30-40 years old.
Check out some footage that Tim took of some very young turtles trying to make their way to the ocean just last fall.
Fore more information, visit nestonline.org or their Facebook page.
The 4th of July on the Outer Banks is about as all-American as it gets . . . at least one great parade, all day celebrations and lots of fireworks.
The parade? The Duck Independence Day Parade, one of the wackiest, most fun parades ever seen. About a mile long, it starts at 9 in the morning and weaves through some of the back streets of Duck finishing on NC 12, so either plan on watching or avoid the village until 11 or 11:30. The parade is followed by some great entertainment at the town’s amphitheater.
To make the Fourth an all day affair, check out either the Whalehead Club in Corolla or the town of Manteo. Lots happening all day at both places, definitely family and kid friendly with spectacular fireworks in the evening. The setting at the Whalehead Club, in particular, is spectacular.
The town of Nags Head also lights the sky with a fireworks display at the Nags Head Pier. There is something magical about sitting on the beach on a warm summer evening with the sound of the surf a backdrop to fireworks painting the sky.
For a little bit different experience, park at either the main Kitty Hawk Kites store in Nags Head or Jockey’s Ridge State Park and watch the fireworks from the top of Jockey’s Ridge. Both Manteo and Nags Head are easily seen, although they are a bit distant.
No matter what, plenty to do on the Fourth on the Outer Banks. Have fun and celebrate our nations birthday.
If there is such a thing as a first family of Outer Banks retailers it’s got to be the Grays, who own Grays Department Stores. They just celebrated their 65th year in business, and I can’t think of any other family run business on the Outer Banks that has been around as long as they have.
Certainly there are other Outer Banks families that have owned businesses even longer, but I’m not aware of anyone who has maintained the same kind of business for so long.
Of course the original Nags Head store is long gone–it’s now Sea Green Gallery, but the same commitment to the community still remains.
Walter and Estelle Gray moved to the Outer Banks soon after WWII and quickly saw an opportunity where no one else saw one. I never had a chance to meet Estelle, but if ever there was a man who never met a stranger, it was Walter.
Walter passed away in 2004, and three of his five kids–Larry, Ronnie and Julie–run the business today.
The 65th Anniversary Celebration was held at their main store in Kitty Hawk. There are also stores in Duck and Corolla.
Just south of Nags Head's southern most border and barely north of Oregon Inlet sits Coquina Beach. The short drive south of “town” can offer a great deal of tranquility and relaxation. Coquina Beach's beauty and tranquility is derived from the fact that it often remains uncrowded on even the most crowded Outer Banks summer days. When relaxing on Coquina Beach, if one were to look north toward Nags Head, they would see only cottages off in the distance. Similarly, if one were to look south while on Coquina Beach, the only things in sight would be the rare Oregon Inlet 4X4 driver (with $50, 7 day permits or $120, annual permits now required to drive on Oregon Inlet's Beaches) and fishing boats coming out of the inlet itself. It is the lack of establishments and seemingly endless sand dunes in this area that give Coquina Beach the vintage Outer Banks feel of decades past.
Coquina Beach gets its name from the thousands of coquina shells that can be seen along the waters edge. Birds often feed on coquina at the waters edge as the shells find a home in the sand with every rise and fall of the tide. According to merriam-webster.com a coquina shell is defined as a “small wedge-shaped clam (Donax variabilis) used for broth or chowder and occurring in the intertidal zone of sandy Atlantic beaches from Delaware to the Gulf of Mexico.”
Coquina Beach was recently named one of America's 10 Best Family Beaches by ABC News.