As I write this, I have less than a week of summer vacation left. This summer has gone by faster than any summer in my recent memory and it's mainly because of the massive amount of projects we took on. Primarily, our backyard make-over. This make-over is a topic for a blog all of it's own, I will say though that as I go back to work and although quite a bit of it is done, it is no where near to the Kid Oasis I envisioned it to be. But I digress. Since the backyard project engulfed every waking moment of both Mark's and my day which resulted in a summer full of too many days where the kids literally had to fend for themselves (poor Nikolas!), we decided to at least take a long weekend for a family get away mini-vacation.
The idea for the mini-vacation destination came from a random article I just happened upon earlier in the school year on one of "visit North Carolina" sites. It was titled "The Byway to Nowhere" and included a photograph of a coast I wouldn't expect to find in my "backyard". Intrigued by this 138-mile-6 hr-drive-3 hr ferry ride Outer Banks Scenic National Byway treasure I decided to slow the drive down and bit and turn in into a 4 day trip. Believe it or not, 4 days is nowhere enough for magnificent stretch of the coast. Doing this trip on the 4th of July weekend, didn't help matters at all and made my "our own pace"/no logging pre-planned road trip a potential disaster. Having 3 kids in the car (one of whom is a very whinny, super active 3-yr-old who can't sit still for 10 minutes) and 2 parents who have very different approaches to everything under the sun made the trip into a relationship bootcamp, which pushed it to its limits as the talks of divorce and "I'm never going on another family vacation again" and "I'm walking home from here" didn't even raise an eyebrow. (For those of you praying right now, no worries, we're still married and will probably go on another family vacation. lol)
As the included google map shows, we decided to start this road trip of the Outer Banks beaches with my all time favorite beach, Chicks Beach in Virginia Beach, VA (I know it's not even in NC, but it was close enough and on the way anyway, and well, it was a chance to see some family too, which we thoroughly enjoyed). Less than 2 hours from Virginia Beach, we checked into a hotel (the only preplanned hotel stop of the trip lol) in Kitty Hawk and enjoyed the beach and the hotel's amenities. The following morning we headed to Corolla Beach, where our day started with the most unforgettable experience ever: wild horses tour on the most secluded and wild beach I've ever been to and most breathtaking views of wild horses. This portion of our road trip is hands down everyone's favorite and we cannot wait to go back. (A huge huge shout out to a virtual stranger for all the suggestions, recommendations, and help with making this Wild Horses tour even possible!)
Our plans folded later that day when we realized that there's way too much too see along this Scenic Byway and since every stop is a national monument type location everything closes at 5pm, so there was literally no way to see everything in just a few days. We had to regroup, change our course a little (instead of seeing the Byway from Corolla and all the way down the cost to Emerald Isle Beach as I had hoped, we had to go inland and drive to Morehead City to spend the night in since everything was booked in the Outer Banks). After spending the evening on the Atlantic Beach we headed for Cedar Island, at 5am just to catch the 2-hr long ferry ride at 7am just so that we could have a little more time on the Byway.
We didn't get a chance to see the Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge as I had originally planned, but we did spend much more time than i thought was possible on a 3-mile wide island. Nikolas fell in love with Ocracoke and it's history and even buying books for him on the island's military history dating back to the Civil War couldn't make him leave. We did see the Ocracoke Lighthouse and the local museum and the British Cemetery where only my child could spend hours reading each tombstone.
One-hour long ferry ride later we ended up on Cape Hatteras National Seashore where only yours truly can manage to get stuck in sand on the highway! Both Mark and Nikolas were literally digging me out of sand on the hands and knees! On the highway people! Cape Hatteras is another place we want to go back too. Other than the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the NorthAtlantic Graveyard strictly for Nikolas, lunch at The Froggy Dog strictly for Tori (all about the name! lol), and driving around the seashore we didn't get to do much due to time constrains (I didn't even get to walk up the 217 steps of the lighthouse, which Nikolas claims provided the best view he's ever seen.)
Bodie Island Lighthouse was our next stop and the final lighthouse and then Kitty Hawk for the beach and hotel one more time (I think Kitty Hawk is one of my new favorite places now). Our last day on the Byway ended with the visit to the Wright Brothers Memorial, which in itself was a pretty neat experience everyone enjoyed.
Overall, this road trip has been a great introduction to just how much there is to do and see along this breathtakingly beautiful Outer Banks Scenic Byway to Nowhere (Hwy 12)! I strongly recommend this drive, even if it is just to drive through (although it'll be almost impossible not to stop along the way. We will definitely go back! Next time, though, we will stick to a beach or two, not the entire Byway.