I usually write about Triangle family destinations in this space every Friday.
But I like to explore this great state of ours. And for spring break this year, I was lucky enough to spend the week with my dad, husband and kids in Hatteras, N.C., on the very southern tip of Hatteras Island.
I'd been to the Outer Banks before, but, except for one trip to Duck, most of my time there was spent covering hurricanes in my previous job as a newspaper reporter. So, first impression on this trip, it was great to see so many stores and restaurants open!
But ... all kidding aside ... it was a wonderful week. I thought I'd share a few of my family's favorites in case you're planning or considering a trip there too.
Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum: This state museum, with free admission, focuses on pirates and shipwrecks and was my seven-year-old daughter's favorite part of the trip. It was within walking distance of the condo where we stayed, so we went back a few times to peruse the exhibits, which feature artifacts and lots of information. It's not a huge museum, but it was a great way to spend a rainy morning.
The Ferry to Ocracoke: We could watch the cars and trucks line up for the ferry from our dining room window all day, so by the time we boarded the free ferry from Hatteras to Ocracoke, my girls were very excited. It's a quick 30-to 40-minute ride before you get to Ocracoke, where we checked out the pony pens, toured Teach's Hole's Blackbeard exhibit and had an amazing brunch at Flying Melon (where they had paper tablecloths and crayons for the kids to color and were happy to serve a short stack of their delicious sweet potato pancakes to my two-year-old).
Hatteras Lighthouse: It's an obvious place to visit when you're so close, of course. But, even though the lighthouse wasn't open for the season yet when we went, we had a great time walking the grounds and flying kites on the beach near the lighthouse's previous location. As my father and I marveled at the lighthouse and talked to another family, my kids did cartwheels and ran races on the lawn in front of it.
Frisco Native American Museum: It's a musty little museum in the small town of Frisco, but this place was another favorite for my girls. While we all wished for more information about what exactly we were looking at, there definitely was a lot to look at.
Orange Blossom Bakery: My seven-year-old and I did a lot of online research before we went, looking for things to do and places to eat. While our sights were set on seafood, we both were looking for some treats too. Everything we read, plus the raves of a neighbor, told us we needed to try an apple ugly at Orange Blossom. Lucky for us, the bakery in Buxton near the Hatteras Lighthouse opened for the season during our week there. So let me add another vote for this local bakery. The apple uglies, giant puffs of fried dough, apples and sugar, were amazing. And the ice cream at Uncle Eddy's just down the street is worth the trip too.
Playground in Hatteras Village: My kids play on a lot of playgrounds. So when they spotted the playground in Hatteras next to the library, post office and fire department, I wasn't too keen on making a stop. We're at the beach, after all. Shouldn't we be looking for shells, playing in the sand or doing something else that we can't do at home? Sure, my kids told me. But let's go to the playground too. So we did ... and they were right. On an afternoon that was a bit too blustery for the beach, we spent 90-minutes on the playground. It's not a huge playground, though it's amazing how much is here - including two smaller playsets, swings, picnic tables and a little play town with a sheriff's office and ice cream stand. And it's all enclosed. It was a great afternoon.
Kitty Hawk Kites: Our condo sat above some shops in Hatteras. Among them was Kitty Hawk Kites, a local chain of stores featuring kites and all kinds of beach gear. You'll see them across the Outer Banks. Sure, we bought stuff, but we also had a great time meeting the staff. One took the time to tell my daughter about all the different kinds of shells she found on the beach and even gave my daughter a few she'd found on her own. She also recommended a great kite that my seven-year-old had a wonderful time flying and could easily handle on her own. I never got her name, but if Kitty Hawk Kites' bosses are reading, please know you have a great staff at your Hatteras shop.
The Beach: Before we left Raleigh, I wondered how much beach time we'd actually get. The weather was expected to be pretty chilly - in the high 50s and low 60s - for much of our stay. It was rainy and windy a few days too. But we had some days of beautiful weather and we spent them on the beach. My kids searched for shells and played in the sand. They flew kites. We took walks. We watched fisherman and looked out for dolphins. It was everything that I'd read about the Outer Banks. And while my two-year-old took her afternoon nap one day, I took my seven-year-old out and let her do the one thing she'd wanted to do all week: Get in that cold water. We both had a blast.
I'm sure we just scratched the surface of the area when we were there. I know that many of you have spent much more time on the Outer Banks than I have. If you have a favorite Outer Banks spot for kids and families, please share!