Posted June 6, 2007 2:44 p.m. EDT
Sun, Surf & Serenity
The Triangle area is so close to the coast that you can almost smell the salt air. Within two hours or less you can be sinking your feet into the earth as the Atlantic calms your soul, looking into the eyes of your loved one, over a romantic surfside dinner, or cutting through the whitecaps on an exhilarating Jet Ski excursion. Regardless of what you’re in the mood for, you’ll find it along the 300-plus miles of North Carolina’s stunningly pristine coastline.
Of course, there are the “must see” sites of coastal North Carolina, including its seven stalwart lighthouses that have protected sailors from the state’s rocky shoals for decades. And, there are the ever-popular Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, Fort Fisher Aquarium near Wilmington and the gigantic, windswept sand dunes of Jockey’s Ridge. But, for those who want to experience the coast from a “local’s” point of view, opportunities abound.
In Wilmington past and present have merged in a way that preserves tradition while making way for the new. This vibrant coastal city provides the perfect backdrop for a relaxing day trip or a much-deserved weekend getaway. With an historic downtown district that skirts the edges of the Cape Fear River, shopping and dining experiences here include treasures such as the Cotton Exchange, Chandler’s Wharf, Elijah’s, Pilot House and Caffe Phoenix. To get an alternative taste of today’s southern coastal living, stop by Deluxe Café and enjoy delicacies such as pan-seared South Florida Red Grouper or the basil pesto grilled yellow fin tuna. Afterwards, be sure to grab a “cup a joe” at local favorite Port City Java.
If you want to get a little closer to where the waves are breaking, make the short drive over to Wrightsville Beach. Once you’re there, be sure to stop in at Dockside Restaurant and Marina for one of their famous crab cake sandwiches. Or, take in brunch, lunch or dinner at the Oceanic- where every seat in the house provides a spectacular view of the Atlantic. But don’t leave Wrightsville without eating breakfast at the Causeway Café- their grits can make a northerner fall to his knees in praise of the South. After all of that comfort food, take a leisurely stroll upon the sand. Be sure to gaze out towards the ocean, because you just might catch a glimpse of sleek dolphins following your trail.
A little further up the coast, you’ll find more hidden treasures by the sea in hamlets such as Beaufort. Take a tour of the Old Burying Ground, where you’ll find the graves of seafarers dating back to the 18th century. And, don’t forget to visit nearby Shackleford Banks where you can see a herd of wild horses whose ancestors are said to date back 500 years. For those who truly want to get away from it all, your utopia can be found on Ocracoke Island. Only accessible by ferry, plane or helicopter, this jewel of North Carolina’s Outer Banks is the epitome of unspoiled beauty. Only 16 miles from tip to tip, you can walk or bike your way around the island- stopping to visit the 1823 Ocracoke Lighthouse, watch the fishing boats coming into Silver Lake Harbor or to grab a bite of lunch or dinner at one of the local favorites, such as the Island Inn Dining Room.
For anyone who visits the North Carolina coast, it’s impossible to leave without having a little of its salt air running through your veins. From the region’s history to its culture to its people, the experience will stay with you for a lifetime.