I have always wanted to visit all of North Carolina's famous lighthouses on one massive road trip down the coast. Mom and I started our adventure on September 21st, driving to a wedding near Amelia Courthouse Virginia, we stayed the night in Midlothian, Virginia.
On Sunday we hopped in the car and started the three-hour ride to our second hotel of the trip, the Days Inn Oceanfront - Wilbur at Kill Devil Hills, the longest, continuous-running hotel on the Outer Banks. This place was clean, had great views, and easy beach access. We dropped off our bags and headed to the Currituck Lighthouse. Of course, we climbed the to top of mom's favorite lighthouse! We then walked around the Historic Corolla Park, a beautiful waterfront park and checked out the 1920's-era Art Nouveau mansion, The Whalehead. From there, we set out to see the Bodie Island Lighthouse. I had visited the lighthouse before, but it was during a restoration process, the tower had scaffolding and a giant sheet over it then so it was awesome to see how the distinctive black and white day marks are in the bright sun. It was getting late, and mom and I were starving! We decided on dinner at The Blue Point based on a recommendation by a friend. Mom had the beef tenderloin served with fingerling potatoes, smoked cipollini onions, shiitakes, and truffle-horseradish crème fraîche. She said it was fantastic! I went with the Pamlico Sound green tail shrimp ramen bowl with noodles, roasted shiitakes, crispy pork belly, and pickled carrots all served in a soy pork broth.
On Monday we set out to Roanoke Island. We have a cousin that works at the aquarium. She showed us around and made sure we got to see the diving demonstration in the shark tank..it was sooooo cool!!! I spent the most time at the jellyfish tanks; the moon jellies were my favorite. Then we went to Jurassic Park...err...I mean The Elizabethan Gardens. It is a stunning place but had giant mosquitoes chasing us around. We came, we saw, took pictures, and got out of there. Mom even saw a little black snake on the walkway. By this point, we were hungry and our cousin suggested Shaddai, a Peruvian restaurant that did not disappoint. The portions were generous, the price was right, and everything was delicious! We sauntered out of there with our full bellies to drive to Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. We explored the grounds and the museum located in the lighthouse keeper's old home. Storm destruction was evident everywhere along highway 12. Furniture, tree limbs, and parts of cottages littered the side of the road waiting for collection. The roads are clear of debris so we made a beer run on the way back to the hotel and settled on the balcony to people watch for the night.
Tuesday was set aside initially to see Cape Hatteras and to make our way to Ocracoke, but Hurricane Dorian had other plans a few weeks ago. Ocracoke is still in a bad way, and no visitors are allowed on the island at this time. So it looks like we'll be making a special trip to see it when the island recovers. We got started on the inland journey from Kill Devil Hills to Fort Macon. I had been there before, and it is always a sight to see. Lots of history about the fort's use and disuse throughout the years. Luckily now it had been maintained and is a great place to visit. Thank you to the Finz Grill for the beer and to Cru Bar & Wine Store in Beaufort for supplying the wine that day. The drama had to happen when the Island Express Ferry Service LLC call that afternoon and explained that since it is the off-season, not enough people had scheduled a ferry ride out of Beaufort to Cape Lookout and that we would have to leave from the Harkers Island Visiter's Center instead. We were staying at the Inlet Inn, a road width away from the boat slip that we would need to depart out of Beaufort, but I guess the change of plans meant we would explore another destination that was not on our list.
We woke up before the sun on Wednesday. We were concerned about morning traffic, breakfast and getting to Harkers Island in plenty of time to get on the ferry to Cape Lookout. We made it with lots of time to spare. I was looking forward to the short ferry ride the Cape Lookout and the possibility of seeing some of the horses of Shackleford Banks. The ferry left on time and as we were sailing past Shackleford, we saw some of the horses. The captain steered the boat closer to shore for a better look before continuing to Cape Lookout. Once again, the mosquitoes were out and about and having a feeding frenzy towards the lighthouse keeper's home. There we met a Durham NC married couple that in their retirement had decided to volunteer for two weeks on the island. You get to live upstairs in the home too! It sounds like fun until I think about the mosquitoes, maybe I'll volunteer in the dead of winter. The lighthouse itself was closed off for climbing, so mom and I went shelling instead and boy did we collect some seashells down by the seashore!!! We started getting hungry, and two places that were suggested to us were Fish Hook Grill and Sea Side Galley. Fish Hook was packed full of people, so we went on to Sea Side Gallery. It is a small grill on the side of a busy gas station. We stopped there and had a super quick bite to eat. We got back to our hotel room at the Inlet Inn and took and a long nap. We woke up and went to see the NC Maritime Museum, and it had a ton of Blackbeard the Pirate artifacts! Looking at all the pirate stuff we wanted some rum or at least a margarita, so we stopped in Mezcalito Grill & Tequila Bar.
Thursday was the last day of our trip. We headed out early to Southport, a town mom and I have visited many times before. We had to catch the ferry to Bald Head Island to see Old Baldy, the oldest NC lighthouse. We read everything inside the tiny museum-gift shop combo cabin, and then we climbed the rickety old wooden steps to the top landing. It was hot, unkempt and in need of vacuuming to tell you the truth. It was a shocking contrast to the other more well-preserved lighthouses on our coast. After we got back to the bottom, we were ready for some hydration! We went to Mojo's on the Harbor for water and a light lunch before boarding the ferry home.
If you're scratching your head and counting up the lighthouses you’ll realize we left out Oak Island Lighthouse. It is because we have seen it many times and we got to see it again on the ferry over to Bald Head Island. Overall it was a great trip, learned a lot of new history tidbits, dug into some great seafood, saw familiar faces, took a bunch of pictures and made some great coastal NC memories. I am already planning the next trip there! Here are a few more shots that I got throughout the week! 5 days, 5 lighthouses, 3 hotels, 2 ferries, est 1100+ miles, est 22+ hours