Six Days in Eastern North Carolina

We have never visited the eastern side of North Carolina before and were excited on multiple fronts! First, we participated in a 24-hour adventure race with a friend in the Durham-Raleigh area. Second, we’d always wanted to visit the Outer Banks. And third, after some time in the mountains, we found ourselves missing the beach again!

We began our explorations in Greensboro, home of our friend and best man Marshall (AKA Marshawty). We had every intention of fully exploring this cool area, but got distracted by spending time with our friend and preparing for our race. Here are a few honorable mentions to add to any itinerary for the Greensboro area that we failed to visit:

On our first day, we began with preparations for the 24-hour Questival!! We previously completed this race in Nashville two years ago and had so much fun we enlisted our friend Marshall to join our team, “Run Like the Winded.” We even got him a shirt to match ours!

We poured over the list of 171 challenges provided the day before the race, got all the supplies ready, and drove to Durham for the race kickoff!

Over the course of 24 hours, we made a ton of new friends. At least half of the challenges require that you engage strangers, frequently those not participating in the race itself. Below you see a variety of challenges, such as trust fall with a stranger, leg wrestling, and giant Jenga. Reuben also shared a pimento and jalapeno sandwich with a group of friends we met up with at a campground to complete joint challenges.

One of the premises for the race and the motto of Cotopaxi, the gear company who hosts the race, is to “Do Good.” Many of the challenges involve helping others and donating.

Mostly it’s a really good excuse to act goofy and do wild things in public! We’re going to love having all these pictures later. Also, it was pretty rad that we came in 6th place out of 175 teams!!

On our second day, we continued east, stopping in Wilson for a few interesting sites. First, we visited the Wilson Botanical Gardens. These free gardens were delightful! We especially loved the STEM garden and geocaching opportunities.

Next, we visited Whirligig Park, another free park that features an incredible array of whirligig statues designed by Vollis Simpson, a WW2 veteran turned artist. Not only are they pretty to look at, but they make really cool sounds as the wind moves the parts!

In the afternoon, we drove towards Greensboro to ride on the Bicycle Post Trail. The trailhead actually leads to a series of fairly technical mountain biking trails (probably too technical for our little hybrid bikes) but we still enjoyed ourselves (even if we had to walk our bikes a good part of the way).

That evening, we boondocked at the Harvest Host Sun and Moon Ranch, where Reuben made friends with the local wildlife!

On our third day, we bypassed the Croatan National Forest, due to closures from Hurricane Florence, and made a beeline for Fort Macon State Park. One thing we LOVED about Fort Macon was the amazing documentary about birds they play in their visitor center. Seriously – so good!

We also got an opportunity to tour the fort, a civil-war era site most famous for Union General Burnside’s siege in 1862, but also the place where Blackbeard’s famous pirate ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, was found.

 

The park also features a lovely loop trail that incorporates a beach walk and woodlands. 

 

Fort Macon looks out at Cape Lookout National Seashore, which is only visitable by ferry. Unfortunately, the winds were too strong while we were there and the ferries weren’t running.

Instead, we toured Historic Beaufort, a cute seaside town with free history around every corner.

We particularly enjoyed the free North Carolina Maritime Museum that provides a great deal of history about Blackbeard’s shipwreck, including an enjoyable documentary on its excavation.

We also stopped in at the free Harvey Smith Watercraft Center where you can watch expert boatmen repair a variety of boats.

That night we drove on to Cedar Island RV Park, a cool complex right next to the Cedar Island Ferry, that we planned to take the next morning over to Ocracoke Island.

On our fourth day, we rose early for a sunrise ride on the Ferry to Ocracoke. This route is one of the only ferries in the Outer Banks you can reserve in advance. 

 

The two hour trip was quite relaxing with lovely views of the water. We basically had the ferry to ourselves!

Once on Ocracoke, we started with a visit to the free Preservation Society, which is walking distance from the ferry parking area. The small museum is a great way to learn a bit about the tiny island’s residents and history.

 

We also explored the area by walking to the Ocracoke Light Station. You can walk up to the lighthouse but not inside. It is an active lighthouse managed by the Coast Guard.

With some time left, we also hiked the very short but lovely Springer’s Point Trail not far from the lighthouse.

We were anxious about taking the ferry to Cape Hatteras, where we had reservations to camp at the KOA. We couldn’t make reservations for this free ferry because it is first come, first served. The ferries leave every hour on the half hour. We were lucky and arrived early enough to be in line third for the 12:30pm boat with about a half hour to wait. With our extra time, we explored the nearby dunes!

The first thing you see when you exit the ferry from Ocracoke is the free Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum. This companion to the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort offers more insights into Blackbeard’s ship, as well as a collection of items found in the surrounding waters.

After our quick museum visit, we drove straight to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore We really wanted to do the Lighthouse Climb, but sadly the lighthouse was still closed for the winter. Instead we visited the nearby museum for insights into the area.

With evening fast approaching, we finished our drive to the Cape Hatteras KOA. We haven’t stayed at many KOAs, but we are always impressed with them. Off season prices were very reasonable and the KOA has incredible amenities and play areas for kids. I particularly enjoyed the hot tub, which I had all to myself!

 

On our fifth day, we rose early and enjoyed some sunrise Pilates on the beach.

Next, we headed out to visit Roanoke Island, where the first British settlers mysteriously disappeared. We began our island explorations with a visit to the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. The visitors center is great, with multiple hands on exhibits and a pretty funny docudrama about the Roanoke settlers. 

 

If there, you should also take their short nature trail out to a private beach on the Croatoan Sound!

For a bit of cheesy fun, we next drove to the nearby Roanoke Island Festival Park. I wasn’t 100% sure if the entry fee would be worth it, especially when we saw multiple school buses in the parking lot, but it was great! The park consists of several sites with period actors, as well as a thorough, hands-on museum. 

That afternoon, we drove up to Jockey’s Ridge State Park, where we learned about the largest series of dunes on the Atlantic coast! Also of note, you can bring a sled and go dune sledding here!

We also went kayaking out on the Roanoke Sound from the state park launch site. It was only an okay paddle, but Reuben had some fun fishing!

That evening, we picked up a rental dune buggy from Buggin’ Out for a sunset beach ride. We had so much fun! It’s important to note that once you pick up the buggy, you have to drive it about an hour north to the Currituck Nature Preserve where off-roading is allowed on the beach. We then spent about an hour riding on the beach and then an hour returning as the sun set. 

 

On our sixth and final day, we drove to the most northern part of the Outer Banks to explore Historic Corolla Village, an area first developed as a hunting ground by the wealthy Knight family.

The Knight family built the Whalehead Club as their vacation home. No pictures allowed, but the house tour is very enjoyable and recommended. 

After the tour, we climbed the nearby Currituck Lighthouse for amazing views of the Outer Banks from above. The lighthouse offers small informational exhibits along the way as you climb up. 

 

That afternoon, we wanted to kayak some more, so put in at the recommended Kitty Hawk Coastal Reserve. It was a little tricky to find the launch site because it’s at a recycling center! Reuben mostly fished while I paddled. I saw some wildlife, but I wasn’t quick enough with my camera!

 

We ended our visit to the Outer Banks with the Wright Brothers Memorial. The Wright Brothers were the first to fly and the memorial is placed on the hill they used for all their test runs. What’s most incredible to me is that the brothers had no formal training, just a dream to be the first and within three years of trying, achieved flight!

We hope you enjoyed this travel adventure in the eastern side of North Carolina! Please stay tuned for the corresponding YouTube Episode!

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