Outer Banks vacation slideshow

Sit back … relax … you know you care.
Sunday’s column, plus photos:

It’s been two years and three months since my wife and I packed our things and trekked northeast to Sanford, North Carolina, and we’re still discovering some of the best this state has to offer.
Our latest discovery this past week was the Outer Banks — a place I’d only visited once, but that was for two days in November with zero minutes spent on the sand and zero seafood consumed. My wife Jennifer had never stepped foot on the OBX (as the tee shirts call it), as our beach experience here had been limited to Wilmington and Topsail Island (which we love).
So were we impressed.
Keep in mind, you’re looking at two people who love the sand and salty sea air. My wife grew up with family vacations to Florida’s Emerald Coast, and since we’ve known each other, we’ve waded in waters off the coasts of Texas, Florida, St. Thomas, St. John, Mexico and southeast North Carolina.
We’d heard tons of great things about the Outer Banks, but you never know until you get there …

THE DRIVE
My wife, my in-laws and I left early Wednesday morning so we could make a few stops along the way. One detour took us to Washington, or as I’m told it’s called here, “Little Washington,” where we were told we MUST have a Bill’s Hot Dog.
Washington, the town, was great. Much bigger than I thought with a downtown area that should make Sanford envious. Scenic boardwalk, friendly people … not much to not like.
The hot dogs? Despite a unique white chili spread, the dogs just didn’t cut it for us. I suppose I’m just not a fan of red franks … or the firey feeling in my stomach that lasted well into Wednesday evening.
A straight shot to Nags Head from Sanford is a little more than four hours, but because we took our sweet little time, this trip lasted forever. The billboards between Plymouth and Manteo had me a little worried, too — the “Get your crabs at Dirty Dicks” and “Tryournuts.com” signs made it feel like I was driving toward the Vegas’ red light district rather than a beach getaway.
Thankfully, this wasn’t the case. And we stayed far from Dirty Dicks.

THE ARRIVAL
We were pleased when the forecast for Day 1 called for temperatures in the upper 60s, lower 70s. Little did we realize that in the OBX, this didn’t account for A) the wind and B) the wind coming in from a chilled ocean.
The cold was almost bitter Tuesday night, and after a long drive, unpacking, finding a restaurant and walking the beach for a whole 10 minutes, we had to stay in our room for the first night. Sure, we could have hit the bars, but having a wife who’s four months into a pregnancy kinda takes some of the fun out of club hopping … at least we think.

THE FOOD
Thankfully, the food made up for Day 1’s wintery blast.
We did very little “studying” on restaurants before we came, hoping to just discover places when we arrived. While we didn’t seek out many “holes in the wall,” we did try to find places we’d either never heard of or never been to.
I won’t name “em all, but Jennifer is happily crabcaked out, and I found a new love — fish tacos. Our favorite stop was a place called Mulligans … a place we didn’t expect a lot from since looks-wise, it’s kind of generic. But the food was anything but.
Food is typically a big thing in our trips. It’s one of the reasons we enjoy Louisiana so much, and when we find a place that knocks our socks off, we talk about it for years. Thankfully, the Outer Banks didn’t disappoint.

THE BEACH
Day 2 began with a chill as well, but by the time noon rolled around, the sun was out and the wind was calmer. So Wednesday was spent on the beach … all day.
This is how we spent 90 percent of our honeymoon, too. We don’t have to do the surfing, the hang gliding or the snorkeling to have a great time (though I do love snorkeling). In about six hours time, I developed a nice tan that should take me well into June, and the tranquility and lack of crowds was more than enough to wipe the stress slate clean for me.
It was a much-needed diversion from the daily grind. And the beaches were gorgeous. Blue water, thick sand and impressive waves (for the East Coast, anyway). We didn’t head north to the “real” natural wonders of Corolla and points beyond, but we did drive south to Hatteras, where I climbed the nation’s largest lighthouse and hung on to dear life at the top out of fear the wind would sweep me away.
North Carolina’s beaches may not have the aesthetics of a tropical get-away, but we’ve rarely been met with large crowds, they’re easy to access and most importantly, they’re clean.
A-plus on the beaches.
F-minus for the terrible sunburn I got on the top of my feet.

OVERALL
The trip was short (three days, two nights), and aside from Hatteras, the only “touristy” thing we did was a visit to the Wright Brothers Memorial, but I must say, I’m once again impressed with destinations within our state and within a four-hour drive from my house.
We’re already planning our next trip to the Banks, perhaps later this summer when my wife’s bump is blocking the view of her toes. Only next time, I promise I won’t bore you with my texted slideshow.

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