31 Aug 2017, 8:55am
Discovery Map Outdoor Adventures Restaurants The Outer Banks:
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Top Reasons to Go to the Outer Banks of North Carolina

Beachtime on the Outer Banks of North Carolina

OBX

A Little Beach Box

Outer Banks Eats

As we steam into the last great weekend of summer, most of us are woe to give up the hot, sultry moments in the sun. We don’t want to replace pumps and loafers with flip flops. We long for more, more, more time at the beach. We want to continue to throw on a shift or a pair of shorts and T-shirt over our swimsuits and belly up to a raw bar for some fresh seafood and beers.

This feels especially so in parts of the country–such as the northeast where I have been based–where the summer has been cool and more rainy and cloudy than usual. No, it just doesn’t seem fair; most of us yearn for more of that good ‘ole summertime feeling.

Good news is that you can find it in spades at North Carolina’s Outer Banks. I’ve visited these oh-so gorgeous barrier islands numerous times, mostly during the shoulder seasons of spring and fall, which in my opinion, is the best time to go. This is when you can avoid the crowds and enjoy more tranquil beach time. Sure, this part of the coast can be pounded during fall’s hurricane season (mostly in September), however, that’s good news for those into big surf. (Indeed, OBX is one of the surfing capitals of the U.S.)

Click here to read a bunch of my stories on the Outer Banks.

For a bucket-full of my fresh reasons on why to visit this beautiful destination, read my OBX write ups at DiscoveryMap.com:  OBX Surf, Sun and Fun and Tastes of the Outer Banks.

May summer last forever! Or at least until ski season hits.

Sunset Over Pamlico Sound

Another Wonderful Visit to the Outer Banks

The Outer Banks of North Carolina

The Outer Banks of North Carolina

I recently spent a week at the beach with my boyfriend, Steve. We were on the Outer Banks of North Carolina (OBX), one of the most alluring surf side destinations in the world, and a spot he has been frequenting for almost three decades.

So Pretty

So Pretty

Almost There

Almost There

Steve’s an avid beach enthusiast and I love the fact that he can just as easily appreciate lounging in a sun-baked dune as catching a ten-foot wave in the surf. Depending on the season and the weather patterns, you can find big swells in the waters off of Nags Head, Rodanthe, Hatteras, Frisco, and a slew of other OBX surf spots revered by  surfers and beach aficionados from around the world.

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The Outer Banks: The Perfect Hideaway for a Travel Writer and a Hotel GM

Our Path to Paradise

Summer is on the wane. And if you’re like me, you’re looking forward to embracing fall while clinging to your favorite memories of summer. I shared my best trip this summer with my boyfriend, Steve, an overworked hotel general manager. It occurred late summer on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and it included everything you’d ever want from a great vacation. Yes, you guessed it! Just as Serge Gainsbourg sang in his late 1970’s hit “Sea, Sex and Sun,” we had all the key components of a perfect beach getaway.

Our First Dinner Out

More Wonderful Seafood from Awful Arthur’s

Shucking Oysters: A North Carolina Speciality

Oh yes, we reveled in extraordinary surf, the main reason so many people love the Outer Banks. We also took immense pleasure in the beach throughout our entire stay. We feasted on seafood, lots of fried food, doughnuts and ice cream. (It is the South after all.) We savored swills of wine and frosty beers perched high on the dunes at sunset. We sipped tea together and marveled at the sunrise (they’re the best here) one morning when we managed to pry ourselves out of bed. We accompanied each other on long walks on the beach and drive-arounds to scout out the best surf spots of the day. We shopped for food, surf wax, salt water taffy and bikinis, potentially loaded forays that tested our togetherness, especially when the bikini was not found. We chilled in our modest—but wonderful—seaside apartment, cooking huge breakfasts, eating leftovers from our big nights out and listening to the Grateful Dead, Merle Haggard and other classic tunes. Our days were measured by the tides and the swells; our nights were punctuated by the moon and deep sleeps made possible by the incessant crashing of the surf outside our window. Either way, the presence of the wind and water lulled us into a continuous state of happiness, the sort of euphoric sense of well-being and relaxation that’s best achieved at the ocean or perhaps after a day on the slopes.

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17 Oct 2009, 8:46am
Hotels & Lodging Restaurants Shopping Travel:
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East Coast Adventure: The Outer Banks

The Outer Banks of North Carolina

The Outer Banks of North Carolina

Even travel writers need a vacation.  Everybody needs a break from their job even if their work is their passion.  That’s exactly what I did during my four days and nights on The Outer Banks of North Carolina.  I didn’t take a single note.  I didn’t scout out the best places of lodging, the most typical restaurants or everyone’s favorite dairy bar.  I didn’t come away with a single address, phone number or Web site.

My mind is imbued, however, with myriad images of a place that was once imagined and is now forever known.  I had envisioned a certain wildness about this immense slice of land that extends along the coast of North Carolina.  (The Outer Banks is actually a long, narrow string of barrier islands some two-hundred miles long.)  I found its untamed characteristics in its charging surf and along immense swathes of beaches best accessed by four-wheel drive vehicles with deflated tires.  I felt enchanted by the region’s cedar shingled houses on stilts despite the over proliferation of them in a good many areas.  Indeed the development of The Outer Banks has not always been kept carefully in check but it’s no wonder since much like on Cape Cod and in certain parts of Maine, the ocean roars for attention here drawing crowds from near and far.

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2 Jun 2015, 6:04pm
Writing & Books:
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Marking Four Hundred Blog Posts

Planning Ahead:  Stamping Out 400 in the Glorious Outer Banks Sand During My Visit There Two Weeks Ago

Planning Ahead: Stamping Out 400 in the Super Soft Outer Banks Sand of North Carolina During My Visit There Two Weeks Ago

Four hundred–woo-hoo! I can’t help but wonder what the word count is on that milestone. Writers, you may know, always talk in word count. I suppose I could find out but I certainly don’t have the time.

It takes a lot to do a blog post, especially mine at Bonjour Colorado, which tend to be full-on stories with lots of links and photos. But I love it. I started out as more of a book person–I’ve authored five, in fact.

Yet blogging on destinations from Stockholm to Santa Fe has allowed me to broaden my coverage on favorite places, people and experiences. And posting on a variety of subjects from The Thrill of a Bike Race to Skiing with Rock Stars to Traveling Like a Pampered Pet and Other Tales from the Road to Take Me to the River Especially on a Rafting Adventure allowed me to have a taste of and report on new happenings I likely wouldn’t cover outside of this blog. Posting podcasts with interviews with people such as Ken Burns, Cheryl Strayed, Susan Herrmann Loomis and a host of other illustrious figures whether well known or not, has permitted me to share with you interviews and information from my Travel Fun radio show. Writing a beauty post such as A Happy Ending to My Own Horror Story as well as a tribute to my mother at My Mom:  A True Original helped me to open up even more to you, dear reader.

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27 May 2015, 1:39pm
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Loving the Beach

Beach Self Portrait AKA Beach Goddess

Beach Self Portrait AKA Beach Goddess

Having just returned from the Outer Banks of North Carolina, my mind and senses remain awash with the transformative powers of the beach.

The Surf

The Surf

Warm sand in my toes, the fun and freedom of walking barefoot, the thunderous sound of the surf, the gentle surging of water as each wave becomes absorbed into the sand, sea foam, myriad shells, sea breeze whipping through my hair, the tingling of my skin as I emerge from a chilly dip in the surf, endless stretches of reflexology, the entertainment provided by scurrying sandpipers, crabs and other birds and creatures new to my world, the searing heat of the sun, the chill of the ocean air, the smell of sunscreen, the taste of salt on my lips after an ocean swim, the vastness of the empty length of sand and water before me, the ever-changing interplay of every shade of blue, beige, red, yellow and green cast from the sea, sand and sky, the busyness of beach activities such as surf fishing, kite boarding, sand castle building, beer drinking or just lolling around reading a book or doing nothing but relaxing, sleeping or soaking up the scene, the infinite array of beach toys, paraphernalia, carts, coolers, chairs, towels and toys that serve as the accessories to a day at the beach, the Crayola-crayon colors of all this cheery garb and the bathing suits folks have donned, the parade of shapes and body types I can’t help checking out, the sky, the cacophony of gulls’ cries mixed with children’s laughter and adults’ friendly salutations, the charms and jumbles of the lucky-to-live-here surf side houses that line the beach, open-air beach showers, the emptiness that becomes my mind within a few minutes of stepping onto such a swath of shoreline, the occasional whiff of salt air, the letting go of the tension I carry within my body–yes, this is some of what I love about the beach.

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What Kind of a Traveler Am I Anyhow? Part One: Packing

I can be a bit of a kook actually. Sometimes I’m frighteningly calm, other times I’m manic. Doesn’t traveling amplify all of our crazy, quirky, compulsive traits? Travel can be about totally letting go, but it’s also about zeroing in on the most minute details. For me, I love being in this mode of complete bipolarity when it comes to touring and discovery. But when it concerns the logistics of travel—planes and packing, for example—it can make me nuts. Or I just respond with a total laissez-faire attitude that can potentially make others around me go ballistic.

Let’s take packing. I’m from the bring-a-wide-selection-so-that-you-have-a-choice mindset. That’s totally Old School, especially with the baggage surcharges enforced by the airlines today. It’s tough though since I love to look my best when traveling and that often means switching out handbags and shoes along with a few different sweaters and a couple of coats. (We’re already approaching the limit here.) I had a near breakdown when I traveled to the east coast in September which prompted a major intervention I performed on myself (in the privacy of my bedroom, thank goodness) when I prepared for a second east coast trip in October. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I almost choked at the United counter in September when I had to pay $75. for two bags that I hadn’t even registered online. And that was just for the outbound segment. What made it worse was that I was to be spending most of my time in beach communities in Virginia Beach and The Outer Banks. How much room could a couple of bathing suits, sandals and assorted casual wear take up? This is pathetic, I thought to myself at check in. Granted I had a heavy silk dress and jacket packed in there for a wedding I was to attend (with, of course, the requisite matching sandals and bag). I was cursing my boyfriend, Steve, to myself for having urged me to take my sneakers. (Now that’s a space eater if there ever was one—who walks on the beach in sneaks anyway?) I had also thrown in my hairdryer since it appeared I might be without one for a bit. (Who travels with a hairdryer these days?) And my toiletry case ended up being the joke of our ten-day trip since it was stuffed with twenty some odd bottles (mini, but still), containing my prized potions and lotions that I presumably couldn’t live without. Now really? My God, an intervention was definitely in order. Clearly I hadn’t followed my own packing tips outlined here.

I know better. But an overflow of stress, combined with a what-the-hell kind of attitude provoked me to throw all my stuff into one suitcase, a duffle bag and two carry ons. I schlepped this proliferation of possessions from plane, to car, to another car, to taxi, to bus (yes, even on the Greyhound; read Riding the Bus), then to more car, plane and car, cursing myself the whole way. You get the idea.

I swore I’d never do that again. And so I haven’t, at least not on my October trip back east. I followed my own advice and cut my wardrobe selection in half and let it hang on door handles in my room for a few days before departure. Then I thought more about all—accessories and toiletries included—and neatly folded my trim little selection into my suitcase the morning of my departure. Phew! The intervention had worked. Plus I had registered my one bag online within the twenty-four-hour period allowed. Boy was I feeling mighty!

Suddenly I’m struck with that panicky feeling again, a strange sort of anxiety brought on by pre-departure packing plans. I’m leaving tomorrow with Steve on an almost week-long jaunt to Colorado Springs. He’s the General Manager at Mountain Lodge in Telluride and he’ll be attending the annual Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association conference at The Broadmoor. I’ll be joining him at a few events in search of story ideas and more. I already had my wardrobe planned in my head (and on my door knobs), thinking I’d draw from some combination of Rocky Mountain casual and Parisian chic. (It is The Broadmoor after all.) Then suddenly he tells me he’d like to add on a day of skiing on the return trip. “Oh, sure, sure, that’s great,” I said. But then I thought about having to pack my ski pants and ski jacket, mittens, hat, the whole shabang. I had already been wondering where my skis and ski boots were located since I didn’t see them in my storage area in Montrose, an hour and a half from where I live, when I went to pick up my winter things there ten days ago. I’ve been meaning to check my other storage area in Telluride as well as my ski locker at the mountain. My heart quickened. I’ve been on the verge of throwing Getting Ready for Ski Season: Part Two into motion, but now I need to get it into full activation mode. (Fortunately I’m already well into Getting Ready for Ski Season: Part One.)

Jeez, this is really confusing. And then I wonder how many other people go through these kinds of mind games regarding travel. Our supposedly more relaxed lifestyle of The West can be thrown a curve ball when you add on “just one day of skiing” to a business trip/elegant romantic getaway. One would think I’d be a professional traveler and could handle any scenario. When I’m in full ski instructor mode I sometimes sleep in my long underwear, get up, have breakfast, wash my face, brush my teeth and fly out the door to the mountain in near record time. But this travel combo so early in the season almost seems daunting. I take a deep breath and remember all the calming words I uttered to myself during my little intervention. Ssssh, ssssh, ssssh, stop, I say to myself. So what if I have to take two different pairs of mittens, socks and a variety of layers in order to be properly prepared for any type of weather for our one day of skiing, our maiden voyage of the ski season. I can handle it, I tell myself. And you won’t bring more than one file along with your laptop, I add on, almost as an afterthought. Can it be a fat one? I ask myself pleadingly. All right, all right.

Thankfully Steve, who travels considerably for his work, is no better than me. Actually worse, I think. On our east coast trip in September, he also checked two bags and a guitar! I’m not altogether sure what he had packed in his duffels but he mumbled something about his wetsuit and booties taking up a lot of room. Like my hairdryer, his wetsuit, booties and guitar were used only once during the entire trip. He employed his surfboard considerably more but that he leaves stashed back east. I wouldn’t think of doing a packing intervention on him. In any event, I love the fact that I travel with a guy that brings more stuff than me.

I wonder how it will be for us this trip.  I’m already beginning to feel slightly superior after my October test, despite my sporadic mind chatter that has raised some new packing insecurities.  We are driving and neither of us has to worry about baggage allotments.  Hmmmmm.  Oh dear, I sense a binge coming on.

14 Oct 2009, 1:53pm
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Mid-Atlantic Discoveries: Virginia Beach

VB Hotspot:  The Sexy SkyBar

VB Hotspot: The Sexy SkyBar

I have to admit I’m more of a Saint-Tropez kind of gal, so I felt somewhat wary about the idea of spending time at Virginia Beach, a destination that conjured up images of guys in muscle shirts and girls romping about in wet T-shirt contests on the beach.  But it made sense for me to park myself there for a few days until my boyfriend, Steve, came by to pick me up for our trip to the Outer Banks.  He had actually lived in VB for a while nearly two decades ago and his curiosity about the evolution of this major resort town encouraged me to check it out.

Both of us ended up being quite impressed by this super beach-y destination.

And who wouldn’t be?  The Atlantic is gorgeous here.  It stretches out as far as the eye can see and comes crashing in with big tumbling waves.  I love the vastness of the ocean but I find it even more interesting when there’s activity on the water and here, at practically the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, there’s plenty to see.  Cruise ships, barges, immense freighters and all kinds of pleasure boats pass by at varying distances from the horizon, providing endless hours of entertainment, especially for a landlubber like me.

Neptune's Statue on the Boardwalk

Neptune's Statue on the Boardwalk

The beach and boardwalk tract the coast for some three miles here.  My biggest decisions revolved around whether I’d walk on the expansive sandy beach or meander along the impeccably maintained boardwalk.  Now that’s vacation mode.  Most of the time I ended up doing a combination of both.  The scene at both locales percolated with locals and visitors alike doing all the fun things you do at the beach.  And yes, I saw a number of muscle men, but more in the form of super fit guys jogging, walking and roller blading along the boardwalk.  Few posers here.  This is the real deal since Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana, our country’s largest naval facility is located in VB and I can assure you that all of these military dudes and dudettes appear more than fit to serve.  The locals overall look as taut and tight as most Coloradans.  This is a beach community after all.

The tourists seem more concerned with gorging themselves in one of the many restaurants, bars, ice cream shops and various other eateries along the beach.  And VB is their oyster when it comes to choosing their preferred form of temptation.  There’s something for every taste and pocketbook and most scintillate with a brightly-colored decor that offers outstanding views of the beach.

VB Ocean Beach Club Penthouse

VB Ocean Beach Club Penthouse

Far from a tired old beach town, Virginia Beach pops and bubbles with beautiful places of lodging as well.  The Virginia Beach Ocean Beach Club is one such place and I felt so content here that it was hard to tear myself away from the sunny interior of my eighth floor abode that plunged over the ocean.  The crash of the waves on the beach lulled me to sleep and I snatched every possible moment to sit on my balcony high above the activity below.  Morning meant gazing down at early risers strolling on this vast playland of freshly raked beach.  I sipped tea (hot and iced) bemused by pods of dolphins that frolicked in the surf throughout the day.  In the evening I savored white wine staring down at this constantly animated tableau and one night I even worked on my laptop from my little perch.  The combined glow from the moon and my computer screen will never be forgotten.

VB Ocean Beach Club at Dusk

VB Ocean Beach Club at Dusk

A little investigating led me to unearth lots of charm amidst all this newness.  Of course the quaintness of the beach never waned, but I delighted in discovering some small, soulful places that clearly rank as locals’ best-loved establishments.  I peeked into Pelon’s Baja Grill, a surfers’ favorite, the first day I arrived, yet sadly never made it back for some of their renowned fish tacos and guacamole.  I picked up some excellent take out instead from Taste nearby and brought it back to my surf-side enclave.  I also longed to experience the old beach house interiors of Doc Taylor’s and Tautogs, but opted out of eating there as well since the beach beckoned.  (I swear I’ll return to Doc Taylor’s some day, especially for their crab crêpe with veggies topped with Hollandaise sauce.)  Steve and I did, however, grab breakfast at The Belvedere Coffee Shop, a real classic that hasn’t changed since the days when he would come here with his buddies before a day in the surf.  The Belvedere is a totally unpretentious diner that offers fantastic views of the ocean and tasty eggs cooked to order.

Rockfish, a must-see for anyone that has a love for the Beatles, presents more great vistas of the beach.  After having studied the plethora of Beatles’ memorabilia here (one of the largest in the world), I was happy to sit outside and gaze at the VB Fishing Pier over their lighter version of scrumptious She-crab soup (a sort of bisque) and Pina Colada.  She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Steve arrived for my last night and I was excited to show him all that I had discovered at Virginia Beach Oceanfront.  We strolled along the boardwalk, his eyes widening as though he was seeing it all for the first time.  We stopped in front of the many different points of interests—-extraordinary statues and the like—that were erected at each intersection of a street along the Boardwalk.  He was amazed at how far this once shabby beach town had come, how handsomely the oceanfront had been developed over the past ten years or so.  We lingered at the Neptune Plaza for a while where free concerts are performed nightly to a highly animated crowd.  We poked in at The Jewish Mother, an institution of sorts known for hosting performers such as Dave Matthews and Dr. John (before they became big).  Steve informed me that it hadn’t changed an ounce since his college days but we learned that it is slated to take over new digs in 2010.  (This is likely a good thing since to me it looked like too much of a dive.)  Their eight-inch tall carrot cake, however, tempted me greatly but we were in search of a more romantic venue.

We found our bliss at the SkyBar, the wraparound pool bar that opens at 10 p.m. on top of the Hilton.  Apparently it’s only open to hotel guests, but that alone would give me reason to stay there.  Part Miami, part Marrakesh, part (yes) Saint-Tropez, the look of the SkyBar is sexy and alluring.  As soon as the doors opened, we busted onto the scene, took one look around and threw down my jacket on one of their many double-wide loungers that punctuate their pool deck.  After doing the 360-degree tour, we opted for a lounger within the indoor pool area.  It was nearing late September by now and the ocean breeze cast a chill in the air.  Inside felt like a tropical paradise.  We sipped strawberry daiquiris and lounged in each others’ arms amidst piles of white terry towels, many of which were rolled up into perfect bolsters.  Steve moved to take off his shirt until I suggested we not become quite so comfy.  As much as we were enjoying each other, we didn’t miss a minute of the action that played out before us.  House music blared and fashionable folks slithered by as though they were mingling at a mixer on the beach.

I wondered how many people had ended up in the pool after a couple of hours of partying.  Undoubtedly a few.  If so, VB’s wet T-shirt exhibitions have certainly come a long way.  Steve and I vowed to come back to take in even more next time.

SkyBar and Its Infinity Pool by Day

SkyBar and Its Infinity Pool by Day

Virginia Beach Ocean Beach Club, 3401 Atlantic Avenue, 757-213-0601 or 800-245-1003, www.vboceanbeachclub.com

Hilton, 3001 Atlantic Avenue, 757-213-3000, www.Hilton.com/VirginiaBeach; SkyBar is open Friday and Saturday nights from 10 p.m.-1:30 a.m. throughout the season (which goes at least until October 31st when they’ll have a Fire & Ice Halloween Party—ooo la la!). SkyBar memberships are also available inside Catch 31, the showcase restaurant of the Hilton, for $100.

Pelon’s Baja Grill, 3619 Pacific Avenue, 757-417-3970, www.pelonsbajagrill.com

Taste, 36th & Pacific Avenue, 757-422-3399, www.tasteunlimited.com

Doc Taylor’s Restaurant, 207 23rd Street, 757-425-1960

Tautogs, 205 23rd Street, 757-422-0081, www.tautogs.com

Belvedere Coffee Shop, 3601 Atlantic Avenue, 757-425-0613

Rockfish Boardwalk Bar and Sea Grill, 1601 Atlantic Avenue, 757-213-7625, www.phrinc.com/restaurants/rockfish

The Jewish Mother, 3108 Pacific Avenue, 757-422-5430, www.jewishmother.com


More Fun

Pocahontas Pancake & Waffle Shop, Atlantic Aveune & 35th Street, 757-428-6352, www.pocahontaspancakes.com; loved the kitschy decor and will definitely return some day for their griddlecakes.

Whalebone, 1616 Laskin Road #748B, 757-437-8141, www.whalebonesurfshop.com; the place to shop for surfboards and surf attire, particularly ultra-cool T-shirts.

Coastal Edge, 2122 Atlantic Avenue, 757-491-9017, www.coastaledge.com; a super-popular surf and skate shop with numerous locations in Virginia Beach.

Forbes Candies, 2318 Atlantic Avenue, 757-425-5173, www.forbescandies.com; an Old School candy company that continues to make yummy saltwater taffy and other treats in big copper pots.

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