When Steve and I sat down to discuss summer vacation plans, we knew that in addition to our planned parents trip to the San Juan Islands, we wanted to do something with the kids. We kicked around a few ideas and ultimately decided that a trip back to our beloved Outer Banks was in order – after all, we hadn’t been down that way since Nugget was a baby. But knowing that it was just going to be our family – no grandparents, aunt and uncle, or family friends along for the ride this time – we decided to mix it up and go somewhere different; we figured if we went back to our regular stomping grounds, we’d spend the whole week missing the rest of the family. I’d heard good things about Duck – one of the northern OBX towns – and we decided to give it a try.
Our first stop upon rolling into town was the iconic Duck Donuts. I know it’s not that big of a deal anymore – there’s a Duck Donuts in the shopping plaza where my kids get their haircuts, for goodness sake – but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get Duck Donuts in Duck. Peanut got cinnamon sugar with frosting and sprinkles, Steve had a glazed with salted caramel drizzle, and I got chocolate with graham cracker crumbs. Nugget insisted that he didn’t want a donut, then proceeded to eat three quarters of mine. Oof.
After fortifying ourselves with donuts (or a quarter of a donut, in my case) we headed to our beach house – home for the week. I spent a lot of time searching for the perfect house – tried Airbnb, VRBO, and the traditional realtors. The main requirements were: not too exorbitantly priced, soundfront, and with a deck. I finally found a house that fit the bill, right on Currituck Sound and about a half mile’s walk from the ocean beach.
Little people loved the screen porch, and spent quite a few hours playing out here (while Mom relaxed with a book and a La Croix – the life).
Down the stairs from the deck, we had a beautiful boardwalk right down to a little private beach on Currituck Sound.
The kids spent a decent amount of time splashing in the warm, shallow sound waters, while Mom took in the views (and picked up trash from the beach, because I have to be me).
Of course, while we loved our sound mornings, the real highlight came in the afternoon each day – the ocean beach!
Duck Beach was a long, beautiful strip of pristine white sand, dotted with colorful umbrellas. The one downside to vacationing in Duck, we found, was that there was no public access to the beach – if you couldn’t walk to an access point for your neighborhood, you were pretty much out of luck. Unlike in Frisco, where we stay with my parents, there is no public parking or beach access. But we had a beach access point for our neighborhood about a half mile’s walk from the house, which was very easy – and the upside to the beach not being as accessible as some others was that it was a lot cleaner. I barely saw a speck of trash on the ocean beach all week, and the water was clean and fresh. I’ll take that bargain!
Wave jumping was the activity of choice.
And dancing, too.
We did have some weird weather roll in during the week, so I filled up the non-beach hours with a few mandatory OBX activities. Nugget and I stopped by Kitty Hawk Kites (just the Duck outpost, not the huge flagship in Kitty Hawk) and picked out kites for both of the kids. And whenever you’re in the Outer Banks, you have to visit a lighthouse, right?
We had one dreary morning that wasn’t sound material, and I needed to get the kids out of Steve’s hair so he could work, so I loaded them in the car and drove them about half an hour to Corolla, to check out the Currituck Beach Lighthouse. Although I’ve been to the Hatteras and Ocracoke Lights many times, I’d never seen Currituck’s version – this lighthouse connoisseur was suitably impressed. Nugget wanted to climb, so I bought a ticket, and we made it about halfway up – a success, I think.
Saturday dawned drizzly and dreary, too, so we pulled out our other rainy-day plan – a drive to Roanoke Island, to visit the North Carolina Aquarium. (Making it a two-aquarium trip… we stopped at the Virginia Aquarium, in Virginia Beach, on the way down to Duck, to break up the trip.)
Peanut almost touched one of the stingrays in the touch tank. Almost! She put her hand in the water – nowhere near a stingray, but in the water. Which, I have to tell you, is a hell of a lot closer than I’ve ever gotten to touching any of the animals in any touch tank, anywhere, ever. I prefer to stay at least twenty-four inches from the edge. So I was fist-pumping her bravery.
Sharks were a major highlight – there was a huge shark tank, which was super cool. The whole aquarium had a shipwreck theme, and the animals swam in tanks that were decorated with sunken wrecks – very on point for the Graveyard of the Atlantic.
The highlight of this aquarium, though, was seeing the sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation center. I had no idea this was a thing the North Carolina Aquarium operates, so it was a total surprise and delight to walk through the doors and watch the wildlife rehabilitators at work.
Each turtle was floating in its own little tank, with enrichment toys and a carefully controlled environment. Nugget raised his hand and asked the volunteer interpreter what the turtles’ names were and what parts of their bodies were sick. (Good question for a four-year-old, right?) The interpreter explained that the turtles have a variety of health issues that they are working through, and showed us one that had a chunk of its shell missing from a boat strike. (SOB.) She also explained that the rehabilitators work through themed names and that the current group all had names from Harry Potter. Not having read the books or seen the movies, she had a hard time remembering the names, but she pointed out Longbottom, in tank number 7, and Bertie Bott, in tank 2. (The rehabilitators haven’t named any turtle after Harry himself, yet. As it was explained to us, they have to be really sure that they will be successful with that turtle. After all, Harry Potter is the Boy Who Lived.)
We just loved seeing the turtles, hearing about the rehabilitators’ work to heal them and return them to the wild, and reading about the aquarium’s efforts at sea turtle conservation. Second only to cetaceans, sea turtles are my favorite ocean creatures. What a delightful surprise to find this work going on at the North Carolina Aquarium.
It was a lovely week. Not restful, exactly, but the change of scenery was much needed – and it was good to get some time away as a foursome. I had no idea how much we’d been missing that until we made it happen.
The perk of staying soundside, of course – evenings on the deck watching the sun set over the water, a rare sight on the East Coast. The sunsets weren’t especially spectacular while we were there, thanks to some weather systems that always seemed to roll in at dinnertime. But we caught a few light shows. The best, by far, was the first night of our trip:
Such a gorgeous spot! I wish I was back there right now. Thanks for the memories, Duck! I’m sure we will be back – maybe not for a full week, but at least en route to and from Hatteras. We have such a long history with the Outer Banks, I always know we’re going to return.