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We are missing our favorite family vacation this summer. Usually, in August, we spend a week on Hatteras Island, at the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The kids are devastated and depressed. We’ve banned James Taylor’s, “Carolina in My Mind” from playing on any musical device in the house. Our fear is the family will slip into a complete, fall to the ground tantrum about our no- vacation situation. Normally, we’d be ready to unpack, unplug and unlock the mini bar for what is always a hilarious, stress-free, relaxing week of fun in the sun with two other families who have become our best vacation buddies ever!
You may remember me gushing about the beaches of Lavallette, NJ, as my little slice of Heaven. If that is true, then Hatteras Island is my a la mode. Beautiful – yet much different than the Jersey Shore. This beach vacation is quiet and more secluded. Nearly every home on the beach has its own private beachfront just over the dunes with lots of room for large groups to spread out. The ocean water is always warm and the waves are great for body surfing. At night, the beach is illuminated by the most incredible star-lit nights imaginable. The kids love chasing ghost crabs after dark and having bonfires on the beach.
Each family we’ve introduced to Hatteras loves it as much, if not more, than we do. All of them have returned for a second trip. So, we’ve decided it really isn’t fair to keep this family vacation gem a secret. Here are our recommendations for the best family vacation on the Outer Banks.
Stay in Style
Hatteras Island has many little towns to consider when looking for your ideal location. Frisco is our fav. The two rental agencies we’ve worked with most are: Outer Beaches Realty and Hatteras Realty. Both have great web sites to navigate to find your ideal vacation home. You can’t beat oceanfront, but we’ve stayed Oceanside as well and loved it. Great deals can be had in October and May. Before our kids were school aged, we would rent during Columbus Day and/or Mother’s Day and the weather was perfect. Avon is also a great spot for families and very close to the island’s main grocery store, Food Lion. Book early to get your first pick of houses and weeks available. Start looking in Jan/Feb of the year you want to book.
Try Some Deep Sea Fishing
My husband loves to fish, so finding the ultimate deep-sea charter trip has been his passion. We’ve taken a number of half-day and full-day charters over the years. What started as adult-only trips (pre-kids), turned into Dad-only adventures (post-kids) and ultimately, family fishing fun time! Our favorite captain is Captain Buck of the Sea Angel II. His charter runs out of Hatteras Landing. If you aren’t joining the fishermen on the trip, make it back to the dock by 3:00 p.m. so that you can watch them return and unload their catch. Hatteras Landing has some great shops and restaurants to explore while you are waiting for the crew. If you are lucky enough to catch a Wahoo, spark up the grill and enjoy!
Don’t Miss the Best Donuts – Ever!!!!
On our first trip to the island, my husband stumbled upon a tiny local place that looked like a small cottage in need of some TLC. It was called Orange Blossom Café. He arrived back to the beach where I was waiting, with a bag in one hand and a glazed chocolate dipped donut in the other. As he took bite after bite he slowly, passionately, revealed how it was – by far – the best donut he had ever tasted in his life.
With each bite, I was imagining the taste of the rich, deep, dark chocolate covering his fingers and getting really excited to try it. I waited patiently for my turn to sample this one-of-a-kind creation. He gushed about that donut between each bite until he swallowed the last bite and licked all the chocolate off his fingers. He didn’t even leave me a crumb large enough for the Grinch! Go to the Orange Blossom and get at least two double dipped donuts and Apple Uglies. One for you and one for sharing! Both signature items are well worth waiting for in the line out the door.
Explore Ocracoke Island
If you get an overcast day, check out the free (yup, we said free!) ferry to Ocracoke Island. The island is rich in history and pirate lore with great shopping and restaurants, as well as beautiful beaches if the weather changes. We begin our Ocracoke adventure at Howard’s Pub. It’s about half way into town from the ferry drop off on the right side of the highway. Sit on the porch and enjoy some of the best local fish options on the menu. We highly recommend the hush puppies as a starter. They have fabulous fruity drinks and local craft beers available by the glass or pitcher if you are feeling parched from the ferry ride. Kids meals come served in a Frisbee so you can play at the beach later if you forgot your beach toys.
From our first trip to the Outer Banks stopped dead in traffic on Route 12 for two hours in our black Jeep with the top off – to our trip last summer, this family-friendly beach vacation has never let us down. At first, I wasn’t convinced that the hours we spent sitting in traffic would justify the end result. Now, nearly 25 years and two kids later, it’s safe to say I’m glad we decided to broil in the sun that day. I’m even more excited that North Carolina has widened the roads so that the traffic is a little more bearable getting to the island!