Fact File: The Outer Banks
Size: Approx. 391 square miles
Major destinations: Duck, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, and Nags Head
Distance from Baltimore: 317 miles
Average July temperature: 79.3° F
Average July water temperature: 77.5° F
What's New: The fully restored 1901 Weather Bureau Station in Hatteras village will assist travelers as the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau's newest Welcome Center. When Hollywood scouted Hatteras Island before filming the upcoming Richard Gere movie "Nights in Rodanthe," Buxton's Inn on Pamlico Sound was eyed to play, well, an inn. Alas, the B&B was booked, as is often true of its gourmet restaurant, which added a chef and will begin serving dinner seven days a week this summer (252-995-7030). En-route-to-beach-house provisioning options have grown with the opening of Weeping Radish Eco Farm and Brewery (252-491-5205, weepingradish.com), an organic produce/meat market and microbrewery in Jarvisburg.
Where to Relax: With 130 miles of shoreline, the Outer Banks are sugary sand with windswept dunes, skittering shore birds, and nesting sea turtles. Hatteras and Ocracoke islands—part of hauntingly beautiful Cape Hatteras National Seashore (nps.gov/caha)—make ideal places to beachcomb, watch wildlife, and contemplate the islands' stormy past. Although harder to reach, Ocracoke's gently sloped beaches are more likely to hold intact seashells (the ferry ride is a respite in itself), while Hatteras boasts an iconic lighthouse and Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, a favorite of birders and photographers. When the sun sets over Currituck Sound's marshes, admire the vivid spectacle with a glass of Merlot at The Blue Point (252-261-8090, goodfoodgoodwine.com) in Duck.
What to Do: Manteo hosts a celebratory week starting with July 4's apple pie, decorated bike and wacky hat contests, concert, and fireworks over Roanoke Sound. More pyrotechnics will follow July 7's gala 70th anniversary reunion performance of "The Lost Colony" waterside drama depicting Roanoke's failed English settlement (thelostcolony.org). The Wright Kite Festival July 14 and 15 promotes kite-making and flying in Kill Devil Hills, where flight began. Most days it's easy to overlook remote Knotts Island, but July 28 and 29 the Currituck Sound Ferry will be abnormally busy shuttling visitors (18 cars at a time) to this agricultural community's popular Peach Festival.