Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Outer Banks: Untouched by Time

By Lynne Brandon

The Outer Banks is considered by many to be the state’s crown jewel. In Currituck County you can find refuge from big city hustle and bustle: the only noise at night is the rolling thunder of waves against sand or, sometimes if you are lucky, the galloping sounds of wild horses. Unleashed, untouched, and untamed, it’s still predominately all nature at its best

My recent visit was a rediscovery of the beauty and history of the Outer Banks. No trip to the Outer Banks is complete without visiting the landmark that stands proudly in Corolla. The Currituck Beach Light Station ( in the town of Corolla (pronounced by natives as kuh-raw-luh) first made its presence known in the Outer Banks in 1875.

The Victorian style brick dwelling was left unpainted which distinguishes it from other Outer Bank lighthouses. It is the last lighthouse built in the state, and one of only a very few remaining lighthouses in North Carolina that permits visitors to walk to the top.

At first glance, the 214 steps to the top look daunting but with effort and determination, it is worth the climb, rewarded by a view from above, beholding the serene and priceless beauty of Corolla.

Nearby is another spectacular step into the past, the Whalehead Club ( in Currituck Heritage Park. The restored yellow Art Noveau 1920’s residence sits on the Currituck Sound and currently operates as a museum and historical monument to Corolla’s hunting heritage. It harkens back to the day when it was the premiere hunt club in the state and continues to delight visitors.

The crème-de-la-crème for visitors will always be the wild horses that roam the beaches in the Outer Banks. The horses captured more public attention when the movie, “Road to Rodanthe” showcased the majesty of the wild mustangs as they pranced and galloped across the dunes. With the help of the brilliant guide Jared Lloyd I was able to see the beautiful animals on the beach as close as local ordinances (50 feet) would permit. The horses walked in formation led by the head stallion, but time stopped still when a mare paused long enough for her young foal to drink milk from its mother. The horses are protected from danger and tourists by sound-to-sea fences, along with an organized effort to protect them from extinction (

Lloyd writes about the barrier islands of North Carolina ( and paints a picture of “sand and water as dance partners” as the shifting sands continue its movement in the Outer Banks. The biologist, tour guide and environmental guru from Wild Horse Tour by Back Country Outfitters & Guides ( shared information and facts about Corolla and the Outer Banks at lightening speed. We learned that the Outer Banks produces 90% of all male loggerhead turtles (largest wild reptile on earth) in the U.S. and is home to one of the first commercial mullet fishing industries in the U.S. Along with these creatures, shell fish, clams, scallops and oysters; prosper in the Atlantic waters.

Coastal Provisions Market ( chef Scott Foster cooked up mouth watering delicacies for us after a long day on the beach. He prepared original dishes with shrimp, scallops and bacon and created platters of appetizers with dazzling farm fresh produce. For night time relaxation, drop in his Wine Shop Café. For a wide variety of fresh seafood, it’s North Banks (, a sure way to begin a feast with extraordinarily prepared coastal cuisine.

In the land of horses, beaches and wildlife, the Outer Banks is also home to an award winning winery. The Sanctuary ( is the perfect moniker for the grape-to-the-glass operation owned by boy wonder, John Wright and family. Wright has married art with science to produce some of North Carolina’s best award-winning wines. The Currituck County native leads the 15 acre operation that produces Syrah, Tempranillo, Norton, Chardonnay, and the classic Muscadine, plus other varietals. Viognier, a signature white is hitting the shelves soon, while the blackberry wine is Carolina nectar for the gods.

Accessible by land or sea, no other place in North Carolina can offer such majestic natural beaches, access to historical wildlife and outdoor adventures, great food and fine wine than the state’s crown jewel, the Outer Banks.

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