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Outer Banks Scenic Byway

Outer Banks Scenic Byway

It’s not about the destination but the journey. And the best kind of journey is a road trip! The Outer Banks Scenic Byway is perfect for an epic road trip.

Outer Banks Scenic Byway

The Outer Banks Scenic Byway is a National Scenic Byway. The byway has a starting point in the Outer Banks region. It ends in the Crystal Coast region. When traveling this secluded road, travelers can expect to pass through:

  • Tidal marshes.
  • Sounds bordering the byway.
  • Dunes.

There are two national wildlife refuges. These are Pea Island and Cedar Island. The byway also includes Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout. These are two national seashores. The byway has 9 barrier islands. These islands serve as protection for the mainland. Protection from the dangers the Atlantic Ocean gives.

Six different sounds separate the barrier islands from the mainland. The smallest sound is 3-miles wide. The largest is 40-miles wide. These sounds are:

  • Currituck Sound
  • Albemarle Sound
  • Roanoke Sound
  • Pamlico Sound
  • Core Sound
  • Bogue Sound

The byway begins at Whalebone Junction, North Carolina. Those traveling south on the byway will have the Atlantic Ocean on the east of them. In the west will be Pamlico Sound. The byway will cross over Bodie Island and Hatteras Island. It will cross over Ocracoke Island. Then Down East. This will end at the intersection of US 70 and Merrimon Road.

There are two ferry rides needed to complete the byway. The first is between the Hatteras Islands and Ocracoke Islands. This ferry ride is free. The second is not free. It is between Ocracoke Island and Downs East Cedar Island. The scenic byway will reach its end in Beaufort. This is in the Down East region of North Carolina. The Outer Banks National Scenic Byway is 142.5 driving miles in length. The driving time is about 6.5 hours. 3.5 of those hours are spent on the ferry rides.

Why is This Route So Unique?

What makes this route so unique is the oceangoing culture of the villages. There are 21 coastal villages along the byway. Their cultural heritage has been molded by the barrier islands. It is also molded by three shallow sounds:

  • Pamlico Sound
  • Core Sound
  • Bogue Sound

These maritime villages seem to exist outside of the commercial world. There is very rarely a chain business in these villages. They survive on locally owned businesses. This creates a unique cultural experience in each village.

The tasks of these villagers are to:

  • Hunt and fish.
  • Build boats.
  • Guard the coast.
  • Operate the ferries.
  • Tell stories.
  • Provide services for visitors.

These villages also hold significance in national history. They hold a collection of the nation’s earliest civil works. There are 8 US Coast Guard stations and 4 lighthouses. These 4 lighthouses are:

  • Ocracoke Village Lighthouse.

The Epic Coastal Road Trip

The Outer Banks Scenic byway is a perfect route for an epic coastal road trip. Along the way you could explore beaches and wildlife, and so much more. Below are a few checkpoints while on this epic road trip.

  1. Wright Brothers National Memorial – We understand that Kitty Hawk isn’t exactly the start of the byway. However, it is a perfect starting point for a road trip. While in Kitty Hawk there are some great places to eat before the trip. But it’s the Wright Brothers National Memorial that’s the star. This is the location where the first man-controlled flight took place. On December 17, 1903, they took flight in their Powered Flyer. There are many full-scale reproductions of the Wright Brothers' inventions to explore. There’s a lot to see for those history lovers.
  1. Jennette’s Pier – Located in Nags Head, take a stop at this pier for a great coastal walk. This is also a very popular fishing spot.
  1. Bodie Island Lighthouse – This is the first lighthouse on the road trip. Built in 1872, this is the 3rd lighthouse settled on Nags Head. The first 2 didn’t make it. This lighthouse is open for the public to explore. It holds a lot of Civil War and World War I & II history.
  1. Atlantic Coast Café – Take a spot in the town of Waves and rest. Enjoy a meal in a relaxed atmosphere. Seafood is their specialty.
  1. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse – The second lighthouse on the trip. This is the world’s tallest brick lighthouse with 257 steps. There is a gift shop inside to get little souvenirs for your trip.
  1. Howard’s Pub and Raw Bar – Once you reach Ocracoke, there’s 1 restaurant that stands out. This is that restaurant. With a large menu, they cater to everyone. However, they operate seasonally, so plan carefully.
  1. Ocracoke Island – Take in the gorgeous beach and listen to the waves. There’s a lovely village on the island to explore. You can also visit Teacher’s Hole, which was the home of Blackbeard.
  1. Ocracoke Lighthouse – The third lighthouse on the trip. This lighthouse is not as intimidating as the others on the trip. It’s rather stubby. However, this is the oldest lighthouse in North Carolina. There’s a lot of history tied to this place but, unfortunately, it’s not open to climb.
  1. Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge – Established in 1964, this is 11,000 acres of marshland and woodland. Those wanting to go for a hike or birdwatch would love to stop here.
  1. Cape Lookout Lighthouse – This is the final lighthouse on the trip. It completes the 4 historic lighthouses spread across the barrier islands. This is also a good final checkpoint for the road trip. This is the only checkered lighthouse in the US. There is also a visitor’s center and museum to check out.

These are just some places to see. The islands and villages have so much more to offer!

ENC Explorer
Author: ENC Explorer

After getting accepted to ECU, I started looking for things to do in and around Greenville, NC. However, my searches kept taking me to places in South Carolina! There must be things to do around ECU, so I started asking other students. They kept telling me to graduate and move away! This inspired me to begin exploring eastern North Carolina and build this website as a showcase of the places to go, sights to see, and things to do all over eastern NC. I have fallen in love with this region and started taking up roots here. After graduating, I didn't move away - I bought a house here and continue to explore eastern North Carolina.

This place is for Publicity

This place is for Publicity

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