The Outer Banks are a super thin strip of sandy islands that run along the North Carolina shore. On the East side of each island is the beach and on the west is the Sound, a saltwater marshy space where the inter-coastal waterway runs. Here’s a map:
In some places those skinny islands are so skinny, you can walk from surf, across a few dunes and a highway, then through a bit of live oak forest, and be standing in the salty sound, all in a few minutes. Many are thicker but no more than a mile across. The island tips, though, are the coolest spots, places where the sound and surf come together in a mingling swirl of sandbars, marsh grass and beach.
Here is the view from the porch of the cottage I was at last week:
It’s hard to see it in the photo, but the farthest (highest) strip of water in this picture is the breaking waves of the beach itself. Those distant specks are the 4wd trucks of fishermen pulled right up to the breakers on the tippy-tip of the island. The green is marsh grass is where the sound is swirling around to meet the surf. Between the two are sandbars, some with trees, like on the left top, and marsh, all great for birds, fishing, and canoeing.
A huge number of my favorite childhood memories have this very view in them. The Lassiter’s have been going to this bit of beach for thirty-plus years, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, all piled in, sleeping on sofas, getting up early to walk to the beach or check the net.
In summer, you can swim from the surf to the sound. Or float in the channel down to the nearest sandbar and explore. If the tide turns you’ll have too strong a current to swim against, so you’ll have to be picked up. My Granddaddy used to come get us in his fishing boat, the same fishing boat we had on this trip, still going strong after fifty years, although Granddaddy has been gone a decade now. Lots of layers of personal history in this particular spot of the world for me.
And tons of adventures to be had. Canoeing is a favorite. Here is little Luc between his Great Aunt and Great Uncle…
There’s a bazillion treasures to find…
Love the light in this next one!
Everyone’s got to learn to drive the boat…
And the aquarium is not too far of a drive…
Plus there is swimming, yes, even in October!…
Although, truth, Luc nearly levitated to get back out of that water. “Too cold!!!!” Sophie and her aunties swam for a good half-hour though. Lassiter women are bad-ass like that. (Not me. I’m with Luc. I had to, uh, take the pictures.)
The sky and the colors are always changing. So beautiful!
That last one with the crazy Sauron-Is-Coming sky is at the beach proper. It looks like a desert, but that strip of dark on the horizon is the ocean. Part of that is a trick of the camera angle, but also, there’s just a ton of sand down at the point, where the ocean keeps depositing the sand picked up from the more northern parts of the island. The Outer Banks are always in motion.
Here’s another beach-y shot, sand castle construction with another of the Great Aunts (while I took the best nap of my LIFE, I am totally serious):
Of course, a very important part of the recipe for a great beach week:
Margaritas! Hell yeah.
One of my favorite things, though, is the sunsets….
They’re different every day.
If you get a chance to visit, I highly recommend it, but be super ecologically responsible. So many parts of this place are delicate and endangered. Makes me weep.
LOVE. If there is an inner Maya Landscape, this is it.