How to experience the magic, fun and specialness of the Outer Banks in 2.25 days without going into serious overload was the challenge.
Michael’s Aunt, Anne, was planning a short visit from the Washington D.C area. Anne has done a good bit of traveling but has never been to the Outer Banks. Because the Outer Banks is only about 5-6 hours from DC, she has heard tons about it from friends and we wanted to give her a feel for its specialness without spending hours in a car.
Anne planned to arrive around 5 PM on Friday and stay though the weekend, leaving Monday morning. We made reservations to go to The Paper Canoe for dinner for 7:30, thinking this would give us time to catch up and watch the sunset before heading out for a leisurely dinner. The Paper Canoe is our favorite OBX restaurant and was closing for the season on Saturday. We wanted to be sure to have one more dinner there and thought Saturday night might be a madhouse, or even worse, they might run out of favorite dishes.
Anne called about 5:15 and said she was 12 miles away – however, she was still on the other side of the bridge and traffic was completely stopped due to an accident. Two+ HOURS later, she pulled into our driveway at 7:25. UGH! I had already called the restaurant and moved our reservation to 8:00, the latest they would serve us at this time of the year (off-season). So, Michael and I watched the spectacular sunset while Anne sat in traffic (and missed it), we all had a quick drink to give Anne a car break and then we headed 10 minutes down the road to dinner.
The Paper Canoe always has exceptional food and thankfully, they were at their best so Anne’s weekend got off to a fabulous start. We shared two appetizers – Mussels in Garlic sauce and fried Wontons in a Tamari sauce. Both were excellent. For entrées, Michael and I shared grilled Shrimp with Gouda grits and spinach in a delightful sauce and Scallops with Crabmeat and Carrots in a different, yummy sauce. Anne also had the Grilled Shrimp. The entrées were outstanding and made you want to lick the plates clean! It was a perfect last meal at this wonderful restaurant and we were so happy to share this special place with Anne.
On Saturday morning, Michael set up an informal photography shoot. Anne is a Potter and she submits her creations to competitions and shows via photographs. She wasn’t thrilled with the quality of her photos and was asking for some pointers. Michael showed her ways to make great looking pictures using indirect light which would reduce the potential glare off the glaze and eliminate harsh shadows while highlighting the beautiful details in her work. Anna had brought us two of her hand thrown tea cups as a gift. We love pottery so they were a perfect present and will be a great reminder of a fun weekend with Anne.
Later on Saturday, we headed over to Corolla to a place called Whalehead which is a restored hunting estate that is on the Currituck Sound and has a mansion/hunting lodge, a romantic wooden bridge and is next to the Currituck lighthouse. The park like grounds are made for strolling and the bridge, boathouse and harbor area are delightful. After that, we headed over to the Atlantic Ocean to see the Corolla beaches which are wide and have a gradual slope into the sea. We laughed, watching some poor workmen trying to get a huge garden arch onto the beach for a late afternoon wedding. They were triumphant when the finally got their vehicle over the sand dune leading to the beach and could off-load the arch.
Michael then dropped Anne and me off in downtown Duck and we headed out for a little retail therapy, browsing our way through the delightful shops. Anne is an excellent Potter so we started with Greenleaf Gallery, a fabulous gallery that specializes in Pottery, Glass and Jewelry. Anne and I spent so much time examining their collection that the owner came over and asked which one of us was the Potter!
We continued on and I showed Anne that Duck had constructed a boardwalk that extends the length of the downtown area along the Sound which gets people off the road and into nature between clusters of shops. The boardwalk views are breathtaking. We strolled along, popping into a few more shops and then came to the end just before sunset. I called Michael and invited him for a drink on the deck of the Blue Point Bar and Grill. Anne and I grabbed a waterside table, we ordered drinks and the toasted a great day and a beautiful sunset with Michael. The sky was crystal clear, the setting sun was golden and then the sky turned from purple to deep red with a sliver moon above. It was so lovely. We headed home and Michael made a delicious dinner of steak, rice and veggies. It was a great meal with lots of great conversation.
On Sunday, Michael made a breakfast feast of bacon and cornmeal waffles with fresh berries, whipped cream plus a delicious syrup which was a combination of maple syrup and Grenadian Nutmeg syrup. What a way to start the day. We headed down to Hatteras island and on the way I pointed out Kitty Hawk, the Wright Brothers memorial, Kill Devil Hills (rumored to be named that because of the deadly Rum that was distilled there), and Nags Head. We drove to Bodie Island so Anne could see the lighthouse and the beautiful marshes that surround it. Then we drove over to the Atlantic side to see Coquina Beach, the first Hatteras beach. There are beautiful dunes, a spectacular beach and the surf was calm with small rolling waves. It was a perfect day and there was hardly anyone on the beach. Michael and Mick explored and took pictures while Anne and I walked the shoreline looking for unusual shell pieces that had been weathered by the water and sand. Anne headed back with heavy pockets of treasures that may show up as decorations on future pottery.
I tried to be very clever and take Anne to the Silver Bonsai Gallery in Manteo since we were only 10 minutes away, but it’s off-season and they were closed which was too bad because they also have wonderful pottery, jewelry and spectacular inlaid wood framed mirrors. I was really disappointed because I know she would have loved it and it would be too far out of her way to detour for a visit on her way home.
We still had some lovely afternoon sun so we stopped by Jockey’s Ridge State Park on the way home. Jockey’s Ridge has the highest sand dunes on the east coast, some towering 120 feet high. This is a large park that looks like a small desert in places and also has lovely wooded trails that lead to the Currituck Sound. This is also a very popular area for people to hang glide, catching the prevailing winds that rush over the dunes. We took Anne to the sound beach which, like so many places here, is incredibly beautiful. It has a submerged sandbar peninsula that juts out into the sound. At low tide, you can walk way out into the sound and be surrounded by water which is really cool.
We finally headed back home with the plan for drinks on the deck and sunset watching. I showed Anne some of the jewelry I’ve made and we went through my bead stock. We picked out some cool shell pieces, pearls and silver beads so I could make her a custom necklace. I tried to complete it before she left but because of the unusual and dissimilar shapes of the shells it’s like an intricate puzzle and putting the right shapes together so they hang nicely is time-consuming. We got the general idea right and the necklace was about half way finished when we realized we were missing the sunset! Horrors! Drinks in hand we watched the sun just sink below the horizon and then the beautiful evening colors in the water and sky emerged and entertained us for another 30 minutes or so.
Michael cooked a feast of Salmon and vegetables with vermicelli noodles in a chicken stock with all kinds of spices plus lemon grass, ginger, scallions and peppers. It was a take-off on the fish in a clay pot recipe he’s perfected and was great. We had more good conversation and a lively discussion of all the wonderful snippets of fun that we had over the weekend. I think we did a good job showing Anne the good food and good shopping that can be had here as well as the variety of beaches and the ‘in your face’ extraordinary nature that surrounds everything. What fun we had, sharing this special place.