On a summer trip back to New York last year, my family and I wanted to get away for a relaxing beach holiday. We decided to go someplace we hadn’t been before and chose the Outer Banks, in northern North Carolina, someplace I’d always ‘meant to’ explore and hadn’t yet gotten around to doing.

We flew to Norfolk, Virginia and rented a car – it’s about a one and a half hour drive to Corolla, North Carolina, where we were staying. The Outer Banks caters toward home rentals and many of the houses are McMansions capacious homes more suitable to large groups than small families. They also require weekly rental and we were interested in staying for five days.

In the end, we opted for a hotel, the Hampton Inn Corolla, which was right on the beach in Corolla and met our needs perfectly.

The Outer Banks is a string of narrow barrier islands, about 200 miles (320 kilometers) long. The beaches are long and lovely and the water is warm, with wonderful waves. We couldn’t tear our kids away from their boogie boards. We even spotted dolphins swimming very close to shore.

The Outer Banks was long known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic, because of the many shipwrecks that occurred in its waters. With this reputation, it’s understandable that lighthouses are important along this shoreline and you should definitely make it a point to visit one of the lighthouses during your time in the Outer Banks.

We climbed up the 214 steps of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse. This red brick lighthouse was built in 1875, as a response to all those shipwrecks occurring off the coast of the Outer Banks. There are nice views from the top.

Another place worth visiting on your time in the Outer Banks is north of Corolla, where the paved road ends and the “road” becomes pristine beach.

This area is best accessed with four-wheel-drive and many companies offer guided jeep tours. The beaches are beautiful in this area (though rendered a little less idyllic by the steady traffic of pickup trucks and monster trucks).

Spanish mustang foal
But the real draw to this area are the wild horses – Spanish mustangs that have lived in this northern region of the Outer Banks for nearly five hundred years.

Unfortunately, on our visit, we didn’t have time to visit the Wright Brothers Memorial in the Outer banks town of Kitty Hawk. This museum marks the place where the Wright Brothers achieved the first successful airplane flight, in 1903.

So there’s lots to do on your visit. Enjoy your time in the Outer Banks!