Sun,sea,sand and sunsets
Trip Start Mar 23, 2009
27Trip End Jul 23, 2009
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South beyond Jockey Ridge Sate Park you begin to be able to enjoy the tranquility and remoteness of the 'beads' that make up that necklace of the banks. We paused briefly at the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, intending to return in the evening to wander along the boardwalk and do a spot of bird watching. (In actual fact we kept going and drove all the way down to Ocracoke, so we were not back here until well after dark – and mad as we are sometimes, we didn’t go looking for nightlife!)
Continuing our drive south along the banks, we took the coast road, when we had a choice, as most of the way there is only the one road. This was lined with a ribbon of wooden properties, mostly conventional and typical of this area; don’t think I’d be happy with this sand back garden though!
Almost all were for rent, makes you wonder how they ever generate an income. One or two were a little unusual and although we have an interest in all things ‘property/architectural can’t help but think these two looked a bit out of place.
As I mentioned before the barrier islands are narrow in places, with water almost visible on both sides. Huge dunes hide the beach in places, but if you conquer these, the view on the seaward side is unbelievable. We had our picnic lunch here and shared miles of open sands with just 4 other people. I don’t think we have equaled that anywhere on our travels; sun, sand and silence, apart from the sound of the waves – it was bliss.
This coast is known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic, there are more than 1500 known wrecks offshore, a number of lighthouses dot the barrier islands and these too draw tourists from far and wide. Many of the wrecks are visible along the shore – this one is the boiler of the ‘Oriental’ a supply ship during the civil war and as you can see it is clearly visible.
Slightly more up to date is this little snippet from a poster in the Cape Hatteras light house: Little publicized, even today, German U-Boats wreaked havoc on American shipping during WWII all along the East Coast. By March 1942, they were sinking 3 ships a day. Off Cape Hatteras shores (known as Torpedo Junction), 367 ships were torpedoed to their watery grave along with 5000 seamen.
Each island has its own lighthouse, each with its unique design and history. You can find out more about them here; www.outerbanks.org. I have to say, sometimes my mind just feels full, there are only so many facts I can hold at any one time. Malc on the other hand still has the spongy mind of a youngsterJ - soaks it all up, but then it dribbles out later… (the U-Boat bit is his)
Bodie Island light, (pronounced body) just south of Nags Head was built with left over materials from the Cape Hatteras light. It seems that all the light houses have been rebuilt at one time or another, either due to good old Mother Nature or as in Bodie’s case, one rebuild was due to retreating confederate troops who, thinking it might aid navigation for the opponents, blew it up in 1861!
Cape Hatteras at 208’ is the tallest brick beacon in the USA, I like this one because of its spiral stripes – simple I know, but I’m a simple girl! Sadly we were too late to climb to the top; I think the views would have been spectacular, but it’s obviously a dangerous occupation!
From Hatteras, we caught the ferry across to Ocracoke Island. This 40 min journey was free and is a well used service. Had we have followed our original plan, we would have been sailing north on this with Bree, as you can see that’s not unusual…
Locals use the ferry to ‘commute’ between the islands and the gulls are used to their tit bits.
Ocracoke itself is very pretty; you are encouraged to use bicycles to get around the small community.
The harbour is picturesque and lively. The lighthouse – yes another one – seems to sit in someone’s garden; it is North America’s oldest operating lighthouse. We arrived late evening so it wasn’t busy, which was just as well since the parking lot (sorry) takes about 3 cars and has a 5 minute limit!! Again we were glad that we weren’t passing through in Bree. Remember Blackbeard from the Raleigh blog? Well this is where he met his end!
We made our way back to catch the 9 o’clock ferry – we had to wait about half an hour, just time to catch the sun set…magical. It was a long drive back – 117 miles but it had been well worth it. RV’s seemed to be out in force, despite the late hour we passed several of them once we were back on Hatteras, but it was coming up to Memorial day w/e and maybe they had made an early start. We were glad to have a nice site and a comfy bed to return to.
It is perhaps fitting here to pay tribute to Malc, at the outset I had said I was not comfortable driving on the wrong side of the road and he has accepted that without question. He has driven over 20.000 miles in Bree and far more than that in Toad. He has made all this possible…
navigation? – well that’s another story, but we’re still together J