Welcome to TRRip (travel.run.repeat.) Itinerary, my new blog series recapping our weekend getaways to popular U.S. destinations, and highlighting running routes, lodging, meals and just plain fun. A previous TRRip Itinerary can be found here.
Recently we discovered, and have fallen in love with, the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The Outer Banks, also known as OBX, are a 200-mile long string of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, separating the Atlantic Ocean from the mainland. Their open-sea beaches, state parks and shipwreck diving sites make them a popular holiday destination. As a runner, one of the many great things about OBX are the many scenic and runner-friendly trails, making for leisurely bike rides, along paved running paths, running parallel to main roads. Runners training for a half or full marathon need not worry about missing a long training run while on vacation because the opportunities for running here are endless. You may even consider the Outer Banks Marathon in the fall or the Flying Pirate Half Marathon in the spring. Either way, OBX has many running events for runners and outdoor enthusiasts alike! For more information regarding running options in the Outer Banks, here’s a helpful article.
Peak season in the Outer Banks is May through October and though we visited in May and July, it didn’t seem to be overly crowded like other popular beach destinations such as Atlantic City, Virginia Beach or Ocean City. Even in the midst of peak season, this area doesn’t become too overwhelming nor congested and is another reason why we’ll keep coming back.
Here’s our trip itinerary from a recent 3-day weekend in July. Our May itinerary is toward the end.
Friday | Day 1 |
Drive to Duck, North Carolina
ACCOMMODATIONS: Hampton Inn & Suites Outer Banks/Corolla
FIRST STOP: Duck Donuts! Duck Donuts is my favorite donut shop in the Outer Banks, in fact, it’s probably my FAVORITE donut shop in the country. Patrons create their own unique donut with their choice of glaze, drizzle and topping. Donuts are freshly made to order while you watch. Careful you don’t burn your mouth as you bite into their deliciousness!
ACTIVITIES: Jack, my husband, plays golf and I enjoy running, so I dropped him off at the Currituck Club for 18 holes of golf while I went for a run and explored the city of Duck.
RUNNING ROUTE: Including running down the charming boardwalks of Duck, I created a 4-mile run, best run in the morning before the foot traffic of tourists begins. I used this website when planning my runs.
I started out at the Duck Town Park, near the visitors center. There is public parking there and a bathroom. I ran along the boardwalk and caught up with the Duck Trail. For a more detailed route and recommendations, click here. During the day, there is a lot of foot traffic on the boardwalk, so beware that you might be weaving around people walking. I recommend running early in the day, before the tourists arrive.
BEACH + POOL: The beaches in Corolla were not overly crowded. We enjoyed some time in the sun before heading out to dinner.
DINNER: Paper Canoe – If you need to carb up, this is the place. Their delicious wood fire pizzas and homemade raviolis will hit the spot.
AQUA Restaurant – Quoting their web page, they have the “most beautiful waterfront setting in Duck.”
Coastal Cantina – Located on the Duck boardwalk, Coastal Cantina has the best seats in town. Patrons can enjoy a drink, along with chips and salsa, while admiring the beautiful sound at sunset.
DESSERT: If enjoying an ice cream treat while watching the sunset speaks to you, head to the boardwalk in Duck where you’ll find all sorts of frozen yumminess like M&M cookie cones (see pic above!), Oreo cookie cones and more! The boardwalk is fun to walk along at night as well.
Good books and a hot cup of Joe (or tea) more your style? If so, you’ll want to visit Duck Cottage Coffee and Books. This charming coffee shop doubles as a bookstore and is the perfect setting lose yourself in your book of choice. While in North Carolina, I enjoy reading Nicholas Sparks because the location for his novels are North Carolina coastal towns.
Saturday | Day 2 |
MORNING STRETCH: A fabulous way to start the day is beach yoga with Outer Banks Yoga, with locations in both Kitty Hawk and Corolla. I opted to drive to Kitty Hawk, which in retrospect, wasn’t the wisest move to make. Though only 12 miles away, it took me close to three hours to get back to our hotel. Note to self, during peak season, stay in close proximity of where you’re lodging.
RUN: Pine Island Mansion Run (named by yours truly). From our hotel, this is an easy 3-mile run after beach yoga.
The Ocean trail is parallel to Highway 12, and ran right past our hotel. Some of the trail is broken up with rows of vacation rental homes. So I ran on the road, in the residential area, and then accessed the trail again. You can find more information here.
BEACH + POOL: Offering a great alternative to saltwater, not only did our hotel have beach access but it also had two pools, one being for kids only, and one of the pools was a lazy river!
LUNCH: Since it was late when I got back from yoga, we opted for luncheon meat and cheese and had a picnic on the beach.
DINNER: Life Saving Station at Sanderling Resort (pictures below)
Though known for their “best breakfast on the Outer Banks,” our dinner was fantastic. In fact, the Sanderling Resort is another place to consider staying while in Corolla. If you’re looking for an upscale beach resort, complete with a gorgeous spa, this may be your place and I’m think it will be ours, too, for our next trip.
The Back Bar at The Blue Point – The Back Bar has Adirondack chairs, facing the sound, and we found it to be the perfect spot to relax, digest after dinner, and watch the sunset while listening to live music.
STAR GAZING + GHOST CRAB HUNTING: The islands of the OBX are devoid of tall skyscrapers, so the stars are visible as far as the eye can see. Jack and I star gazed while lying on the beach. Listening to the ocean waves at night is probably the most relaxing thing you can do before bedtime. Keep your eyes to the skies and you might see a shooting like we did!
Ghost crab hunting is a popular activity in the OBX. They’re highly entertaining and I became attached to them continuously watching them dig out their bunkers. If you’re like me and not sure what a ghost crab is, check out this video for more details.
Sunday | Day 3 |
RUN: Currituck National Wildlife Reserve + Wild Horse Beach Run
Wanting to get my run in so we could spend the day on the beach, I was up and out early. With so many options for running in the Outer Banks, I chose to start at the wildlife reserve and run a little before exiting and running along the beach. I also recommend starting at Corolla Park.
Corolla Park is open to the public, and I highly recommend you go here, regardless if you run from here or not. The park is located on the water, has gorgeous views of the sound and the Corolla Lighthouse. Also check out Whalehead, a gorgeous 1920s house turned museum overlooking the water. Be sure to walk around to the back and check out the white rocking chairs on the back porch. Don’t be shy, anyone can sit and relax. My husband brought his book and read as I ran.
I started out at the Currituck Banks Reserve. There is a short out and back boardwalk trail through the reserve. I kept to the boardwalk, but there is another trail, the Currituck Banks Maritime Forest Trail, that will take you through a heavily wooden area. If true trails are what you are craving, check out this route. It is well marked. Make sure to apply bug spray before you head out! I made this mistake and had to turn around because I was attacked by all sorts of bugs! After I ran through the reserve, I headed back to the road and ran out to the North Beach Access road. I headed north to the Corolla 4x4 beach access area and ran on the beach. You can continue your run for however long you need or want to go, however I only wanted 4 miles, so I turned around and headed back. I met my husband at Corolla Park.
Uncle Ike’s Sandbar and Grill -- Uncle Ike’s is a unique, quirky diner-type restaurant with all around good food, and delivers on many levels. When you walk in the door, immediately your eyes will be drawn to all the dollar bills hanging from the ceiling. Whatever you order, my suggestion is to try any dish with one of their biscuits. I don’t know what they do, but they are delicious!
BEACH + POOL:
After my run and brunch, we headed back to the beach for another relaxing day. The beaches here do not disappoint.
//ALTERNATIVE ROUTES AND ACTIVITIES:
Adventure Parks like Corolla Adventure Park
Mini Golf - You will find many places to practice your putting skills. We liked Jurassic Putt ;)
Visit the lighthouses
With all there is to offer, I’ve not even begun to skim the surface to exploring the Outer Banks. What I have learned, and this will be of interest to those of you reading my running blog, the Outer Banks is definitely runner friendly. I felt safe on many levels, plus I had so many options with regards to where and when I was going to run. As I mentioned early, this website provides many options for routes all over the Outer Banks. OBX has something for everyone. Jack loves its gorgeous golf courses, kids will love all the activities they can do, and runners will enjoy getting lost on their vast trail, beach and road trails. Without a doubt, the Outer Banks gets two thumbs up from me!
As they say, there’s a first time for everything, so below is a brief overview of the first time we visited OBX.
Our first trip we stayed at the Comfort Inn in Nags Head, only planning our quick Memorial Day weekend getaway the day before we left, leaving us not many options for lodging as it was a holiday weekend. The location of the Comfort Inn is actually pretty good. It’s located right on the beach, and has a pool. You get what you pay for when staying at a Comfort Inn. This is a budget hotel and wasn’t in the best condition, but it served a purpose for what we needed. Nags Head is further south. It also has more traffic and a higher concentration of tourists. Nags Head had the commercial “beach vacation” vibe. My preference is to stay north, in Corolla, and my recommendation would be to stay on Duck or north of Duck in Corolla. Nags Head though was closer to the 5k race I did when we traveled there for the first time, the Shore Break 5k.
Shore Break 5k. This race was further south than all the other islands, but the experience was worth the drive. We woke up early and drove south, watching the beautiful sunrise as we drove along the coastal highway. Along the way, stop in Rodanthe, my personal favorite. The beach homes were breathtaking. The race was in Avon, near Hatteras, which comes highly recommend as well.
We arrived about an hour and a half before the start of the race. I suggest checking out Island Times Bagels (Muffins & Scones). This adorable bagel, muffin, scone and coffee shop is the perfect place to stop before or after your run. I had the Loch Ness Bagel. It was yummy! We sat down in their comfy couches and enjoyed the relaxing music, and basically had the place to ourselves at 7 a.m. Whether or not you’re running a race, check out this charming bagel shop.
The Shore Break 5k was the perfect 5k to top off our weekend trip. The finish was on the beach and finishers get a gorgeous medal (pictures below). Bling is always a plus! Whether it’s this race or another race, definitely check out your options if you’re traveling to the Outer Banks.
My trip advice would be incomplete if I didn’t give you some important bits of information I wish I knew before we went to OBX.
Beware of bugs and beach traffic!
Bring. Bug. Spray. As much as I enjoyed running in the Currituck Wildlife Reserve, I soon learned the flies and mosquito’s (or whatever those larger than life bugs were) enjoyed me as well. Bring bug spray because you never know when you’ll need it!
Highway 12 is the only highway connecting each town in the Outer Banks. Because there are no other highways or alternative roads to take, beach-goers are traveling the same road, thus causing it to become extremely busy at times. Remember, it took me three hours to travel 12 miles. A hard lesson learned. It’s my experience mornings were busy, but the afternoon wasn’t so bad.
If you have any suggestions for me on where to stay, eat or run, please comment below! I hope you enjoy your stay in OBX!