Even if you travel to Hatteras just to go scuba diving, eventually you will need to know about other things to do on the island. The truth is we occasionally get blown out and you are going to need a fallback plan if you don't want to sit in your hotel room watching The Weather Channel. Make the best of it and get to know Hatteras Topside.
The Outer Banks of North Carolina is a series of barrier Islands (Roanoke, Hatteras, Ocracoke, Portsmouth) that are connected by the common thread of Rt12. We spend most of our time on Hatteras Island from Avon (MP50) to Hatteras Village (MP70) so we are more familiar with things to do and see at the southern end of Rt12. Here are some alternative activities for you and your family if the weather prevents diving.
What would your trip to the OBX be without a visit to at least one of the famous lighthouses that have helped keep mariners off the beach for over one hundred years. The Outer Banks Lighthouse Society has an excellent website with information about all of the coastal and inland lighthouses that might be of interest. The National Park Service allows climbing of the Cape Hatteras light, but not the Ocracoke or Bodie Island lights. Ocracoke Island also has a lighthouse; to get there, you will need to take the ferry. This is easily accomplished on a day trip and Ocracoke has some pretty good restaurants too.
British Cemeteries in Buxton and Ocracoke
If you are visiting the Hatteras Lighthouse then you are minutes from the Buxton British Cemetery; it is located on the same road as the lighthouse just a short distance beyond the lighthouse entrance and the parking for the cemetery is well marked. There is another more well known British Cemetery on Ocracoke Island. These two cemeteries hold the graves of British sailors who were killed defending our shores during World War II when their vessels, H.M.S. Bedfordshire and the British merchant vessel San Delfino, were torpedoed by German U-Boats in 1942. Their bodies washed ashore on Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands and the local Islanders buried them. Remembrance services are held every year in May.
Now this little corner of the world is forever England.
Nature trails and activities:
The Buxton Woods Coastal Reserve nature trail is an easy hike on a loop trial. The entrance is just beyond the lighthouse parking area, is well marked, and has a parking area for the trail. This trail has placards identifying the interesting topographical and botanical features as you walk through this section of the maritime forest. In the heat of summer this wooded area feels cooler, seldom has visitors, and is very peaceful.
The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum :
Located next to the Hatteras ferry docks is the newest of Hatteras museums (the only other museum I can think of at the southern end is the Native American Museum in Frisco). Parking is free (!), as is entrance to the museum, although they happily accept donations.
The museum is still a work in progress; however, there are some very nice displays. Of interest to us divers is the U-Boat area which includes an Enigma and other interesting artifacts.
Across the street from the museum is a public access to the beach.
Photography and Painting:
Don't leave your camera or sketchpad at home. Hatteras Island presents a wonderful opportunity to be creative.
If you are unable to get a day of diving in but drove all this way to see a sandtiger, you still can.
Equine Adventures - (252) 995-4897
Provides horseback riding on the beach and they know all the cool trails through the woods too.
Listen to Some Live Music:
Check out the Bluegrass Jam sessions at the Banjo Island space at the Red Drum Pottery. Located in Frisco on Rt12 just North of the Frisco Center and Post Office, local pickers make some great music every Wednesday night starting at 7pm. They play mainly bluegrass but throw in a lot of other styles too. It can be a just a few locals or a standing room only crowd but the music is always good and your toes will be tapping! It can be a jamb session, so if you are a musician bring your ax and join in the fun.
To get a real appreciation of the Outer Banks and the waters of the Ocean and Sounds, go up instead of down! There are two good choices that offer a very different aviation experience. You can fly with Burris Flying Service in their fixed wing Cessna 172 based at Mitchell Field, Hatteras. Or go the Rotor Wing route and get on board with Coastal Helicopters (252-475-4354) in their Robinson R44 for a completely different type of flight experience.
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