A shore thing
North Carolina’s coastline is totally unique. It can be said to consist of not just one but two very different coastlines, offering two very different landscapes.
The first lies on the eastern edge of the state, forming the Atlantic Beach and Cape Fear Coast, while the other, a chain of barrier islands in the Atlantic that are connected by bridges and boats, forms the Outer Banks (home to Cape Lookout and its famous lighthouse, right).
Warmed by the Gulf Stream, North Carolina’s coastline caters for all – from thrill-seekers to laid back strollers.
Visitors can take on the waves and surf, kite-surf or windsurf to their heart’s content, fish for some of the best game fish ever, parasail, hang glide or take a long stroll on the soft sandy beaches.
With over 200 wreck dive sites available, divers are also spoilt for choice. Come and explore the glorious coastline or ‘shoot the tube’ and enjoy the Sun, Sea, Sand and Surf.
Surfing is widely agreed to be one of the most exciting sports there is, and where better to learn, practice and ride the waves than in North Carolina? With miles and miles of pristine beaches, you can take your time, find a spot and practice without worrying about crowds.
For novices, many hotels offer beginner’s lessons. Alternatively, local ground handlers and local surfing shops can help organise training. Surfing lessons are quite reasonably priced, and many companies ensure that close supervision is at hand, with 3 students per instructor.
Meanwhile expert surfers have the delights of exploring the coastal region and finding the best spot to surf.
Take to the sea with a kite and board and learn to kite surf at Cape Hatteras and Nags Head. The shallow, flat waters and steady winds make these the ideal destinations for beginners to try their hand at this unique and exciting sport.
Beginners can learn with the official British Kite Surfing Association, which offers hour-long lessons starting at $100 (approximately £62). Intermediate and advanced kite-surfers need not fear, though: with courses like Turn and Burn, Carve and Boost on offer there are always new skills to learn and master.
Nags Head offers the greatest wind surfing opportunities. The warm shallow waters mean that beginners can master the equipment.
A 3 hour beginner’s course costs $55 (approximately £35). Renting equipment for the day costs approximately $144 (approximately £90) including board, sail, mast, harness and wetsuit.
Whether you are alone or with a friend or two, you can experience the thrill of parasailing during your visit to the Outer Banks. Floating up to 1000 feet above the sound, you’ll discover fantastic views of the ocean, islands and marshes.
Flyers are secured in a seated harness and sit side by side for doubles or triple flights. You are then gently lifted to the desired height from a platform on the boat.
You are never released from the tow line, so you never have to get wet. A 12-minute experience costs just $65 (approximately £40.00) and is truly worth it.
The Outer Banks area in North Carolina is famed for its natural beauty and offers perfect conditions for outdoor land and water activities.
The Wright Brothers chose Kill Devil Hills in the Outer Banks to launch the first ever aircraft due to the area’s spectacular backdrop and high sand dunes – the highest on the East Coast.
Visitors can take to the heights for themselves as they learn to hang glide for $79 (approximately £49).
Hidden deep in the North Carolina water are over 1,000 wrecks for dive enthusiast to explore.
Some are of historic importance, including the German U Submarine U-701, which once guarded German waters during the First World War and sunk in 1942. It was only discovered in 1989, and the dive site was open to the public in 2003.
Recreational divers can also experience the newest chapter in the legend of North Carolina’s famed pirate Captain Blackbeard by exploring his ship: the Queen Anne’s Revenge, known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic.
Divers who want to observe sea life will not be disappointed by the variety on offer, including tropical fish, rays, endangered sea turtles and sharks. The powerful Gulf Stream pushes warm and clear waters from the south, ensuring great visibility all year round and an abundance of marine life.
Places To Visit and Discover
Cape Fear Coast and Wilmington
North Carolina’s Cape Fear Coast encompasses the city of Wilmington and the island communities of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach.
Its beautiful, uncrowded beaches and nearby estuarine reserve provide a true haven for sun-seekers, beachcombers and nature lovers. The Cape Fear Coast is a also a sportsman’s paradise, with plenty to offer anglers, mariners and watersport enthusiasts.
Wilmington’s picturesque riverfront (left) emerges from the Cape Fear River. See the historic district’s mansions, landmark buildings and traditional antebellum houses on a horse-drawn carriage tour for $9 (approximately £6) or a riverboat cruise ($12, approximately £7.50).
Alternatively, take a walking tour of Old Wilmington or a Ghost Walk, hosted by some of the city’s most intriguing residents, for $12.
The more laid back can simply sit in one of many restaurants and cafés, soak up the atmosphere and watch the fishermen bring their daily catches onto the shore.
The Cape Fear Coast is also home to Carolina Beach and Kure Beach. With delightful gazeboes, boardwalk, piers, marinas and amusement parks, the area appeals to the young as well as the old.
For the fishing enthusiasts, deep sea fishing excursions are available along the coast for $80 (approximately £50) for the whole day. Get set and catch king and Spanish mackerel, albacore, bottom fish, tuna and giant bluefin tuna, sea bass, grouper and red snapper.
Alternatively, shop until you drop for unique and wonderful gifts, jewellery and trinkets. Or step back in time at a Civil War battlefield and museum or watch time fly as you stroll away at the Aquarium’s state-of-the-art ocean and Cape Fear River habitats.
At Wrightsville Beach island life is distinguished by its village charm and cosmopolitan lifestyle. Enjoy exciting watersports or a harbour cruise along the waterways. Spend the day playing tennis at the park or volleyball on the beach.
And from sea turtle-watching to a leisurely bike ride, there’s also something for those seeking a quiet retreat.
The Outer Banks
The Outer Banks is where beauty meets nature! This chain of barrier islands offers fabulous watersports, but it also plays host to some of the most important landmarks in North Carolina, Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Cape Lookout National Seashore.
Cape Hatteras, the first national seashore in the US, holds 75 miles of protected coastline and offers more than 30,000 acres of pristine maritime environment.
Pitch a tent on one of the many campsites available along the coast, including Ocracoke Island, which has 14 miles of undeveloped beach, a quaint village, a lighthouse and fascinating maritime forests. The only way to access the island is by ferry, but the extra effort is rewarded by superb scenery.
Cape Lookout National Seashore consists of four undeveloped barriers offering 56 miles of unspoilt coastline.
Cape Lookout also has a famous lighthouse, but the true beauty of this stretch of undisturbed coastline lies in its remoteness.
The island is easily accessed by ferry. Vehicles and foot passengers travel for a small fee, so there is no excuse not to discover the wilderness of the Outer Banks!
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Module sponsored by Premier Holidays
Leading UK specialists in tailor-made holidays
For further information go to www.premierholidays.co.uk
All photography are courtesy of North Carolina Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development. Bill Russ, Photographer