So, last September (yes, I’m super slack) we headed on our annual trip to Nags Head with family and friends. This trip was super special because my aunt, who used to live in Charlottesville and now lives in CA, made a trip back east to spend the week with us. Being that she used to be the one taking us on adventures to the beach when we were young it was nice to experience it with her again.
Since an 18 month old has a “beach” attention span of two entire hours, we realized we needed some other daytime activities to keep her occupied. And, being that the last time I visited Hatteras was in 1989 when my family vacationed there before being evacuated due to Hurricane Hugo, it seemed a good time to explore the area again.
Driving south on NC 12 with the telephone poles and beach immediately to the east and marsh to the west brought back old memories of taking that trip with my family in our Dodge Caravan. Luckily, Hatteras is only about 45 minutes from Nags Head, not the grueling six hours I remember when coming from VA.
After passing through all the small towns and coming into Hatteras we headed to the Cape Hatteras National Light Station and then the seashore nearby. With this area once being nicknamed the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” it’s easy to imagine the importance of lighthouses for ships in the 1800s and 1900s. The first Cape Hatteras lighthouse was constructed in 1803, but due to poor design and ineffectiveness a new lighthouse with the current black and white paint pattern was built in 1870. The history of the lighthouse is vast, but since then it’s been a victim of sand erosion (compare being 1500ft from the shoreline in 1893 to just 70ft from the shoreline in 1980) and despite best efforts to “control” the erosion, the lighthouse was moved inland about 1500ft from the ocean in 1999.
The lighthouse is operated by the National Park Service and open to the public for walking tours during the summer months so for only $7 I climbed the 240+ spiral staircase steps while Bill and Ashley scoped out the grounds and toured the light keeper’s quarters. As you can imagine, the stairway in the lighthouse is very narrow and rather steep, making two-way traffic crowded. At each “floor” there is a landing pad to rest with windows providing great views. But, the real views are when you get to the top of the lighthouse and skirt along the balcony. The railing is about 4ft high, allowing for great picture taking and breath-taking views for miles, which reminded me of views from the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The park ranger at the top was helpful in answering questions and pointing out the old location of the lighthouse.
After leaving the lighthouse, we headed over to the beach access nearby to let Ashley out to play in the water. The beach around Hatteras is much quieter and seemed to have much softer sand than at Nags Head. In general, the area is fit for folks looking for a quieter beach trip. On this particular day we thoroughly enjoyed the calmness of the beach and watching the shore fishing (especially the friendly guy who brought over his latest catch for Ashley to touch)! In all, the Cape Hatteras trip was a perfect half-day trip and provided fun memories for our little growing family!
Thumbs up: Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, beautiful views, beach, quietness, peaceful drive through small towns
Thumbs down: Burger Burger in Hatteras was less than desirable for lunch