The World’s Longest System of Barrier Islands
Some of the most unusual and beautiful beaches on America’s Atlantic coast can be found in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, a string of skinny barrier islands that stretches 150 miles from the Virginia border to the southernmost point at Cape Lookout and Beaufort, a charming mainland town first settled in 1710. The candy-striped Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the most famous structure on the Outer Banks and the tallest of America’s lighthouses.
Tricky winds and tides necessitated its construction, having sunk more than 650 ships and given the area its notoriety as the Graveyard of the Atlantic. Those same winds and tides now make it a windsurfers’ heaven.
The Outer Banks were the legendary haunt of many infamous 18th-century pirates, including the notorious Blackbeard, whose alleged buried booty remains undiscovered. Easier to find is the dignified and extremely comfortable Sanderling Inn, which sits just north of the whimsically monikered town of Duck, on the edge of the 3,400-acre Pine Island Audubon Sanctuary, surrounded by 12 sea-to-sound acres of untouched real estate.
Known as the Outer Banks’s most luxurious refuge, the inn is also ecosensitive, offering tours that explore its exquisitely fragile habitat, which includes the East Coast’s highest sand dunes and the Outer Banks’s famous wild horses.
You can stroll endlessly on miles of lonely, windblown beach, all the while looking forward to what awaits you later at the inn’s restaurant, adjacent to the main house in a restored 1899 United States Lifesaving Station and famous for its excellent menu, themed to the sea, and with a Southern slant. Expect attention-getters like roasted oysters with peppers and jack cheese, fricassee of shrimp, and Carolina duckling with black cherry sauce.