It's been said that the National Parks are the United States' greatest treasure. That's certainly true of the Outer Banks which is rich in history and nature. So, in honor of National Parks week this week, let's explore the wonderful parks that are a part of the Outer Banks.
The Cape Hatteras National Seashore
The Cape Hatteras National Seashore is by far the largest park. It encompasses the three lighthouses of Bodie Island, Cape Hatteras, and Ocracoke. It also includes the expansive and beautiful Pea Island, as well as the beaches of Hatteras Island themselves. Because of the expansiveness of this one particular park, we'll go over each part in a little more detail.
The Bodie Island Lighthouse is believed to get its name from the colorful history of shipwrecked bodies being washed ashore after storms. Today however, Bodie Island is peaceful place with a nature trail, lush grounds and a stunning lighthouse. Sometimes the lighthouse is open for climbing, but most often not. It's a stunning place to visit and take pictures, and sometimes even beachcomb.
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the largest all brick lighthouse in the world. It's frequently open for climbing and the view from the stop is stunning. Thousands of people from all over the United States and the world come to visit this particular lighthouse. In addition to being the largest, it's also the most recognizable one in the world.
The beaches and lighthouse of Ocracoke are also part of the Cape Hatteras Seashore. Ocracoke has the distinction of being both the smallest lighthouse in the country, and also the second oldest operating one. The Ocracoke beaches themselves are perfect with white sand and wide beaches. The ferry makes for a nice ride. It's a great place for a day trip.
Pea Island is a birdwatcher's paradise; home to tens of thousands of birds in hundreds of species. The Park Service offers bird watching tours, but you don’t need a tour to see them. All you have to do is head out to Pea Island with your binoculars, cameras and bird watching book.
The Beaches of Hatteras Island
The Beaches of Hatteras Island are pure and unspoiled with frequent sightings of rare birds, turtles and more. It's also a great spot to fish. Licenses are required, but you can catch large fish right from shore.
Fort Raleigh, which also encompasses the site of the Lost Colony play, preserves the cultural heritages of the Native Americans, European Americans, and African Americans who have lived on Roanoke Island. Through a small museum, historical sites, movies, and Ranger Talks, you can really get a feel for the rich history of America's first colony and beyond.
Wright Brothers Monument
By far one of the most famous spots on the world, this is where flight first started. The park is simple, with a large monument on a hill, commemorative boulders, a few reproduction buildings and a small museum. One of the highlights of the park are the 'Ranger Talks'. The rangers are very knowledgeable about the Wright Brother's and really bring the past to life. This is such an important spot for North Carolina and for the world, it's simply a must see.
Technically Alligator River is not a park, but a refuge that has parts open to the public. The rangers offer tram tours. You're also allowed to drive your own vehicle on designated dirt roads, and private tours (via kayak) are also available on the property. You have the chance to see black bears, red wolves, bobcats, alligators and all kinds of birds. Of course, a refuge is not like a zoo, the animals could be anywhere, or nowhere. However, when you do see them, it's an experience you won't forget.
The National Parks of Outer Banks add greatly to your vacation. Plan your next visit today!