The Crystal Coast of North
Carolina is one of those rare vacation finds: a spot
relatively undiscovered but full of a variety of
The big draw on the southern Outer Banks is, of course,
the expansive beach. It would be easy to spend a week playing on
the beach, kayaking or even taking a chartered boat ride to the
Cape Look Lighthouse.
When you need a break from the sun, history buffs can tour
Fort Macon and watch a Civil War re-enactment during summer months,
while fish lovers can head to the terrific North Carolina Aquarium
at Pine Knoll Shores. There's also the charming town of Beaufort
(pronounced Bow-fort) to explore. And don't pass up the chance to
take the kids to Amos Mosquito's in Atlantic Beach. Known as
"Skeeter's" by the locals, its kids' menu includes slime pie
(cheese pizza) and snake skins (buttered noodles).
But the highlight of my trip was spying the wild horses of
Shackleford Banks. These horses have ruled the land since they were
first brought to the New World by Christopher Columbus (or swam
ashore from Spanish ships that wrecked along the treacherous coast
400 years ago, depending on who you ask).
There are plenty of hotel options in and around the Outer
Banks, but it's never fun cramming a couple of kids, two adults and
an entire family's gear into a standard hotel room. Opt instead for
one of the rental homes that line the Crystal Coast. We stayed in a
luxurious seven-bedroom, five-bath house with a pool called Seaside
Seaculsion rented by Bluewater Rentals. It rents by the week for as
much as $8,795 at the height of summer, but is plenty big enough to
accommodate three families.
Getting to the southern Outer Banks can be a challenge. It
requires flying into New Bern, N.C. (there's no direct flight, so
add a layover, which is never fun when traveling with kids) and
renting a car for the one-hour drive to the Outer Banks. Driving
can be a money-saving alternative. It's a doable 17-hour drive from
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