Y’ALL (feeling justified to use that atm). You must explore the Outer Banks.. and take at least 2 weeks to do so. We were delusional enough to think we could see them in a day, extended our trip another day and still couldn’t see a quarter of them. It’s weird, when we were looking up activities and accommodation in OBX before we left it seemed like there wasn’t much unless you were renting a beach house for a month or something. We can now assure you first hand that this is not the case. There are plenty of hotels, ocean toy rentals, sand dunes, beaches, and restaurants to pleasantly satisfy you.
The drive down from Nag’s head to Hatteras Island is beautiful in itself. If you can, stay a night in Nags Head, Kittyhawk, Rodanthe, Hatteras and finish in Ocracoke. If you can only spend time at one we’d recommend Ocracoke. It’s accessible by car ferry from the southern tip of Hatteras.
We arrived at the ferry queue at 1:05- peak hour. We drove onto the vessel at 2:05, set sail at 2:45, arrived at 3:45. I don’t know who or how they fund this – but the ferry was FREE, operating dozens of times throughout the day. Make sure you’re gassed up ‘cause chances are you’ll need some AC while waiting in line, and don’t worry- there are refreshments! We grabbed some awesome food from a nearby taco stand to eat in the car ferry line-up. The mozzarella sticks and pork belly tacos definitely made the wait more bearable.
Ferry Tacos and Mozza Sticks 😍
Maybe it’s our thick Canadian blood, or maybe the small metal ferry is just that effing H-O-T. It’s hot. No complaints of course but also don’t be like us, the n00b Canaliens. Be like the cool AF seasoned tailgaters who pulled out their coolers sry, ice chests and just stood at the bow in the ocean breeze and chilled tfo.
During the hour long ride– a great tanning op – the boat then docks and you cruise on off. Once we unloaded, we made a right turn and gunned it straight to Howard’s Pub 👉.
Our bartender was so helpful, gave us some resources to find accommodation for the night. We called around and found a dreamy place to stay. Dreamy for both its view, and for its rate... AND for the hammock that hung across our balcony!! We had a beautiful view overlooking the Silver Lake Harbour, where the sun paints the sky all sorts of colours each night. I’d change nothing except the number of nights we checked in for.
View from our room at the Silverlake Motel & Inn
The slow paced island life hit us as soon as we got on that ferry to Ocracoke, before we knew it- it was 5pm and we’d just checked in. We were burning daylight on paradise, we had an early departure the next day so we dropped off our bags and drove about 5 minutes down the road to the beach. I felt like Zoolander strutting down the catwalk, trying not to get distracted by all the gorgeous shops that lined the one main road. Admittedly, we found ourselves in Sweet Tooth halfway to the beach where we loaded up on softserve and ‘assorted chocolates’, oh yeah and cookie dough fudge.
Fast forward a week’s worth of calories and we were on the most peaceful, surreal sandy beach haven all to ourselves. For the first few minutes I thought it may have been some sort of sugar mirage, but alas it was just that blinding Ocracoke Beach I’d been reading about.
View from our table at Jolly Roger during sunset
Following the beach we went to catch the sunset at Jolly Roger. One of the top 10 sunsets I’ve ever seen (message me if you want to know the other 9!), although it was nothing exciting to the regulars. We had a couple more Highlander IPAs, met some cool people and then headed to dinner at Daijos across the road 👉. Daijos surpassed our high expectations- amazing food, music and overall atmosphere. After getting some substance in our bellies we were off to Wednesday karaoke at the Oyster. We walked to all these places, but renting a bike is also very easy and would be super handy.
Living the dream in my Canalien Baseball Cap!
Although we didn’t find of info when researching OBX- one of the things we DID read was about being able to drive along the beaches. Couple things re: that..
Not knowing these rules before we got there, we thought we were out of luck for a beach drive. BUT THEN...
At Daijos we met some fellow Canadians- One of them, Marc, was a teacher from Toronto French School! They spotted me pulling out my health card for ID when ordering some more IPAs hehe. This serendipitous meeting turned out to be one of the best things that happened to us on the trip. Marc, originally from Quebec, now in Waterloo, had been staying in OBX for the week and said we absolutely had to experience off-roading on the beach. And yes, Marc was also the owner of the bad-ass-doorless-topless-Jeep you see above. Probably one of the coolest experiences I've had as a Canalien. What a guy. Met us at a bar and then met us again the next morning to hand us the keys to his Jeep to have for the morning. Did we ever have a good time, too!
All the trucks parked in their own spots but as the day went on, more cars joined, and it became a little tailgate. Which coincidentally started when people started congregating around the big RV once they threw some brats on the grill. Everyone brought lawn chairs, their boats for deep sea fishing and were playing catch with the ol' pigskin all that good stuff that you’d expect to happen in an old Americana beach scene.
We spent a lot of the time just whipping around in the sand with our bad-ass-doorless-topless Jeep (there must be a cooler name for this). Our feet dangling out the sides. It felt like driving through snow, except with a view and a breeze- a warm breeze at that. Heavenly AF.
Ordering at Franks OBX Hotdogs
Rundown Cafe: A fun, beachy spot with tropical treats. Right as you get into Kittyhawk- the perfect introduction to OBX
I Got Your Crabs: This spot is so great. Fresh local crab, and oysters. You can take out or eat in.
The Top Dog Cafe: This spot was packed, line up out the door. You feel like you're in a tree fort. And they had great looking salads and sandwiches.
Franks OBX Dog House: Also a bit of a treefort/club house feel. A little elevated hut that sells a variety of decorated hotdogs all named after different dog breeds. For example, the German Shepherd came with sauerkraut!
Pop's Oysters: (below) TBH, not the BEST oysters we've ever had, but it's a straight up local dive bar spot. You could tell the other patrons were regulars and most of them came for the shellfish (which we didn't have time to try!)
Daijo:This place was SO cool! And SO yum! Fresh ingredients, the owner is also the chef who makes the menu and daily specials. There's a pizza stand on the patio where we ordered pizza and then brought it to our table by the live band where our server brought around the oysters and salad we ordered off the main menu. !!The kitchen closes early, at 9 or 10!! So don't get too distracted by the sunset at Jolly Roger across the street!
Howard's Pub: Probably the most well known spot in Ocracoke. It's on the way in from the ferry and quite busy. It's not on the water but it's worth stopping at. The staff was awesome, helping us narrow down accommodation and we could not say no to their 100+ beer selection. The OBX Lemongrass was my go-to. The bartenders are also way too generous with the beer samples – literally felt like we were sampling ice cream in a Baskin Robins. A very nice welcome indeed.
Jolly Roger: Go here to watch the sunset and listen to live music! The singer here was also our generous bartender at Howard's Pub when we first arrived!
Ocracoke Oyster Company: This place is just down the road from Howard's Pub, also on the main road into 'town'. We stopped in here for Wednesday karaoke and had a great time. Check their event calendar as it changes with the seasons!
Sweet Tooth: A paradise of the yummiest sugariest homemade treats in all of Ocracoke! I'm not normally a sweets person but did I ever treat myself. Be warned: Anything that can melt will do so as soon as you step outside. ☀️🔥
Dinner at Daijo
The Love Affair Collection stems from a personal Tale of Two Cities. Mainly because it involves a character named Sydney, a couple cities and tbh it rly was "the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness".
I made this collection for other Canaliens who may have left part of themselves in another city, too. I feel ya! Be proud of your nomad-icity.