Thursday, June 07, 2007

Ocracoke near the top of my list, too

The other day I was singing the praises of Taylors Creek and the Carrot Island-Back Sound-Shackleford Banks area of North Carolina’s Down East coastal area. Writing about it reminded me that North Carolina has so many exceptional coastal places and some folks may not know about them.
Some folks, in fact, may not realize what we normally mean by the Outer Banks. They’re the thin barrier islands that run from near the Virginia Border down to Cape Hatteras and then swing drastically back to Cape Lookout, often regarded as the southern terminus of the Outer Banks (though some would say its southerly limit is closer to Ocracoke), even though the barrier islands continue on down past Cape Fear to the South Carolina coast. Thanks to the Intracoastal Waterway, those barrier islands run on down to Florida.
Ocracoke Island is a marvelous place, most of it part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. For that reason, most of the island remains undeveloped – which means many miles of lovely beaches uncluttered with surf shops, hot dog stands, motels, fast food joints and the other markingof beach life along most of our coast. There’s plenty of that in the town of Ocracoke perched on Silver Harbor at the southwestern end of the island. That place has a Caribbean atmosphere almost. We’ve chartered sailboats in the British Virgin Islands and sailed our old 37-foot cutter across Pamlico Sound and into Silver Lake harbor, and we got the same kick out of as we did making landfall and dropping anchor at Anegada, Cooper Island and Jost Van Dyke.
Ocracoke’s beaches have been ranked among the top 10 in American for years – second in 2005, third in 2006 and I wouldn’t be surprised it it doesn’t rank first when this year’s rankings come out in the next few days. It’s beach-going without the frills but with everything that’s essential to a beach: sand, saltwater and lovely scenery.
A word to the wise: If you drive there and take the ferry from Hatteras to Ocracoke, mind the speed limit on highway 12. As you near the town of Ocracoke, the posted speed limit drops sharply from 55 to 45 to, I think, 25. and often there’s a Hyde County sheriff’s sitting there with a citation book. Ask me how I know.
What's your top N.C. beach? How about South Carolina?

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

My favorite NC beach: Duck/Sanderling, on the Outer Banks north of Nags Head.

The NC beach I visit most frequently: Pine Knoll Shores, right next to Atlantic Beach (at Morehead City).

Damon Circosta said...

One of my favorite reads, jack... but did ya have to throw 'surf shops' in with all of the other clutter? I think the small local surf shops add what little charm there is to the developed parts of the outer banks.

Now the mega t-shirt shops, on the other hand...

David McKnight said...

Jack--

Hooray for Ocracoke for getting the national recognition it deserves. Of course, isn't this gem of an isle already famous for its own national television talk show host?

Ocra Winfrey!

Now in which of these North Carolina counties is Ocracoke located? Pick the "punishing pun" which fits:

A. What an honor, but Dare we let the rest of the country know how nice Ocracoke is?

B. Good news like this top rating for Ocracoke is practically impossible to Hyde in the newspapers.

C. With this announcement, maybe folks will finally be able to learn the difference between Pamlico and Pimlico.

Kudos also to Duck, as one reader commented. Once in the 1970s, I did a hitching travel feature for The News & Observer about a jaunt from Duck, N.C., to Ducktown, Tenn., under the headline: "A Hitch in Time." I got stuck trying to get into Duck, so it took a while just to get out of Duck and on the way west across North Carolina.

Seems to me this is about the same time that my "serious news career" at The N&O took a detour to the features and copy desks, though what newspaper could get along without these departments?

My favorite Carolina beaches from years gone by before all the development came along with the loss of certain vintage landmarks:

Carolina Beach, Topsail Beach and Yaupon Beach in North Carolina. Windy Hill and James Island in South Carolina.

Thanks for getting us in the mood for summer meanderings. Oh, speaking of "Meandering Me," how about this honorable mention for the beach noted for story-telling and poker-playing weekend excursions by the legendary and rambunctions Thomasville-Greensboro newspaper writer and book author Jerry Bledsoe with all his pals from the Greensboro News & Record:

Holden Beach.

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