Ocracoke Summer 2015 Trip


We spent a nice chunk of our June in North Carolina for a family vacation at the beach and visiting Greensboro.  This was the first time we had been back since moving to Iowa two years ago.  The 3,200 miles we logged in our 11 day trip was worth the memories and beautiful images that I have been revisiting.  This lovely beach is on Ocracoke Island.
hwy12We reached Ocracoke Island by driving south along the barrier islands on NC Highway 12.  This is the longer route, but it is very scenic, taking you over the Oregon Inlet bridge, through the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and past numerous towns and several lighthouses, depending on how much of Highway 12 one travels.  In our younger years, Eric and I rode the entire stretch from Nags Head to Ocracoke and back to Nags Head by bicycle.  We were trying to race a nasty March storm and rode the whole 80 miles back from Ocracoke to Nags Head in one day.  I can still feel the sand blasting my face along this stretch of desolate road.


The kids were exhausted of the car and itching to get out and see the scenic surroundings.  We stopped at a beach access point before the ferry to Ocracoke, near Avon.  The girl is running full speed ahead to reach that ocean!IMG_5833I call this one anticipation.  It will become an artwork at some point.

wadingThe urge to be a part of the ocean was just too much – she was soaked and sandy by the time we were done.  This girl’s water-loving viking heritage will call her to the coast too.

IMG_5850After a fantastic seafood dinner (truly one of the best I have had) at the Dolphin Den, in Avon we boarded the ferry to Ocracoke.  This little guy slept for the first part, but awoke to seagulls, waves, and his excited sister.  We had enough evening light for a selfie.


I do not think it is a coincidence that ferry sounds like fairy.  There is something magical about these boats.


We got off the ferry and continued our drive onto Ocracoke.  This stretch is one of my favorite roads on earth.  I even immortalized it in a painting a few years back, I will have to dig that out of storage.


Once on Ocracoke, we took things slow.  We spent some time at the beach.  This is the very beach where the most recent North Carolina shark attack happened, actually in the exact spot we were swimming in the water too.  Shudder.


We ditched our car and opted for our cargo bike.  The kids enjoyed watching the small planes land and take off at the airport.


On our bike ride to the Ocracoke Lighthouse, we found this little fellow crawling across the road.  I had never seen a hermit crab just out walking before.


The Ocracoke lighthouse is always a little shocking to me, in its stark white form.


Greta was more interested in the marmalade cat that was grooming itself just out of her reach.


The small winding roads, cloaked in live oaks are always a treat on sunny hot afternoons.  I feel like I have stepped back in time.


I love this sign on Old Howard Road.  It truly needs a y’all in there, though.

ferry picnic

We got take out from Thai Moon and it took it to the picnic area just outside the Ocracoke Visitor Center to watch the ferries.  It was one of the nicest and breeziest spots on the island, outside of the beach.


We enjoyed a breakfast at Dajio. This is the massive apple pancake which had thinly sliced apples, caramelized, on the bottom of the most perfect fluffy hotcake.  My sailor dressed daughter is enjoying the fruit and yogurt parfait.  I would also recommend the shrimp and crab omelet.  Heaven on a plate.

jolly roger

We enjoyed dinner at the Jolly Roger with our friends from Greensboro.  This marina and restaurant has excellent seafood and terrific hush puppies.

After three glorious nights of being at the ocean, we left by Cedar Island ferry to mainland.  I felt a little squashed up inside, not knowing when we would be back to this place I love so much.  I actually keep it as one of my locations on my weather app on my phone.  I love to see its steady 70° rainy afternoons when snow is pounding and drifting in Iowa.  The almost three hour ferry ride back was a nice slow way to say goodbye to the coast.

I may or may not get around to blogging about Greensboro.  My days since returning have been filled with my babies having birthdays, finishing up a grad class, jury duty, and germs.

Spring Break 2013: North to Corolla

As always, prints, prints of photographs, and original artworks are always for sale, please inquire by e-mail or through my Etsy shop.  If you are interested in purchasing something you have seen on this blog, I will create a custom listing for you.  I also do custom commission pieces as well.  

We spent some time at the beach the morning after we stayed in Ocracoke.  Greta loved the sand, shells, birds, and dogs.  She found a plastic rake on the beach and used it to stir up trouble.  The highlight of the morning, for Greta, was when a helicopter flew over the beach close enough for us to see the passengers waving at us.

We loaded a tired Greta into the car and boarded another ferry – this time to head north to Hatteras.  This shorter ferry ride is a unique one and a free service provided by the NCDOT.

Once off the ferry, the drive north along Highway 12 is a scenic one.

This bridge was built quickly to accommodate the newest inlet, Pea Island Inlet, after the most recent hurricane season.  It doesn’t look shady or anything…

We reached Corolla by afternoon.  The live oaks are much taller and more prevalent in this region of the Outer Banks.

We stayed at the Inn at Corolla Light.  The room was very spacious with a bedroom, bathroom, and large closet at one end.  In the middle it had a ,small kitchen with a sink, microwave, refrigerator, and basic necessities.  The living room was at the other end with a sleeper couch, table and two chairs, TV, and sliding glass doors that opened up to the pool and hot tub!  There was plenty of room for Greta to spread out – she took no time at all to sit at the table and color.

The deck was just outside our room – complete with hot tub and pool that overlooked the water.

We went exploring before dinner.


This place would be a hopping place in the summer.

Can’t you just see a wedding at the end of this pier?  This place begs for another visit.

To the right of the pier was this view: the Whale Head Club and still the forest fire.


A boardwalk and gravel trail continues along the edge of the water, offering excellent birding opportunities.



Our mornings were filled with beach trips.  This is the end of Highway 12 – a sandy road blocked off with fences to protect the wild horses the roam the area.

The Fit was not fit for sand driving.

So, we traded in 4 wheels for 2 wheels.  Nothing like a chilly, beach bike ride to start your day.

It was a dramatic morning for a ride, with plenty of sites.

Rain was looming most of the out time in Corolla – but it did not stop us from getting our fill of the area.

We checked out a trail that takes one out to the coastal marsh of the estuary.  We spotted only one wild horse only briefly – sadly some really loud visitors scared it off.


The area was beautifully quiet after the noisy crowd  moved off in search of other wild horses to scare off.  The muddy area underneath the walkway was filled with horse prints.

The first part of the trail snaked in between a maritime forest of live oaks, southern wax myrtles, and loblolly pines.


We ate dinner at the best Mexican food I have had in a long time at Agave Roja in Corolla.  I have been hunting for something that even compares with the pescado tacos I had in the heart of Mexico City at a little stand years ago.  I finally found them, on the NC coast – they were grilled with crunchy slaw, chile aioli sauce and guacamole.  Eric ordered Camarones Tacos with pineapple-haberno sauce that were to die for as well.  The black beans and rice were also fantastic.  More to come on those in a future post.

The atmosphere and artwork were equally pleasing – tasteful rope light and original paintings.


Our last day at Corolla started with a walk at the beach at dawn.


We are all a bunch of early birds and had no trouble getting down to the water to see the sun rise.


We were glad we made it – the colors were liquid golds, pinks, and violets.  How were we to know this would be the only sunlight we saw on this day?

After breakfast we made a stop at the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, but Greta was more concerned with where her shell had gone inside her pocket.


Out last stop was at the stately home of the Knights, known as the Whalehead Club.  It was built in the 1920s as a hunting and entertaining lodge for wealthy northerners.  It has been restored and tours are available.  We opted to quickly view the free basement exhibit and take Greta on her merry way, as she was crashing towards nap time.
Oh North Carolina coast – how much I will miss you when we are in land locked Iowa.  I am so grateful for this spring trip to familiar and new places.  I hope we see you again soon, Outer Banks and Atlantic Ocean.  This image is from a trip in July of 2007, and is the beach on Ocracoke Island.
 A few of my favorite reads on the Outer Banks of North Carolina are:

Spring Break 2013: Piedmont to the Coast

We got up Friday morning and headed to the Outer Banks of North Carolina – these barrier islands are a unique area to visit and have captured our hearts over the past eight years.  We did the math and I have been to the Outer Banks 8 times and Eric 7 times.  Not bad – we did well on being tourists in our own state.

Friday was a beautiful sunny day and driving conditions were perfect.  We did encounter the smoke from a large forest fire on the way to the coast.  For a while we were worried it would impact travel.

The trip takes a while but Greta was a sport – she did manage to figure out how to get her socks on her hands as means to entertain herself.

 I love this – a perfect lesson in 1-point perspective.

We were the last ones on the ferry at Cedar Island, we thought for sure we were going to miss our reservation.  Once on board, we had three hours to roam about.

Greta enjoyed running around the ferry, watching seagulls, and watching other people and their dogs.  One particular year, my father in law had a cookie stolen out of his hands by a thieving seagull.  I guarded my child on the ferry this year and made her eat in the car.

 While Greta snacked, I made time to make some art.

The rear view of a ferry is just so mesmerizing.  One year, we were followed by porpoises on our ferry ride.

Ocracoke Island at last!  Ocracoke is one of my favorite places on this planet.  It is like funky Key West meets quaint Southern charm.  The island is not as crowded as the northern parts of the Outer Banks – say Nags Head or Kitty Hawk, but clears out every evening as tourists leave on ferries.  The entire island is easily biked, the entire town is easily walked, and only accessed by ferry.  

We biked around the island a bit before dinner, trying to find my favorite restaurant the Flying Melon Cafe.  We soon discovered it was no longer my favorite restaurant and now a Mexican restaurant.  So we settled on Howard’s Pub.  The decor is like a college town pub meets fisherman vibe.  The kids menu comes served on a Frisbee.  It was ok.  No Flying Melon Cafe though.

We stayed at the Anchorage Inn & Marina which overlooks Silver Lake and Irvin Garrish Highway, or Highway 12. After Greta was in bed we watched a fantastic sunset over Silver Lake and the ferry.

The next morning, we explored the island’s neighborhoods and Ocracoke lighthouse by bicycle. 

We headed out to the beach next.  Greta was so eager to get down to the wa-wa that she was wriggling out of my arms in this photo.

After beach exploring, we headed to see the Ocracoke ponies.   Then it was on to the Hatteras ferry, and a nice scenic drive North on Highway 12 to Corolla – a brand new place for us to explore.