Cape Hatteras National Seashore
|Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, North Carolina (Bill Russ/courtesy, North Carolina Tourism)|
Cape Hatteras National Seashore is a 72-mile stretch of the Outer Banks from Nags Head to Ocracoke Island. The waters off these barrier islands, once marauded by Black Beard the Pirate, now serve as an outdoor adventure paradise, where fun is powered by the sun, sea, and wind. Surfers, surf casters, bodysurfers, windsurfers, kiteboarders, and hang-glider pilots all migrate to the Outer Banks like waterfowl along the eastern flyway. The seashore boasts miles of white beaches for the beachcomber, sunbather, and wader. Further inland, hikers can explore nature trails that meander through sand dunes, marshes, and woodlands.
If you've been to the seashore before, you might notice that the landmark, 208-foot Cape Hatteras Lighthouse has moved. In 1999, the nation's tallest brick lighthouse was moved 2,900 feet along metal rails in an astonishing feat of civil engineering. The relocation was done in order to prevent the black and white tower, built in 1870, from falling into the Atlantic.
Although Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci set foot on the seashore as early as the 16th Century, it wasn't until 1953 that Cape Hatteras became the nation's first National Seashore.
Kiteboard the Outer Banks
Here on the edge of "Hurricane Alley," one thing you can count on is wind, and wind is power in the adrenaline sport of kiteboarding. What do you mean you haven't heard of kiteboarding? Where have you been, man? It's like the extreme sport of the new millennium: Picture a miniature parachute (like parasailing but without the speedboat) that propels you across vast stretches of water and high into the air as you jump monster waves. There's always old-school windsurfing, but the kiteboard is what the snowboard is to skis. It might not be for everyone, but it might be for you.
Scuba Dive the Atlantic Graveyard
The treacherous currents, shoals, and storms off Cape Hatteras earned the surrounding waters the moniker "Graveyard of the Atlantic." Over 600 ships sank offshore, and today many of these wrecks serve as popular scuba diving destinations. Several of the wrecks were sunk by German U-boats during the Second World War. The warm waters of the Gulf Stream often create conditions where visibility is comparable to the waters of the Caribbean. Cape Hatteras is frequently selected as a top dive site by major scuba magazines.
Seek Refuge with the Birds
Bird lovers will find nirvana at the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge located on the north end of Hatteras Island. The refuge is situated on the eastern flyway and lures some 265 species of birds that seek out this oasis. It was established in 1938 with waterfowl in mind, and is named for the wild pea vine that grows here. Several viewing platforms serve as a great perch from which to view the antics of egrets, terns, herons, and tundra swans. Overhead, expect to see brown pelicans scanning the waters below for fish. Once they spot their prey, they dive down and scoop up the fish in the expandable pouch of their bill. The pelican then tilts its head back and swallows the fish whole.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication