The Wild Horses of the Outer Banks

The Outer Banks of North Carolina consist of a 200 mile long stretch of barrier islands and peninsulas that separate the Atlantic Ocean from mainland North Carolina. The Currituck, and Albemarle Sounds fill the gap between the Outer Banks and North Carolina. Because of the peculiar geography, the Outer Banks was a very isolated and rugged area for quite some time. This, of course, is no longer the case, as the Outer Banks serves as a mecca for beach vacationers and summer travelers from across the country. With a local community that caters to the tourists in the Summer, and vacation rental houses aplenty, it is no wonder that so many families return year after year.

There is really no shortage of things to do on the Outer Banks. You can visit the largest sand dune on the East Coast, or take in an evening of outdoor theatre. With so many things to do, however, again and again families are drawn to see the wild horses of the Outer Banks.

Most historians agree that the wild horses of the Outer Banks arrived in the late 16th century. There is little debate that they are descended from Spanish Mustangs, and that they arrived with early European explorers. Isolated as they were from the mainland of the United States, they had the run of their land for hundreds of years. As vacationers and residents alike started to live on the Outer Banks, the horses were pushed to more desolate areas of the Outer Banks, and their numbers dwindled. The National Park Service took control of the land areas that were not populated yet, and set aside havens, protected areas where these wild horses have some distance between themselves and civilization. Of course, for the horses, it is not like it used to be, but it is better than it could’ve been if nothing were done to protect their habitat.

Today there are four main areas where these individual species of horses can be seen. The largest area is in Corolla, where the wild Spanish Mustangs have over 12,000 acres of protected land in which to roam. The other areas are Ocracoke, Beaufort, and Shackleford Banks. If you want to see the beauty of these wild horses on your next Outer Banks vacation, there are a few ways to do so. If you have a 4 wheel drive vehicle, you can head to one of these areas and look around. If you go on your own, be sure to adhere to all safety rules and regulations, and consult with a local expert first. Many rental houses will have information on how to see the horses safely. If you would rather sit back, relax and enjoy the surrounding view, there are many local guided tours of these areas. Since these guides are out there almost every day, they will certainly be able to track down the horses and answer any questions you may have about them.

There is really nothing like watching a wild horse in full gallop, running down the beaches on the Outer Banks. This wondrous site has been enjoyed by generations, and will continue to astound those admiring vacationers and residents alike. Be sure to save some time on your vacation to visit the Outer Banks longest inhabitants.

Your Kids have Collected 5,000 Seashells. Now What?

If you have ever taken a vacation on the Outer Banks, you have seen the beauty of thousands of sea shells up and down the beach. There seem to be shells and seaglass of every shape,color, and size. Both children and adults love hunting and collecting the shells, but kids seem to focus on quantity in their efforts. So, now your vacation rental home has gained as occupants more sea shells than you can possibly fit in the car to take home with you. What can be done with this abundance of shells? Anything you put your mind to.

We hope that you have not a hint of rain during your Outer Banks vacation, but if there is rain, that is a perfect opportunity to turn these shells into gifts, knick knacks, or memorable keepsakes. Here is an arts and crafts idea we have seen and used over the years. We’d love to hear more of your ideas too!

Seashell painting – collage

  1. Start by putting a towel, sheet, or tablecloth under the paper, or posterboard that will be the canvas for this art project.
  2. Work on a design. With pencils, crayons, or anything else that is handy, envision what your shell picture will look like, and draw it out.
  3. Sort your shells by colors, shapes and sizes.
  4. Have one that is nearly perfectly round and yellow? Make it the sun!
  5. Spread glue where you want shells to stay in place, and arrange the shells by color to correspond with your design. Lastly, let the glue dry.

You now have a tangible, and lasting memory of your family beach vacation. Obviously, there can be many variations in this craft activity, again the possibilities are endless.

Seashell Picture Frame

  1. Wooden picture frame.
  2. Spread glue around the frame. Remove the glass so nothing gets on it.
  3. Sprinkle sand and let it stick.
  4. Put glue on seashells and and stick them on top of the sand.
  5. Put your family picture with the year possibly written on the sand.
Sea shell sand frame by the beach.

While working with seashells, try to learn what type they are, make your activity educational for your kids.

The next time you find your beach vacation home filled with sea shells, use this idea for a family activity that can be as challenging as you’d like it to be. Perhaps you can have a competition, or start a vacation tradition to last for ages. Enjoy the beach!

Finding the Right Beach Rental on the Outer Banks

When planning your beach vacation, there are many things to consider. Finding the right beach rental house is of paramount importance. You want to find a home that has plenty of room for you and your family, while also being close to the places that you want to go on your Outer Banks vacation. Here we will list a few things that you must consider before deciding on your vacation rental home.

Proximity to the beach

Almost every Outer Banks vacation plan involves spending a good deal of time at the beach, so do your homework. Oceanfront housing gives you access to the Atlantic Ocean, with breathtaking views, expansive beaches, and of course, swimming. The waves in the ocean can be powerful, and may not be the best place for weak swimmers.

Staying on the sound side of the island will give you access to a much more tranquil and idyllic body of water, the Sound. Waves are virtually non-existent, and the water is much less volatile.

Figure out which suits you and your family better, and this will allow you to narrow down your options in beach rentals.

Next, figure out how close to the water you’d like to be. Obviously, staying oceanfront will allow for a quick walk to the water, eliminating the need for a long trek while carrying your beach supplies. As a general rule, the closer you are to the water, the more you will pay for your rental house. Some people prefer staying a little farther away. There is much less foot traffic, and it is a bit quieter. Figure out which best suits you and your family.

What else do you want to do on your vacation?

There are literally hundreds of various attractions on the Outer Banks. There are fun activities and attractions for people of all ages, so do some homework before booking your beach rental. If you know that your family wants to do things off of the Outer Banks, staying at the far end of the island will result in a lot more travel time than is necessary by staying closer to those attractions. No one wants to spend the majority of their summer vacation in the car, so plan ahead.

When to check in?

Different realty and rental companies offer different check in options. Usually the choices for check in are Saturday or Sunday. A few companies still allow a Friday check in, but it will usually be Saturday or Sunday. If checking in on Saturday, prepare for an early, and long morning. You will be making your way onto the Outer Banks on a very congested road, with as many people trying to get into the Outer Banks as there are leaving. Traffic will be very slow going as early as 8AM, so plan ahead. The same thing applies when you check out, as the exodus of vacationers makes the exit route similar to the entry a week before.

A Friday or Sunday check in and check out will help to alleviate the possible frustration that the traffic congestion can provide. If this is important to you, ask around, and find a rental company that offers different check in options.

By keeping these things in mind, and planning ahead of time, you can help make your summer vacation productive, and relaxing. Enjoy your summer beach vacation, we can’t wait to see you!

Worried about Sharks on your Beach Vacation?

Are there Sharks on the Outer Banks Beaches?

When considering where to take the family on a summer vacation, many factors should be taken into consideration. Cable news is great consultation for many things, but should not take the place of a travel agent.. If you were consulting cable news before your summer beach vacation on the Outer Banks, you may think that the beaches look like an outtake from the Blu-Ray of the movie Jaws. As we locals know, and as a recent study has confirmed, selfies have led to more injuries and/or deaths in the past year than sharks. This seems hard to believe, but it’s true. The incidence of shark attacks on the Outer Banks, or any other oceanfront vacation destination, are minimal at best. This is not to say that you shouldn’t be vigilant. Here are a few ways to protect you and your family from the unlikely shark sighting at the bar.

Avoid the Bait

Sharks are a predatory animal. This is not news. What may be news to many is that humans are not natural predators of sharks. To steer clear, and stay in the safe zone of sharks, vacationers and locals alike should avoid runoff areas where waste enters the water. Regardless of the type of waste, this carbon rich discharge provides a buffet for smaller fish that are helpless prey for sharks. Avoid the bait for shark food, and you will usually avoid sharks.

Please Disperse

If a shark is sighted, regardless of the size or proximity, you should briskly, but calmly, exit the water. Sharks can swim faster than the fastest sprinter, so running and creating a commotion will only attract the attention of the sharks. Again, keep in mind, you are not on their menu.

Rely on Technology

A new product that has been tested to repel sharks has proven 90% effective. Without getting into scientific specifics, an electronic signal is emitted over a nautical distance that keeps sharks at a safe distance from swimmers, while not harming the sharks.

On your Outer Banks vacation, you should enjoy the ocean, with its sights and sounds. But when it comes to vigilant attention, you should be more mindful of sunscreen than sharks. Oh, and leave the selfie sticks at home.

Always stay in groups since sharks are more likely to attack an individual. Do not wander too far from shore, this isolates you and decreases your chance of being rescued.

  • Avoid being in the water early in the morning and during darkness or twilight hours when sharks are most active and searching for food.
  • Do not enter the water if bleeding.
  • Avoid wearing shiny jewelry because the reflected light resembles the sheen of fish scales.
  • Avoid waters being used by sport or commercial fisherman, especially if there are signs of bait fishes or feeding activity. Diving seabirds are good indicators of such action.
  • Use extra caution when waters are murky and avoid bright colored clothing – sharks see contrast particularly well. Refrain from excess splashing.
  • Exercise caution when occupying the area between sandbars or near steep dropoffs – these are favorite hangouts for sharks.
  • Do not enter the water if sharks are known to be present and evacuate the water if sharks are seen while there.
  • And do not approach a shark if you see one.

Best Places to Watch the Fireworks on the 4th

People celebrate the 4th of July in a variety of ways. Whether it is with a family cookout, or a relaxing day at the beach, after the sunset, many people will be anticipating the annual fireworks display. On the Outer Banks, there are many options for watching the fireworks, and you don’t need to wait until the 4th! Here are a few of our favorites. If we missed someone, let us know!

JULY 3rd
Ocracoke Island -Fireworks staging area is at the NPS boat ramp area, allowing maximum visibility in the area. The fun starts at 10am, and culminates in the fireworks display.

JULY 4th
Corolla – The Whalehead Club is the site of this annual celebration. The party starts at 5pm with music, food, and fun. The fireworks are scheduled to start at 9:25.

Kill Devil Hills -The Avalon Fishing Pier is located at MP 6, and the fireworks will light the visible skies in the area.

Nags Head – The Nags Head Fishing Pier is the staging area, but nearby Jockey’s Ridge is also a great place to watch this celebration. Additional beach parking access can be found north and south of the pier.

Manteo – The party kicks off at 3pm with celebratory music, and will finish with the fireworks display on the Manteo Waterfront.

Avon – The Avon Pier will be the site of this local fireworks display.

The annual fireworks displays are an Outer Banks tradition for both locals and vacationers. As you can see, regardless of where your home or vacation rental is, you don’t need to go far to see a spectacular fireworks show. From us to you, have a safe and happy 4th of July.

Do Your Part to Stop Pollution

There are many causes and culprits that have led to the pollution of our oceans and other waterways, and while it would be almost impossible to completely prevent pollution, we can all do our part to prevent or minimize it. Here are a few things that you can do to help protect our precious seas and waterways.

Be Active in the Community

Much of the pollution that ends up in the oceanis carried there by rivers. So, even if your community is thousands of miles from the ocean, pollutants can and do get carried out to sea. If this bothers you, and you want to reduce or prevent the contamination, make sure you know what steps are being taken by your local government. In many cities, excess rainwater can cause untreated or undertreated sewage to be released into local waterways. Find out if your community is one of them, and hold those in charge accountable to finding a solution. One determined voice can be very powerful in a town hall or city council meeting. Get the facts, and make it known that the situation is unacceptable.

Don’t Litter

This one seems like a no-brainer, but still must be said. 80% of marine pollution comes from land. This is a staggering figure that clearly indicates that we are not doing our part. It can be very easy on your beach vacation to lose track of trash that you fully intended to bring to your vacation home. Even the most conscientious person has had an ocean breeze kick up and send their bag of trash out to sea. Make sure that all of your items, trash or otherwise, are weighted down. This will help to prevent losing valuables to the sea, as well as trash. When it comes right down to it, a volleyball is as much a pollutant as a bag of trash. Also, when leaving the beach, for lunch, for the night, or for a break, take your stuff with you. Leave only your footprints, take only your memories.

Be Part of the Solution

We have all heard about the dangers that 6 pack holders can present in the water. What seems like an urban myth is anything but. These beverage containers can ensnare fish, sea turtles, and other wildlife. Even if it doesn’t trap them, the animals really shouldn’t be eating the plastic, but they do. A local brewery in Florida has decided to be part of the solution. Their team engineered a 6 pack holder that actually turns into fish food when dropped into the water. That’s what I call thinking outside the box!

Do what you can to prevent or reduce the flow of pollutants into our waterways, because as always, it is easier to prevent than it is to repair. Let’s help keep our seas and waterways clean so that future generations can enjoy them as well.

Take Your Kids On a Shell Hunt during your Outer Banks Beach Vacation

What’s your favorite beach activity?

 As many as 60% of Americans prefer to simply relax, 13% like to exercise on the beach, and you can find 2% of Americans posing for pictures they wouldn’t want their co-workers to see. So, why do you go to the beach?

A favorite beach activity for adults and kids is searching for seashells. There are so many types of sea creatures and underwater treasures. Why not collect some beautiful souvenirs to take back with you?

Tips and Tricks for Shelling on the Seashore

Take your time. Sometimes the most valuable treasures are buried the deepest.

Follow a storm. Once the waters have calmed down after a big storm, you will find droves of shells that have washed up on the shoreline.

Go off the beaten path. Don’t just look on the shoreline, spread your search a bit more and you will be amazed at what you find and where you find it. You might even want to check underneath your vacation rental.

Cleaning your shells isn’t necessary in most cases. The best way to preserve your souvenir is to wipe off the sand and keep it somewhere safe. The salty seawater smell will allow you to relive your exciting adventure for years to come.

In addition to shells, look for sand dollars, egg cases, and other small treasures.

Look out for hermit crabs! You may spot the perfect shell, but before adding to your collection, take a peek and make sure no one is living inside of it. Always let hermit crabs go free to help preserve the species.

Statistics show that vacations are the number one activity that makes families the happiest. In a survey, 33% of respondents said that they would rather visit the beach than relatives if they could only choose one holiday. Who can blame them? A peaceful walk or a playful romp on the beach with the kids while you pick out souvenirs doesn’t that sound just perfect?

You only have so many summers with your kids while they are young, which is why family vacations are so important for making memories and strengthening family bonds. Do something that you will all enjoy like staying at a beach rental and participating in active, outdoor summer activities. Starting a shell collection can be a fun family activity, or you can even make it a summer tradition.

Book Early this Beach Vacation Season

If you are looking to rent a vacation home on the Outer Banks, you may be surprised at how far in advance travelers start looking. It was no surprise that Nags Head made the list of top ten east coast beaches for vacation rentals, thousands of vacationers weekly already know this to be true. The Outer Banks are a tourist Mecca during the busy summer months, so if whether you plan on visiting for the first time, or the next time, be sure to book your house early. Many travelers have already fully planned their beach vacation, so don’t be left out in the cold. With so many exciting things to do on the Outer Banks, you will want to make sure that the house you rent is exactly what you want, and where you want to be. Here are some other tips to get the most out of your vacation.

Be Prepared for the Elements

The weather on the Outer Banks can be fickle. It is not uncommon for a cloudy morning to turn into a beautifully sunny afternoon. With this in mind, be sure that you have clothes appropriate for whatever Mother Nature throws your way. This also includes proper foot ware. If you so choose, you can spend your vacation in sandals, but many activities will be more enjoyable with different shoes.

Enjoy the Sun…Responsibly

Don’t skip the sunscreen. It is easy to be misled by a cool ocean breeze, or an overcast sky, that the sun is not that strong, or that it is not that hot. Trust us, it is. Be sure to apply sunscreen early and often, so you don’t have to spend a day in the shade covered in aloe. Especially true for children, reapply sunscreen frequently, especially after swimming. You don’t want to miss any of the beach fun.

Mark Your Territory

The Outer Banks coastline has few navigational markings. Especially for newcomers, it can be very disorienting. You may walk down the beach, lost in your head while enjoying the sights and smells of the ocean, and be unsure of how far you’ve gone, or where on the beach the rest of the family is. If you will be at the beach for the day, bring a flag, a tent, or even a kite. This will make it easier for the whole family to find home base when they need to refuel. Please be sure to take all of your belongings with you when you leave the beach.

Long Term and Short Term Vacation Rentals

While many people prefer to rent a vacation home by the week while on the Outer Banks, long term rentals are becoming more trendy. Typically these long term rentals are paid monthly, but the length of the stay varies. There are some things to think about when considering long term or short term beach vacation rentals, and we will lay them out for you. As always, if you have questions about which Outer Banks beach rental is best for you, reach out to a qualified realtor.

How much flexibility does the owner have?
Short term rentals offer the owner of the vacation home much more flexibility, as the beach house is usually rented by the week. If the owner of the home wants to use it for a specific week each month, they would simply make the house unavailable to be rented that week. With a long term vacation rental, the owner has much less flexibility, and reduced opportunities to use their vacation home. This is perfect for an owner who may not spend much time on the Outer Banks, or who does not want to constantly be trying to fill a home week by week.

How involved can the owner be?
Some owners of vacation homes on the Outer Banks are integrally involved with the rental of their homes, while others prefer to be insulated from this. For those owners who have the time and interest to be involved in the day to day operation, short term rentals are a favorable option. In addition to being able to charge a bit more for the rental, they will be aware of everything that happens at the vacation home. If the homeowner has no desire or time to be involved in the management and administration of the rental, there are two choices: Outsourcing that administrative work, or long term rentals. A combination of these 2 strategies is also an option. If an owner chooses to go with long term rentals, he or she will know who is there, and will not have to “turn it over” to a new occupant every week.

As an owner of a vacation home, you can choose how and when to rent it. There are pros and cons of associated with short term and long term rentals, but ultimately they help the owner control how their home is enjoyed, and by whom.

Living Near the Beach is Good for You

It is not a shock that people who live on or near the beach are more relaxed and content. The sights, sounds, and smells of the ocean are incredibly soothing. Recent studies have shown that those who live near the ocean report feeling healthier. This is opening many new avenues of study, investigating whether even a beach vacation can offer long standing benefits to physical and mental health. Some of the most beautiful beaches in the world are here on the Outer Banks. We will examine some of the reasons that it may make people healthier and happier.

  • Increased physical activity
    Whether you live on or near the beach, or are taking a summer beach vacation, you want to get out and enjoy the ocean. This means different things to different people, but there is no shortage of physical activities that the ocean provides. A morning jog on the beach is a wonderful way to start your day, as is an evening walk. Swimming and surfing are also frequent activities here, and all are excellent ways to exercise that are so fun that you won’t mind them. If you prefer a less intense workout, beach yoga is quickly gaining popularity.
  • Fresh, local food
    Lifelong residents of the Outer Banks are often in for a shock when they travel away from the coast. We have such an abundance of fresh, local food sources that we may take it for granted. There are hundreds of places to buy and eat fresh seafood, and even more choices on what type of seafood to eat. We also have many local farms that provide fresh fruits and vegetables year round. Not only is fresh food delicious, it is healthy!
  • Variety is the spice of life
    As a popular summer vacation destination, our neighbors can change weekly. This exposure to different people from all over the country helps to keep us mentally engaged. Also, since tourists here are happily enjoying their vacations, that happiness is contagious.

If you live near the beach, you are already well aware of the health and wellness benefits that it provides. The good news for our inland neighbors is that even a small dose of the beach can be just what the doctor ordered, and an oceanfront vacation can work wonders. Have other thoughts on why the ocean makes people happier and healthier? Feel free to share them.