Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Outer Banks Vacation, The Gist of it All.

We were so excited to go on this vacation.  We went with no preconceived ideas about what we would or would not do, we were just excited to get away from it all for a week.  And it was a great one. The only slight issue was the drive.  It was just awful, there's no two ways about it: 13 hours there, 12.5 hours back.  The issue going in to the Outer Banks on Saturday is that day is the day when most all the vacation rentals turn over.  So us, and a bajillion other people were trying to get there and there is pretty much only 1 way in if you're coming from the north, unless you want to drive miles out of the way.  We were 6 miles from the bridge where you cross and 10.5 miles from the realtor where we had to pick up our keys and it took TWO HOURS.  It was agonizing.  Then coming home, there were so many accidents and slow downs on the highway we basically crawled from New Jersey to Connecticut.  A 3.5 hour drive took us nearly 5 hours.  Awful.

In any case the vacation itself was magnificent!  I think we knew it was going to be good the minute we laid eyes on our rental.  Looking at this photo, there was nothing but trees to the left.  The people in the house on the right didn't show up until Thursday so we had quite a bit of privacy.  We really enjoyed both decks - I watched the sun rise nearly every morning from that upper deck.  We also had a couple of happy hours up there too.

Front View

When we opened the front door, we were greeted with the command to relax.

This swing was on the lower deck - Mr. Helen really enjoyed it.

Panoramic View from Upper Deck

Our motto was eat, sleep, beach and we did that every single day except one when it was overcast then rained.  Other than that, the weather was perfection: 85-ish degrees with a constant sea breeze. The first two days we were there, we were not allowed to go into the water because the rip tide was so bad.  Nags Head actually has an ordinance that says if the Red Flags are flying you can't even put a toe in the water.  The second day I did drag my chair down to the water line and sit there so that the waves would occasionally wash up onto my feet.  Still, a lifeguard patrolling the beach came by and told me not to go any closer, believe it or not.  He said he was trying to be understanding but he did have to enforce the rules.  The waves were really big, but the beach was beautiful and worth sitting on so we just had to patient.

All along Route 12 aka S. Virginia Dare Trail are beach access points.  This is the one we went to most often - a wreck of the USS Huron lies off the coast here.  This was only 2 blocks from our rental but because there was no beach cart as they promised, we had to ride over with our chairs, cooler, etc. every day.

As I mentioned last week, I walked or ran nearly every single day we were there.  On the day that it was overcast and supposed to rain, I walked the beach for four miles.  So peaceful and beautiful and all sorts of things were washed up because of the impending storm, including these jellyfish.  I have no idea if they sting or hurt because once I saw them I tried hard not to step on any!

While we grocery shopped and prepped quite a bit of food at the rental, we did go out to eat three times:  once for breakfast because one of Mr. Helen's students raved about a pancake place called Stack 'Em High, once for eastern Carolina style BBQ, and once for a fancier meal.

Mr. Helen ordered pancakes and I chose the giant Biscuit Egg Sandwich, both delicious. We would go back, for sure!

He was like a kid in a candy shop with those pancakes lol!

We chose Sooey's BBQ and Rib Shack for our BBQ meal and we were not disappointed.  We both chose eastern Carolina style pulled pork and smoked brisket as our meats.  I got collard greens and mac and cheese, and Mr. Helen got potato salad and coleslaw.  The food was so good and my only regret was that we didn't go one more time for that delicious pulled pork.  No photos because we had chosen to sit on their upper deck and while waiting we got to see a beautiful sunset over Jockey's Ridge State Park, which was right across the street.  I think I got so distracted I forgot to take photos of the food.  Either that, or I was so hungrily anticipating that eastern Carolina pulled pork I couldn't wait to dig in.

Anticipating our BBQ - don't we look happy?!

Hang Gliders on one of the park ridges

While eating we decided that we would go to the park ourselves on another day - an adventure which will be in the next post.

For our "fancy" meal we chose Tale of the Whale, based on reviews we read and also based on a Wine Spectator article I read where they were named as a top restaurant in NC for inexpensive but delicious wines.  No reservations are taken here so we left our place and arrived around 6:15.  We expected to wait, and wait we did - we weren't seated until 7:30, fine since that's when we normally eat.  They have a great setup for waiting though - they give you a buzzer and send you to their outside deck and pavilion.  Out there is seating, a bar, and entertainment.  Plus you end up talking with other vacationers and the time goes by quickly!  This was a fantastic meal and really for as nice as it was, not all that expensive.  We had a bottle of wine, two appetizer, two entrees, and shared a dessert and it was $108.  The food and the ambiance were excellent.  Here's the meal I have some photos of.

 The waiting area

This mini loaf of bread was warm, crusty on the outside, soft inside.  My weakness!

Toasting a most excellent vacation!

Mr. Helen's appetizer.  He loves clams.

My lobster and shrimp bisque

My meal: broiled scallops, broiled flouder, asparagus, baked potato.
I ate exactly half of this and had the other half for dinner the next day!

Mr. Helen's fried oysters, hush puppies, crab cake, and baked potato.
He said this was one of the best crab cakes he's ever had.

I somehow managed to miss taking a photo of dessert but it was a layered chocolate ice box cake that we, again, ate the rest of the next evening.  We will definitely make this a must go to restaurant when we go back.

You'll notice I said, "when" we go back - because we will.  This is the first place we've vacationed where we liked it just as much as our Caribbean vacation home, St. Martin. So now we have a US vacation home in the Outer Banks.  Even with the terrible drives what happened in between was worth it.  I'm hoping that, like the pain of childbirth, we will forget the agony and keep the great memories. Until we meet again Nags Head!

Next post:  The things we did besides the beach.


  1. How lovely that all is. Too bad about the drive. Maybe next time take a helicopter and have them drop you off at the beach ;)

    No itinerary vacations really are the best for relaxing because you don't have any kind of schedule to stick to and you can play it by ear with the weather.

    That food looks so nommy - especially the crab cake! I want it.

    You look relaxed and lovely in that blue dress.

    1. Mr. Helen, expert crab cake consumer, said it was the best crab cake he has ever had in his entire life, including New England crab cakes which he's generally preferred. In fact, I think that crab cake is going to be "the one" he measure all others against lol!

  2. I want to go there. /Tina Fey

    What a beautiful area! I feel relaxed just looking at your pictures (ignoring the drive issue, ugh what a pain). So glad you had great weather and such a wonderful time - you look so happy in the pictures!

    1. I want you to go there! And Nags Head is just the tip of the iceberg... literally you can choose from really busy places to completely isolated places where the only way to get to your rental is via 4x4 over sand. Seriously. Surely you can work that out as a side trip next time you go visit your NC child. I don't remember exactly where he lives but I'd bet it's a straight shot on highway 64 (which means you avoid that dumb bridge) and probably 3 hours or so drive. Come on you Texans are used to drives like that!!

  3. Gorgeous!!! Now I want to go to the beach!!!!!!! You both look so relaxed and happy!!!!

    1. The beach is definitely our happy place. This one was spectacular!

  4. What a great vacation you had, it looks so beautiful and the rental is great, what a great house to stay in for a week. And I'm not even going to start about the food, still cleaning my screen here since I drewl all over it.

  5. You know, I did not even know where the OUter Banks were when you started talking about your vacation. The big waves so close to the shore are impressive--is that what it was like when they said you couldn't go into the water?

    Food? Yummy. Bread--yummier :)

    Did you say? How you found the vacation rental? It looks fantastic. I love renting houses when I travel. Almost the same price as a hotel, and just so much better. I'm so glad you had a true and relaxing vacation!

    1. Yes, those waves were part of that rip tide. It was crazy. I found our rental on VRBO - vacation rentals by owner. As I looked through them I noticed this realtor was the property manager for several of the homes we were interested in so then I called their office and dealt with them directly They were great!

  6. This post had me smiling from ear to ear for you guys - and glad you found your "US" vacation place.

    Yep, I should have warned you about the traffic - that is the one downside and there really is no way of getting around it - we just know that's part of the experience.

    Now you want me wanting to go back! I probably haven't been there in 15 years!

    Can't wait for the next recap :D