We had not been to the beach in a very long time — simple pleasures like that usually aren’t available to one minding a vineyard (much less a winery), but this year, with the crop looking pretty good and disease under control, we opted to spend a week on Hatteras Island in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
In the middle winter (during a snow storm, naturally) we were discussing the possibility, and with a quick search on the web found Sun Realty and this bloated house that seemed, and was, perfect. Countless bedrooms (each with its own bath), a wet bar with pool table and other toys on the ground floor, a game room on the second floor, a massive family room and kitchen combination on the top floor; a movie room with seating for a dozen people, decks on every floor, and two of everything — two dishwashers, two ovens, two washer/dryers, three full size refrigerators (one in the garage), two ice makers. Seating in the dining room was for fourteen. Outside featured a swimming pool, putting green, and steps down to a private beach on Pamlico Sound.
The house was right next to the Inn on Pamlico Sound, and one of their dogs, Leila, was a frequent visitor, crossing the beach and coming right up to the house to play with our dogs.
Being on the Sound is a very different experience when compared to the pristine beaches. There are no waves on the Sound, and you can wade out a great distance, if you want. Close to shore we saw crabs skittering everywhere, which made a long walk out (without proper footware) possibly hazardous.
With no real agenda but relaxing, to spice things up we did plan a couple of “theme” nights. Ours was a Mexican fiesta — pulled-pork tacos, assorted sides and salsas, and to let off steam, a Nipyata — basically a pinata filled with tiny bottles of liquor. Very fun.
To make the drive tolerable from Northern Virginia, we spent one night going and coming in Virginia Beach, that consummate beach town. Traveling with the dogs wasn’t so difficult, with planning. But that limited us to staying at motels, which was fine — La Quinta Inns allow dogs of all sizes, so that was the Inn of choice. We found them using an iPhone app called Bring Fido, which also helped us find restaurants where we could bring them, too.
Our rental prohibited leaving the dogs alone in the house, which limited our ability to dine out — especially with the tremendous heat we experienced that week, with heat indexes routinely in the range of 102 to 105 degrees. We managed to dine one night at the Inn next door, which proved a civilized respite in a rough-and-tumble kind of place. Someone was always home during the day when we did go out, so they were never unattended.
One of those days we took the ferry to Ocracoke Island, a wild, wind-swept slip of land, the next island west of Hatteras. You drive the length of it — totally undeveloped — to get to the town of Ocracoke, which has the look and feel of a New England fishing village. We’d definitely have to plan another trip to spend some time there. Another afternoon we stopped at Pop’s Raw Bar (48967 NC-12, Buxton, NC 27920) — one of the few places open between 2 pm and 5 pm (most restaurants close between lunch and dinner). Totally unpretentious — we had wonderful oysters at the bar.
On the way back we stopped at Kitty Hawk to see the Wright Brothers Memorial, but the walk to the hill (in the blazing heat) where they launched the planes was a bit too much for the pups, so we had to take it in from a distance. All told, it was a relaxing week (not without its dramas, of course) and a welcome getaway from it all.