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Play Away: (Outer) Bank On It

There's an additional quartet of courses back on the mainland within fifteen miles of the bridge. The Carolina Club, the Pointe Golf Club, Goose Creek Golf and Country Club and the recently opened Kilmarlic Golf Club are all on Route 158, all built within the past decade and all a step down in character, charisma and creativity from the four across the sound. Still, the Carolina Club, in Grandy, has daredevil appeal in its island-green par-three seventh.

Long an outpost of funky beachfront motels and quirky cottage rentals, the Outer Banks went luxe in the late eighties with the opening of the Sanderling Resort & Spa, the islands' first—and only—premier resort. One of Travel + Leisure's top 500 hotels in the world, it sprawls across twelve acres five miles north of Duck. Sanderling looks like a beach resort, wooden and weathered, and with plenty of private ocean access it acts like one, too. Weary golfers will appreciate post-round pampering in the spa and fine dining in two restaurants, one a refurbished lifesaving station more than a century old.

The privately owned Nags Head Inn, on the beach in Nags Head, is a comfortable, if utilitarian, 100-room alternative to the moderately priced national chains, while the twenty-four-room Tranquil House Inn, overlooking Shallowbag Bay in Manteo, the hub of Roanoke Island, is high on charm and appeal. It resembles a turn-of-the-century hostelry, with amenities modern—the 1587 restaurant on the first floor is one of the most sophisticated and hip around—and dated: bicycles are free for the taking.

Charm also abounds at any number of B&Bs, but two stand out: Advice 5¢, a short walk from the ocean in Duck, and the Cameron House Inn, on the edge of downtown Manteo. Still set on that funky beachfront motel?You'd be hard-pressed to top the Ocean House Motel in Kill Devil Hills. Most of its forty-three rooms boast the imprint of a design team on acid. The wall paintings and furnishings tip a distinctive, if kitschy, tam to Carolina history and tradition.

Think fish. Of course, not everything on local menus began life piscatorially, but hey, when in Rome, or Duck, or Kitty Hawk . . .

At the Blue Point in Duck, executive chef and co-owner Sam McGann fills plates with what he calls "Southern coastal cuisine." His jumbo lump-crab cakes and seared Hatteras tuna are revelations. Kitty Hawk's Ocean Boulevard began life as a hardware store in the forties; in 1995 it was reincarnated as a chic oasis of elegant entrées and imaginative martinis that eventually hit like the hammers that once lined the walls.Less hip but no less enjoyable are a pair of old outposts in Nags Head. Sam & Omie's has been around for more than sixty years, and with good reason; its no-frills atmosphere, filling breakfasts and homey specialties (such as she-crab soup and soft-shell crab sandwiches) offer a flavor of what the Outer Banks used to taste like. So does Owens' Restaurant, which has been operated by the same family since the late forties. Its memorabilia is as enticing as its clam chowder.

The Wright Brothers National Memorial rises over Big Kill Devil Hill like an exclamation point to the vision of man's place in the air. This is precisely where Orville and Wilbur changed the world in 1903.

Across the sound on Roanoke Island, the Roanoke Adventure Museum employs a fascinating array of artifacts and multimedia to trace Outer Banks history from the sixteenth century forward.

Anglers can work the angles from deep-sea runs to the Gulf Stream for marlin to fly-rodding the backwaters for speckled trout. Book an offshore charter at the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center or let captain Rick Caton of Custom Sound Charters in Manteo guide you to stripers in the sound and through the mysteries of the marshes.

One of the ecological treasures of the eastern seaboard, the nation's first national seashore extends along seventy miles of pristine beaches, leviathan dunes and small fishing villages. Overseen by the National Park Service, the seashore embraces both the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, a birder's haven and hiker's delight, and the iconic black-and-white-striped Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.


The Currituck Club, 252-453-9400. Yardage: 6,885. Greens Fees: $50–$160. Architect: Rees Jones. T+L Golf Rating: ****

Duck Woods Country Club, 252-261-2609. Yardage: 6,650. Greens Fees: $50–$95. Architect: Ellis Maples. T+L Golf Rating: ****

Nags Head Golf Links, 252-441-8073. Yardage: 6,126. Greens Fees: $45–$110. Architect: Bob Moore. T+L Golf Rating: ****

The Carolina Club, 252-453-3588. Yardage: 6,952. Greens Fees: $39–$89. Architect: Russell Breeden. T+L Golf Rating: ***1/2

Sea Scape Golf Links, 252-261-2158. Yardage: 6,650. Greens Fees: $50–$100. Architect: Art Wall. T+L Golf Rating: ***1/2

Kilmarlic Golf Club, 252-491-4220. Yardage: 6,461. Greens Fees: $50–$110. Architect: Tom Steele. T+L Golf Rating: ***

The Pointe Golf Club, 252-491-8388. Yardage: 6,343. Greens Fees: $39–$85. Architect: Russell Breeden. T+L Golf Rating: ***

Goose Creek Golf and Country Club, 252-453-4008. Yardage: 6,300. Greens Fees: $20–$58. Architect: Jerry Turner. T+L Golf Rating: **1/2

Advice 5¢, Duck; 800-238-4235. Rooms: $135–$245.

Nags Head Inn, Nags Head; 800-327-8881. Rooms: $59–$215.

The Sanderling Resort & Spa, Duck; 800-701-4111. Rooms: $132–$700.

Tranquil House Inn, Manteo; 800-458-7069. Rooms: $99–$219.

The Blue Point (Seafood), Duck; 252-261-8090. $$$ Ocean Boulevard (Contemporary), Kitty Hawk, 252-261-2546. $$$

Owens' Restaurant (Coastal), Nags Head, 252-441-7309. $$$

Sam & Omie's (Seafood), Nags Head, 252-441-7366. $$

Cape Hatteras National Seashore; 252-473-2111, nps.gov/caha

Roanoke Adventure Museum; 252-475-1500, roanokeisland.com

Wright Brothers National Memorial; 252-441-7430, nps.gov/wrbr


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