What To Do At The Beach
July 18, 2006 5:11 PM   Subscribe

VacationFilter: We're going to Duck, NC on the Outer Banks for a week, leaving on the 22nd. I know what I'm going to do; what sorts of things might be fun for the kids?

They're 18 months, 5 and 7. OuterBankers, what would *you* do?

FYI, this is the first time I've been to the coast since I left for Iraq, and the first family vacation I've been able to attend for one reason or another in 3 years, so I have high hopes for the Bezt Vacay Evar.

Please Help.
posted by ZakDaddy to Travel & Transportation around Duck, NC (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I was a kid on family vacations to Duck once, a little older than your oldest, but my sister was about that age at the time. This was in the 80's. So I can't suggest good places now.

But my recollection is that the beaches were a blast. Nice waves -- not so intense that my parents worried, but big enough for some fun splashing. With some sunblock, boogie boards, pails and shovels, we were really able to entertain ourselves all day at the beach.

I remember the beaches at Duck as being great beaches for kite-flying too. Picking out a nice kite, and flying it might be a great dad-kid activity.

My other recollection was that while Kitty Hawk was a bit more geared for grown-ups, Duck was really really ridiculously family friendly. Enjoy!
posted by .kobayashi. at 5:57 PM on July 18, 2006

Not an OuterBanker, but I have vacationed there since I was small. We always would do a spin among the mini-golf locations. Although we used to go to all of them (followed up by drive through DQ and drive through Brew Thru, and then back to the beach), there's one down past Nags Head on beach road that used to be both cheaper and less crowded than the fancier ones along the main north/south road. It changes themes every 5 years or so - there was aliens, then aliens/dinosaurs, then dinosaurs/volcanos/jungle... We always liked that one best for the pure down-home cheese factor. There's no shade though. Mini Golf gets more crowded universally as the afternoon turns into night. Professor McYuppiePutt's (not it's real name) featured 2.5 hour waits on Wednesday and Thursday evenings 2 years ago.

We would go climb the old lighthouse north of Duck (there's a nice old house-turned-clubhouse-turned historic home to tour, too), or drive down to Manteo, where we'd look at old ships (and marvel at how the first european immigrants could bear to be in those things for 4 months), check out the maritime museum, and then have dinner at Etheridges (get a reservation). I don't think the Andy Griffith homeplace is open to the public (But you can drive by on your way to ...)

There's a really nice aquarium in the same area - lots of petting and big glass tanks and other fun stuff.

Head north from Duck (towards the lighthouse and then Corolla) and you might see wild horses. We also used to tour beach houses for sale.

But honestly, most of our best times were at the beach. We'd build sand castles, catch and count the mole crabs and shove them into the walls of the castle and watch them burrow down. We'd go out just past the breaking waves and bob up and down with each swell, creating our own wave-size classification system, and just having fun. That's my best beach memory with my father - out beyond the breakers, jumping up over each hump, just hanging out.
posted by julen at 6:09 PM on July 18, 2006

I have taken my kids there twice in the last four years when they were 5,6 and 7 and then when they were 7,8 and 9. We had a blast. We went to the Kitty Hawk museum and climbed to the top (not hard or high) of the sand dune from which the Bros made their first flight. We went to mini golf as a previous poster said. We went to the beach and the pool everyday. We rented bikes for the week and rode into town and around the local streets. We went to the movies when it rained and took them out to family friendly restaurants (lots of chicken fingersfrenchfrieshamburgernoodle type places. In general, the kids had a blast. We had quality family time and relaxed. Playing board games in the late afternoon at the rentl house was a big plus. We had a babysitter we found from a local agency one or two nights each week and we went out as a couple of Gunns sans the little dudes.

I second everything Julen said. The wild horses are neat and driving around locally is fun. The hardest time is check-in day. Usually Saturday (or Sunday) there is traffic coming and going and the grocery store is packed with families filling up on staples and the weeks worth of junk. There are also go-karts in kitty hawk and t-shirt shops to browse. There is a NASCAR store in Kitty hawk too which is right up the Gunn boy's alley.

The beach cannot be beat.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:05 PM on July 18, 2006

My family owned a beach house in duck for about 10 years and I spent just about every summer there during that time. I think the best activity is just kicking it on the beach. As long as the weather is favorable, building sand castles, jumping waves, etc... should be a great time for the kids. Rent or buy some inexpensive body boards and skim boards. Also, grab a fishing rod and fish right from the beach. I'll ussually just chill out until I see the pelicans coming up the beach then I'd paddle out on my surf board and fish right there sitting on my board just past the breakers. The first time you pull in a sand shark the kids are guaranteed to freak out.

The lighthouse a little way north in Carolla is very nice and fun to climb. When you get north of Carolla you can drive on the beach too, but a 4 wheel drive is recommended. In Carolla they have wild pony's too, but, remember that it is illegal to approach or feed them.

If you head down south about 20 or 30 minutes you'll get to Kitty Hawk. Here you can visit the Wright Brothers Memorial, which has a replica of the plane. Further south you'll find Jockey's Ridge which is large living sand dune. Across the street from Jockey's Ridge there is Kitty Hawk Kites (they also have a location in duck but the Kitty Hawk one is the big one) here they have thousand of kites in all kinds of shapes and sizes. You can also take a hand gliding lesson on the dunes.

Further south still you'll get to the world famous Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. A few years ago they moved it down the beach to escape the encroaching ocean. It was the largest free masonry structure to ever be moved. It took them all summer to go about a mile.

Further south still and you can take the ferry over to Okrakoke. This is a very isolated island where the locals still speak their own dialect. The whole excursion down there from Duck is going to eat up a whole day though.

Manteo is also another island in the sound that is worth the visit, you're wife will probably enjoy shopping there on the water front and they have some old ships docked there of historical importance.

For food, hit up Pig Man's BBQ and Capt'n Franks for great lunches. The Black Pelican serves up a pretty good seafood dinner too. Our family ussually hits up the seafood stands on the way into town just across the bridge. There is one on the right that is just a shack but has fantastic seafood.

Anyway, there is tons of stuff to do on the OBX. But, my favorite thing to do is kick it on the beach with a cold beer. Have fun, I'm hoping to be back in September.
posted by trbrts at 7:57 PM on July 18, 2006

Oh, as far as grocery's go, bring enough food down in a cooler for the first day or two then hit the store on Monday morning and you'll be in and out in no time. Tommy's market in Duck has good stuff but is expensive. The best place to go is probably the food lion just past the bridge.
posted by trbrts at 7:58 PM on July 18, 2006

I second Capt. Frank's.

The Kitty Hawk Kites shop is also a giant blast for kids. When I was young, I got an inexpensive ($50 is inexpensive as far as stunt kites go, at least) stunt kite and spent days just flying it at the HUGE open field at the Wright Bros memorial. The conditions are perfect for kites (sustainable wind, few violent gusts). Even at $50 for an impractical toy, just using it that vacation week is enough to justify the cost. The Kite shop also has a lot of unique toys, as well. It seemed to me that they saved all the best stuff for the beach's toy store.

There are also alot of mini-golf places which are awesome for kids. Not as many as there used to be, though. ; - (
posted by cowbellemoo at 9:35 PM on July 18, 2006

We spend a week in Duck every 4th of July. My job is to go to the Wee Winks store and get the newspapers every morning.

I second many of the comments above.

The wild horses in Carolla is nice for kids, if you can keep your young one happy. We paid for a tour by a local and it made all the difference.

Jockey Ridge is great for the 5 & 7 year olds. Bringing a kite is a good idea.

Just south of Duck at the 12 is the Kitty Hawk pier with a old school video arcade.

If you go south down the 12 more, there are a few minature golf places that the kids might like as well.
posted by Argyle at 9:57 PM on July 18, 2006

If you crave some Kangaroo burgers, take a longish drive down to Hatteras and lunch at the Down Under. (In the town called Waves.)
posted by beagle at 5:23 AM on July 19, 2006

I believe that they have just opened a nature center at the park near the Whalehead Club, which is right next to the Corolla lighthouse. The North Carolina Aquarium at Roanoke Island (about 1/2 hour south of Duck) is great for kids, particularly on a rainy day. Our sons could spend hours at the ray tank, petting the rays and hordeshoe crabs.

If you're up for a longer car ride, the Ocracoke ferry was also fun for our little guys.

For food, the Duck Deli has great BBQ, and Captain Frank's has outstanding hotdogs.
posted by flyingrock at 5:35 AM on July 19, 2006

Well, the "horseshoe" crabs are fun, too. :)
posted by flyingrock at 5:36 AM on July 19, 2006

Whoa! Someone mentioned Brew Thru! That's the only drive-thru liquor store I've ever remembered, even though I have probably seen others. If you're anything like my Dad, you'll leave the kids with lasting memories; loading various 18-packs of beer into the back of the car so you can get blasted while they complain about the millions of mosquitos which seem to propigate around Duck and love the sweet blood of Northeastern children.

When I was 10, I really liked flying kites at Kitty Hawk. I remember a kite store somewhere in Duck that sold various science-toy trinkets and fireworks, too. No idea what the name was or where in Duck... I remember many places sold kites, however!
posted by jsteffa at 7:03 AM on July 19, 2006

Kids that age like the beach best, I think. Since you'll probably wind up spending a lot of time on the sand, be prepared with an umbrella, chair and cooler.

The skeeters can be terrible, depending on the wind -- also, beware of horseflies.
posted by Rash at 8:21 AM on July 19, 2006

Oh yeah, I just remembered. If it is raining the Aquarium in Manteo is pretty fun. They have a tank where kids can reach in and touch Horseshoe Crabs and star fish.
posted by trbrts at 8:36 AM on July 19, 2006

kites at Kitty Hawk, then roll down the dune! Take the ferry to Okracoke Island.
posted by iurodivii at 12:33 PM on July 19, 2006

Response by poster: Wow, these are great. Key takeaways:

1 - Kites. We'll be bringing our 2 functioning stunt kites and probably buy another while we're there (something of a tradition-to-be) Kites at Kitty Hawk is brilliant; I'll have to remember that.

2 - Lots of bugspray / sunscreen. Check. Umbrella / tent will also be good to remember.

3 - Boogie boards!!!

4 - Cooler of staples for 1st day or two to skip the rush, check. Great idea.

5 - Mini golf might be a bit old for everyone but the 7-year-old, but I bet she'd love an hour or two away from the smaller kids. We'll give that a whirl.

6 - Ferry - absolutely.

7 - Acquarium - absolutely.

OK, that oughtta cover the week (with various and sundry impulse moments like the wild horse tour, restaurants, hang gliding lessons, etc. to fill the gaps.) I can hardly wait!

Many thanks to everyone for the input. I'll take the laptop and be sure to mark favorites as they're experienced.

Which reminds me, if the beach house doesn't have internet (seems unlikely, but you never know) is there public WiFi access anywhere in the vicinity that you know of?

posted by ZakDaddy at 7:23 PM on July 19, 2006

Our regular house in Duck (Carolina Dunes) does not have a high-speed Internet connection, but some enterprising company has apparently set up wireless hotspots throughout Duck that were accessible from most rooms of the house. The fees were fairly steep ($40 for the week, I believe), but the service was reliable. The sign-up page came up automatically when I searched for available wireless networks. Hope this helps.

Googling for Outer Banks hotspots will produce a ton of pay spots, but none right in Duck IIRC.
posted by flyingrock at 8:21 AM on July 20, 2006

Response by poster: Interestingly enough, there are a couple of (unsecured) access points within easy reach of the house we're in, so hooray. Posting from there now, as a matter of fact. Tomorrow, the fun begins!
posted by ZakDaddy at 7:19 PM on July 22, 2006

Best answer: So, we're back. Instead of marking 11 favorite answers, I'll put what we did here and mark my own. I hope that's allowed.

1 - The beach *is* great, although I like my water a teensy bit warmer. My oldest had a blast (learned to bodysurf / boogieboard this year) and the littler ones liked to chase and be chased by waves.

2 - The ferry to Okracoke was a big hit, although the drive was long-ish. I didn't realize we were 70 (!!!) miles away. I wish we'd been able to stay longer and explore the island a little bit. Maybe next time we'll just stay on Okracoke and be done with it.

3 - The two older girls and I climbed the Hatteras light station, all 257 steps. The girls loved the adventure, and the view was magnificent.

4 - The Roanoke Island Festival Park (horrible website, nice park / museum / etc.) was pretty neat. The kids enjoyed trying on olden-style clothes, working with the hand tools in the camp and exploring on the Elizabeth II.

5 - The Black Pelican. Mmmmmmmm.

6 - I've discovered a new fish! Wahoo is a very tasty whitefish, much denser than, say, Captain D's (I guess that's cod?) with a subtle flavor, deee-lish lightly breaded and deep fried at Capt'n Franks (get there before 11:55 AM to avoid long lines and tight parking)

We stopped at Jockey's Ridge but the windblown sand was too much for little legs and eyes, so that was a bust. Maybe next year.

Wish we'd done:

1 - Wild ponies in Carolla

2 - The aquarium -- we drove by on a rainy day and it was *packed*.

3 - Mini golf. The 2 littlest are too young yet; next year's a better bet.

4 - Brew-threw.

Again, many thanks to all for your contributions, and helping me to make this a great vacation!

posted by ZakDaddy at 6:45 PM on July 30, 2006

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