Monday, September 14, 2009
Just back from a week on the Outer Banks (OBX) of North Carolina – Duck, NC. We usually go to Ocracoke Island at the southern end of OBX, but that added two to three hours to the trip, and many people talked about how much they liked Duck, so we made reservations and loaded up the dog and headed to Duck.
First, the rental house had a great location: two blocks from the ocean (I could hear the waves and see them from the rooftop deck), and about four blocks from the main "downtown" part of Duck. We rode our bicycles everywhere.
Secondly, I worked on revisions for the next Derek Mason Mystery. I'm going to print it again and get the red pen going. After this revision, I'll be ready to ship it to my first readers to get their critiques.
Back to the OBX since I'm still in that vacation state of mind... Some recommendations & commentary for your Duck vacation:
NC Highway 12 shoots straight up the islands. North of Kitty Hawk, it's the only main road. That's nice and not so nice. It can be really busy like it was on Labor Day. We had difficulty crossing the two-lane road on bikes and on foot. But after Labor Day, the crowd thinned and Duck took on a small town feel.
Live oaks and pines shade the streets of Duck and reminded me a little of Carmel-by-the-Sea – okay just a very little. On the west side of NC 12 (Duck Road), the Currituck Sound nestles up to shops and restaurants for great sunsets. To the east side, the road is lined with shops and restaurants too, but behind them are several blocks of beach houses that overlook the Atlantic. There is no public access to the beaches in Duck, so you have to be staying in a neighborhood to use the access paths (no parking at the paths).
The Outer Banks are family-oriented. Even though we timed the week so that school had started for the kiddies, there were a number of children running around, mostly under school age. Some of the restaurants had exhausted toddlers wiggling and whining at their parents table at nine o'clock at night (hint: young children get tired and bored with adult dinner conservation). Along with the young parents, Baby Boomers enjoyed the town and so did those of us somewhere in between. It was a nice mix of age groups. I'm not sure that's true all year round with summer bringing in more older kids and college students.
Drinking, dining, shopping, swimming, bike riding, kayaking, parasailing, surfing, fishing are all popular in Duck. I did the first five. A low pressure rambled up the shore and brought several days of rain and the ocean was too rough for any human activity.
I checked out two great book stores, Island Books and Duck's Cottage Coffee & Bookshop.
Island Books (http://www.islandbooksobx.com/) is in the Scarborough Faire Shoppes. The place is packed with books and a knowledgeable staff. It's easy to spend a few rainy hours in there.
Duck's Cottage Coffee & Bookstore (http://www.duckscottage.com/) is located at the Waterfront Shops. The coffee is wonderful and creates an aroma to enjoy while lingering among the books. Enjoy the historic home's front porch to drink coffee and read a good book. They host a book club too.
Greenleaf Gallery (www.outer-banks.com/greenleaf/) is really the only fine art gallery in Duck. Other stores have some crafts, but if you're a serious art enthusiast, you need to visit Greenleaf. It is next door to Scarborough Faire Shoppes and across from Aqua S Restaurant & Spa.
The two exceptional restaurants are: Red Sky Café and Aqua S.
Red Sky Café (http://www.redskycafe.com/) was recommended to me by a friend. We ate there a couple of times and I have to say it would be worth the trip alone. I had a chef's special one night of Mediterranean Scallops (or some name like that) that had scallops with feta cheese and olives. This was the best meal I have had in a long time. We went back and I had the Caribbean Jerk Mahi with mango salsa and Brad had the Halibut with Grits – both delicious without overwhelming the taste and texture of the seafood. Ask to be seated at one of Victor's tables, great server and bartender.
Aqua S (http://www.aquasrestaurant.com/) was on our last day. Just by chance we decided to try it for lunch. The fish was fried and I didn't want a crab cake, so I ordered a Veggie Burger. That veggie burger was the best one I've ever had: fava beans, lentils and garbanzo beans with the right amount of spices. I recommend it when you've had enough seafood.
Duck turned out to be a relaxing vacation. Rainy days and sunny days gave some nice variety. I can't say Duck is better than Ocracoke Island at the other end of the OBX, just different. Duck has a bit more shopping and restaurants – more tourist-oriented. Ocracoke is still a fishing village that's hard to get to. Duck is just a short drive from the other OBX towns if you want to enjoy more activities, but I found a week there provided plenty of relaxation and entertainment.
It even helped me finish a draft of the novel.