October can be one of the best times to visit the Albemarle Sound and the Outer Banks. Autumn ushers in cooler weather, subtle fall colors and secluded beaches. WaveLINKS recently hit the road on a sound-to-sea day trip filled with yummy food, hiking adventures and seasonal discoveries.
1st stop: Belcross Bake Shoppe
The River City Cycling Club includes this delightful bakery along their 33-mile Tarwheel route from Elizabeth City through Camden, NC. After trying one of the bakery’s famous sweet potato biscuits, I found myself willing to extend the distance and cycle all the way from Edenton! Check out their popular ham & cheese or bacon & cheese pinwheel biscuits specially baked on Tuesdays only. Or pick up some their takeout baked goods and sweet treats too. Lunch specials include Shepherds pie, biscuit potpie and a fiesta taco salad. Family owned and very friendly service!
Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve
According to the Nature Conservancy, which owns and manages the preserve, Nags Head Woods is one of North Carolina’s most significant natural areas and one of the Outer Banks’ most important community resources. The 1,400-acre preserve features a variety of fauna and flora including a maritime deciduous forest, a maritime shrub forest, several interdunal ponds, more than 50 species of birds and over 300 species of plants. The ancient wooded dunes afford a steep contrast to the adjacent seaside landscape. Large holly and beech trees remind me of the forested coves in the southern Appalachians.
The preserve offers several hiking and wildlife viewing opportunities – a .5-mile handicap accessible loop trail to longer, more strenuous hikes of up to five miles. We opted to combine a couple of trails including the scenic Roanoke and Discovery Trails. From the visitor’s center parking lot, the trail immediately introduces you to the lush, wooded dunes and fresh water ponds throughout the forest. We picked up the Roanoke Trail after crossing over the sandy Old Nags Head Rd. The 1.5-mile out and back trail meanders through the salt marsh, crosses over a board walk and ends at a beautiful beach and overlook along the Roanoke Sound.
Sorry but we can’t give away all of our secrets! Here’s a hint though, south of milepost 16, beyond the vacation rentals and north of the Bodie Island Lighthouse. Some O’bankers call autumn the tranquil season or the season of tranquility. Sounds good to me especially when I find convenient parking, vacant beaches and a Carolina blue sky all to my lonesome. This is the perfect season to pack a lunch or stop by the deli at Kill Devil Hills Stop N Shop and grab a beach lunch to go. Either way, you won’t be disappointed with your beachside picnic.
I recently heard that the general rule of thumb for the return of migrating Tundra Swans to the Albemarle Peninsula is the first full moon in November. The month before begins another seasonal ritual when southbound boaters sail toward southern latitudes along the Intracoastal Waterway (IRC). My wife and I witnessed this funky phenomenon while taking the road less traveled to Coinjock Marina and Restaurant. Happenstance can lead travelers to some of the most entertaining adventures and this was definitely the case as we enjoyed an autumn sunset while dining along the waterfront of the IRC. The captains and the deckhands amusingly provided the entertainment for the evening. We heard tall tales from the sea. One young sailor talked about snow on the bow just a few weeks ago after he set sail from New England. Another captain and his wife shared adventures of their four-week odyssey and “loose” plans to sail to “Key West and beyond!” All the while, deckhands offered their assistance along the marina’s long fixed face dock.
Coinjock Marina & Restaurant is a mariner’s delight and a favorite stopover for boats making the “cut” between the Currituck Sound and the North River, which empties into the Albemarle Sound. Part of the attraction is the friendly customer service but some of it is the restaurant’s reputation for fine food and drink. Boaters often call in advanced dinner orders for its famous 32 oz. prime rib.
My wife and I chose a selection of specials including their Hatteras Clam Chowder, a ‘skewered’ catch-of-the-day sampler of tuna, shrimp and scallops, along with a tasty appetizer of lump crab cakes. During our meal, over 15 boats came in to dock and nearly all of those on deck had a cheerful smile on their face but no shoes on their feet!
Our day trip along the north side of the Albemarle could be charted exactly like one of the salty dog’s take on his day on the ICW. “Eight bells and all’s well!”