Although cooler, rainy weather prevented us from exploring the renowned beaches of the Southern Outer Banks of North Carolina, we still found plenty to do in this beautiful area known as the Ponchos at the ready, we set out by boat to see the sole inhabitants of nine-mile-long Shackleford Banks, wild Spanish horses whose ancestors swam to shore from a shipwreck 400 years ago. Visitors can wander the small island for a closer look, although the only access is by private boat or ferry.
Next stop was Cape Lookout, where high schools kids on a field trip frolicked in the surf as we climbed our way up to the top of the 150-year-old Cape Lookout lighthouse, nicknamed the diamond lady for its distinctive black-and-white pattern.
It’s hardly a marketing slogan, but the Crystal Coast is known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic because of all the sunken ships beneath its pretty blue waters. Not being a diver myself, I didn’t venture down to see the sunken German U-boat or one of Blackbeard the Pirate’s ships, but I did enjoy the Living Shipwreck in the North Carolina Aquarium, a replica of U-352, a WW II German submarine.
We grazed the branches of majestic live oak trees and I admired the lovely 18th-century homes from the top of our double decker bus as we toured the historic town of Beaufort, founded in 1709. I gave thanks to modern medicine after visiting the 1859 Apothecary Shop at the Beaufort Historic Site, where we saw cases of rather frightening original prescriptions and surgical instruments.
After a full day of exploration we were ready to unwind with a delicious seafood dinner on a screened-in porch overlooking Bogue Sound at Amos Mosquito’s, with a finale of S’mores, roasted over our own miniature “campfire.” I opted out of participating in the after-dinner karaoke in the bar, but my song choice would be easy — “Carolina on My Mind.”