For decades, Northerners have flocked to the Outer Banks, the string of barrier islands that stretches along most of North Carolina’s coastline. But it’s high time Charlotteans get in on the action, too. Sure, it’s about an eight-hour drive, but Duck is also one of the only beaches on the East Coast with a lax leash law, which means pups can enjoy some serious play time. Couple that with a quaint town full of shops, galleries, a Four Diamond resort and spa, and bay-side golf courses, and Duck makes for a perfect beach getaway for couples and families. —B. M.
➼ WHAT’S NEW:
Duck escaped much of Hurricane Irene’s wrath in 2011 and rebuilt some of the pathways that bikers, runners, and in-line skaters love to enjoy.
➼ STAY HERE:
The Sanderling Resort & Spa (rentals from $600 per night, rooms from $129 per night) boasts oceanfront and oceanside rental properties that can accommodate up to sixteen people as well as rooms perfect for families of four. Staff sets up guests’ beach chairs and umbrellas each day while vacationers can enjoy the two pools, tennis courts, restaurants, and spa. 877-650-4812, thesanderling.net
➼ OR HERE:
Rent a home for the week through one of the many rental companies including Twiddy & Company Realtors (twiddy.com) and Carolina Designs Realty (carolinadesigns.com).
➼ WHERE TO DRINK:
Quaff a cocktail at Aqua Restaurant & Spa (252-261-9700, restaurantsouterbanks.com), which offers great people watching.
➼ WHERE THE LOCALS EAT:
Head to Corolla for locally-caught seafood at Blue Water Seafood Market (252-453-9921, bluewaterseafoodmarket.com) and bring it back to cook in your vacation rental. Or try Duck Deli (252-261-3354), which features eastern-style barbecue and all the appropriate fixins.
➼ WHERE TO SHOP:
Peruse the racks at Barr-EE Station (252-261-1650, barreestation.com) where you can find Havaianas sandals and discounted items from J. Crew or pick up a hammock or porch swing at Nags Head Hammocks (252-261-1062, nagsheadhammocks.com) to hang in your backyard.
➼ FOR THE KIDS:
Rent a Jeep for the afternoon and drive the beach in Corolla where there’s a good chance you’ll catch a glimpse of some wild horses.
➼ FOR THE ADULTS:
Hop on a Weta Trimaran—similar to a catamaran—for the afternoon through Nor’Banks Sailing ($75 per hour, norbanks.com). Or book a sunset cruise for up to six people and watch the sun go down in secluded Currituck Sound ($210 per hour, norbanks.com).