SCUBA Dive the ‘Graveyard of the Atlantic’ in the Southern Outer Banks
Titan, a tug boat, was sunk as part of N.C.’s Artificial Reefs Program. Photo: KAREN DOODY
DISTANCE: 315 miles, 5 hours to Atlantic Beach
ADVENTURE LEVEL: 8 (The ocean is a deep, dark, scary place.)
Off North Carolina’s coast lies an underwater graveyard of more than 2,000 ships—many sunk in desperation by crew members trying to avoid capture, while others were submerged deliberately to revitalize the coral reef. During World War II, German U-boats often sunk merchant vessels carrying necessities to northern states, but some didn’t make it back to Europe. These ocean-floor treasures have sparked a surge in visits from diving enthusiasts seeking to explore the mysteries of the “Graveyard of the Atlantic,” and the southern Outer Banks is one of the best places to experience the thrill of the dive.
Choose from an array of diving charters such as Olympus Dive Center, owned by veteran diver Robert Purifoy. His most memorable dive: a German U-boat. “It’s pretty amazing,” he says. “Old wrecks are like a puzzle—you have to try to put it all together to figure out what you’re looking at. U-boats are intact, in good shape, so there’s no doubt [when you see it] that it’s a German U-boat.”
Once SCUBA certified (a four-day, $340 class), charter a full- or half-day dive and find your favorite. Tip: consider a mid-week dive, when fewer divers converge on the wreckage. —V. B.
REST UP: Historic Beaufort, North Carolina, offers beautiful B&Bs, but for the most convenient beach access (and sunset views), go the home-rental route. Local vacation rental agencies, such as Emerald Isle Realty, offer hundreds of accommodations to groups of all sizes—from quaint beach cottages to large, impressive villas, such as Atlantis, a three-story, six-bedroom home in Indian Beach equipped with a pool, hot tub, and rec room
GEAR UP: Olympus Dive Center will help you with all of the necessary SCUBA gear, but for everything else you might want to try, hit up Hot Wax Surf Shop in Emerald Isle, where owner and veteran surfer Mike Crews and his friendly staff will help.
REFUEL: Don’t let the fun, relaxed atmosphere at Amos Mosquito’s fool you: the menu includes some serious seafood dishes, including fresh sushi. Not a fish fan? The restaurant also serves up savory dishes from prime rib to jerk chicken. For dessert, don’t pass up the make-at-your-table s’mores.
CHICKEN? Take a deep breath and climb the 207 steps that wind to the top of Cape Lookout Lighthouse on Harkers Island. One of only two lighthouses in North Carolina that you can climb (Hatteras being the other), the trek isn’t for the faint of heart. Charter a ferry and, on the ride over, keep your eyes on the water and you might spot whale tails, dolphins playing, or sea turtles popping up their heads. The view from the lighthouse is spectacular, and you could even catch a glimpse of the famed wild horses running on Shackleford Banks. Adventure Level: 3 (OK, technically it’s just climbing stairs, but you have to be in great shape—and forget it if you’re afraid of heights.)