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Introducing Outer Banks

Cut off from the mainland by the Intercoastal Waterway, the Outer Banks are fragile ribbons of sand that trace the contours of the coastline for 100 miles. From north to south, the barrier islands of Bodie, Roanoke, Hatteras and Ocracoke, essentially large sandbars, are linked by bridges and ferries. The quiet, far northern communities of Corrola, Duck and Southern Shores are popular with well-heeled vacationers and retirees. The nearly conti­guous Bodie Island towns of Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head are heavily developed and more populist in nature, with fried fish joints, outdoor bars, motels and dozens of sandals ‘n’ sunblock shops. Roanoke Island, west of Bodie Island, is home to the tiny fishing village of Wanchese and the town of Manteo, home to the ‘Lost Colony, ’ whose British settler inhabitants disappeared without a trace in the 1580s. Further south, Hatteras Island is a protected national seashore with a few small villages and a wild, windswept beauty. At the tail end of the banks, wild ponies run free and salty old Bankers shuck oysters and weave hammocks on Ocracoke Island, accessible only by ferry.

Nearly 2000 ships have run aground on hidden shoals around the Outer Banks in the past 450-odd years, giving the area the name ‘The Graveyard of the Atlantic’ and making it a popular destination for shipwreck divers.

The town of Edenton, on the west end of the Albermarle Sound, has a lovely Colonial-era waterfront and makes a nice stop off on the way to the Banks. See the visitor center (252-482-2637; www.edenton.org; 108 N Broad St; 9am-5pm Mon-Sat, 1-4pm Sun) for accommodations and a self-guided-tour map.