From News & Observer 6 easy trips to the coast
Hoping to save money, gas and travel time? There's still time to plan a summer vacation
By John Bordsen - The Charlotte Observer
NAGS HEAD/KITTY HAWK
DISTANCE (FROM RALEIGH): About 3 hours (207 miles), one way.
GOTTA SEE: Wright Brothers National Memorial (252-441-7430; www.nps.gov/wrbr) is big-time history on the cheap:
$4 for the museum/grounds.
The Black Pelican restaurant/bar (3848 Virginia Dare Trail) is in one of the few buildings from 1903 still standing.
Dinner: $14-$20; (252-261-3171; www.blackpelican.com)
TOTALLY FREE: Climb the sand dunes and hike the trails at Jockey's Ridge State Park. Hike through Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve. Details: 252-441-2525.
GOTTA TRY: Across from Jockey's Ridge is Kitty Hawk Kites/Carolina Outdoors, the place to buy your kite, try their climbing wall or take hang-gliding lessons. Details: 252-441-4124; www.kittyhawkkites.com.
DETAILS: Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, 704 S. U.S. 64-264, Manteo, N.C. 27954; 877-629-4386; www.outerbanks.org. Map of Kill Devil Hills with visitor information: www.kdhnc.com.
DISTANCE: About 2 hours (132 miles), one way.
GOTTA SEE: Battleship North Carolina, permanently docked in Cape Fear River;
you can easily spend a day there soaking up military history ($12; $6 for ages 6-11; 910-251-5797; www.battleshipnc.com).
Kids still have some pep? Check the Serpentarium, downtown on Orange Street
-- it's an indoor reptile park with lots of cool creepy residents ($8; 910-762-1669; www.capefearserpentarium.com.).
For the grown-ups: Check out the vibrant downtown scene, with lots of good bars, shopping and restaurants.
TOTALLY FREE: South of Wilmington at Kure Beach, visit Fort Fisher, the Civil War bastion whose fate was decided in the largest amphibious invasion before D-Day. (910-458-5538).
DETAILS: Cape Fear Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau, 24 N. Third St., Wilmington; 800-222-4757; www.cape-fear.nc.us.
DISTANCE: About 2 hours (130 miles), one way.
GOTTA SEE: Tryon Palace, built for the last royal governor, burned to the ground in 1798.
Its blueprints were discovered in the 1940s and a replica was built on the same spot.
Guides in colonial costume take you through the place; explore the gardens on your own.
Allow a half-day for this and related buildings.
($15; $6 for school-age kids; discounts available.
Through Labor Day, open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Saturday; 252-514-4900;
Tryon Palace Home .)
TOTALLY FREE: Croatan National Forest (252-638-5628; http://ncnatural.com/NCUSFS/Croatan) is a sprawling coastal/inland preserve that has hiking trails, boat launches, picnic areas and campgrounds (the rustic campgrounds are no charge). The forest's three developed trails range from half-mile to 20 miles in length.
DETAILS: Craven County Convention & Visitors Bureau, 314 S. Front St., New Bern; 800-437-5767; www.visitnewbern.com
DISTANCE: About 3.25 hours (170 miles), one way.
GOTTA SEE: N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores (Atlantic Beach; $8; $6 for ages 6-17; 866-294-3477;
www.ncaquariums.com/pks/pksindex.htm) recently tripled its size.
GOTTA TRY: Charter a boat and fish; rent a board and surf at Bogue Sound.
TOTALLY FREE: N.C. Maritime Museum (315 Front St., Beaufort; 252-728-7317; www.ncmaritimemuseum.org) has artifacts recovered from the shipwreck believed to be the Queen Anne's Revenge, the flagship of the pirate Blackbeard. Fort Macon State Park (Atlantic Beach; 252-726-3775; www.clis.com/friends) was a coastal fortification built in the 1820s and 1830s at the eastern tip of Bogue Bank. Tourst are self-guided.
DETAILS: Carteret County Tourism, P.O. Box 1406, Morehead City; 800-786-6962; www.crystalcoastnc.org.
BALD HEAD ISLAND
DISTANCE: About 3 hours (166 miles), one way.
GOTTA SEE: You can do a day trip by taking the ferry ($15 round trip),
then renting a golf cart at Riverside Adventure Company, right where the ferry lands.
Best bet is to rent a cottage or house -- $200 per night and up -- on the beach,
in the forest or on the marsh. (Rental info at www.baldheadisland.com/vacations.)
This summer's Gas-Free Getaway promotion: Rent a place for a week and receive a gas card worth $150 (info on Web site).
Hungry? Two restaurants are in the harbor, two at private clubs (when you rent, you get temporary membership/access to both).
Most popular is Eb & Flo's, at the harbor ($9-$20).
Climb to the top of Old Baldy, the state's oldest lighthouse ($3).
TOTALLY FREE: Slightly more than 83 percent of the 12,000-acre island is given over to nature. The whole island is ringed by beaches, marshes and creeks. Go biking, hiking, in-line skating, fishing, crabbing, swimming or beachcombing.
DETAILS: 800-432-7368; Bald Head Island
DISTANCE: About 31/4 hours (190 miles), one way.
GOTTA SEE: Roanoke Island is the site of the first British colony on the North American mainland.
Settlers dropped off there in 1587 disappeared -- the famed "Lost Colony.
" The outdoor drama "The Lost Colony" tells the story of the ill-fated settlers at the Waterside Theatre ($16-$20,
$8 for kids; www.thelostcolony.org). The two-hour history drama begins at 8:30 p.m. Sunday-Friday;
closed Saturday, through Aug. 20.
Adjacent 10.5-acre Elizabethan Gardens ($8, $5 for kids; www.elizabethangardens.org) has the moody Sunken Garden,
other gardens and bloom-lined walks.
Island's main town, Manteo, is on Shallowbag Bay, as is Roanoke Island Festival Park (www.roanokeisland.com);
$8 ($5 for kids) -- gets you in its Adventure Museum and aboard the Elizabeth II, the 1580s-style ship.
TOTALLY FREE: Outdoor play and Elizabethan Gardens adjoin the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site (www.nps.gov/fora). Walk Manteo's downtown.
DETAILS: Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, One Visitors Center Circle, Manteo; 800-446-6262; www.outerbanks.org.