Outer Banks Lighthouses (OBXL) Bike Tour

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The unique geography of eastern North Carolina’s barriers islands and coastal plains makes the state’s Outer Banks an ideal locale for bike touring and a first-rate destination for a cycling vacation. Consisting of nearly level terrain with numerous bike paths and wide paved shoulders throughout the entire length of the route’s 469-mile loop, the OBXL Bike Tour provides the opportunity to pedal almost effortlessly over some of the flattest and most gentle sea-level terrain you’ll find anywhere. For these reasons the OBXL Bike Tour is a good choice for novice and even first-time bicycle vacationers in search of either an easy introduction to bike touring, or just a one-time experience. It is also well-suited for more experienced cyclists who would rather steer clear of spending a significant portion of their cycling vacation climbing hills. In fact, climbing the combined 905 steps to the tops of various lighthouses along the way will be the only steep ascents experienced on The OBXL Bike Tour.

The network of historic lighthouses along the route are each unique and evenly spaced along the coast for navigational purposes, which conveniently allows riders to continue experiencing new and diverse lighthouses throughout the tour. The lighthouses range from 75 to 225 feet tall, and are as varied in appearance, purpose and history as they are in height. Along the way, riders will be able to climb the same stairs the original light-keepers climbed, see views of the shoreline and ocean much as they existed when the lighthouses were built, and immerse themselves in seafaring history as they learn about each of the unique lights, as well as the locations and people which they served.

The OBXL Bike Tour is a relaxing yet active tour that allows riders to leisurely follow amazingly scenic routes along mile after mile of uninterrupted ocean shoreline, as well as numerous inlets, marshes, rivers, ponds, pastures, and the largest natural lake in the state. Tour riders will also be able to experience many of the other natural attractions of the region, such as pristine sand dunes, wildlife refuges, bird sanctuaries, and national forests. Historic sites, state parks, and national memorials are also available to visit along the route. And as the tour route proceeds through numerous coastal towns and hamlets, there are plenty of opportunities to take breaks and go kayaking, paddle-boarding, hiking, kite flying, or indulging oneself with fresh local seafood or craft-brewed beer. And simply relaxing on the beach will be possible throughout most of the tour.

You can leave your watch off the list of things to bring when you’re packing your panniers, because this self-paced tour allows riders to relish in the flexible schedule and relaxed pace of island life, where time is measured by the sun and tides. And whether you’re basking in the immense expanse of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, navigating past indigenous flora and wildlife, or pedaling through long straight stretches of the open road, there is almost always a gentle breeze blowing in your face regardless of the direction in which you’re heading. And the ever-present influence of salt air serves to enhance the authentic coastal experience.
In the following pages and in the additional documents you’ll receive you will find a daily itinerary, an equipment list of things to consider bringing, step-by-step directions, and additional details and miscellaneous information. So whether this is your first bicycle tour or just your next one, start planning and training now to participate. It just might help you find what you didn’t even know you’ve been looking for.

Day 1 – Currituck Beach Lighthouse to Bodie Island Lighthouse
(42.9 miles / 430 steps)

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Beginning at the Tar Heel State’s northernmost lighthouse, our bike tour starts off at the Currituck Beach Light (1101 Corolla Village Road, Corolla, NC 27927 / 36.376667°N 75.830833°W), which is located within Currituck Heritage Park in the town of Corolla. In addition to the lighthouse, the park is also home to some of Corolla’s most popular tourist destinations, including the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education, and The Whalehead Club, an incredible 21,000-square-foot-home that has been restored and preserved for public tours. Before pedaling away, riders will enjoy an opportunity to visit the lighthouse, which includes traversing its 220 stairs to reach the view available only at the top. From there riders will be able to see almost all the way to the day’s destination, the Bodie Island Lighthouse, which is a mere 32.5 nautical miles to the south/south-east.

After leaving the lighthouse, a quick breakfast of a doughnut or pastry at The Northern Lights Bakery (1159 Austin Street, Corolla, NC 27927), or perhaps a fresh-made bagel or hot breakfast sandwich at Lighthouse Bagels and Deli (807 Ocean Trail, Corolla, NC 27927) will precede the bulk of the day’s ride. And keep in mind that riding on a bike tour can burn a huge amount of calories, so it’s a good idea to eat often and a lot. We’re going to eat well, so you may not lose a lot of weight during the tour. But you aren’t going to gain any either.

Then beginning in Corolla, the first day’s 43-mile route will proceed by alternating between the Corolla Bike Path and NC Route 12 – South, also known as The Ocean Trail. These routes parallel each other. Along the way, riders will have an opportunity to visit the Pine Island Audubon Sanctuary (300 Audubon Drive, Corolla, NC 27927), as well as the Currituck Banks Coastal Estuarine Reserve at the southern end of the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge (Corolla, NC 27927), before leaving Corolla.

As we exit Currituck County, riders will enter Dare County just prior to arriving in the town of Duck, where we’ll take a break at the Duck Town Boardwalk to enjoy the town’s beautiful beach and wildlife. We’ll then pass through Southern Shores before arriving in Kitty Hawk, where we’ll visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial (1000 N. Croatan Hwy, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948) which commemorates the Wright brothers’ historic first flight in a powered, heavier-than-air vehicle, which took place on the site on December 17, 1903.

We’ll then make a brief stop at the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau (3990, 5230 N. Croatan Hwy, Kitty Hawk, NC 27949) for any guidance, information or updates they have to offer to bike tourists.

It’s then on to lunch and perhaps a few libations at the Outer Banks Brewing Station (600 South Croatan Hwy, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948), a “joint” which was featured on The Food Network TV show “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.” A good lunch followed by a brewery tour will help divide up the day, as well as provide a nice break for riders as they begin getting used to bike touring. And the Brewing Station’s tour in an
interesting one. The pub is committed to lessening its carbon footprint and not only sources local seafood and produce, but also generates its own power using a wind turbine.

After lunch, other attractions and side trips available include going for a walk on the Avalon Fishing Pier (2111 N. Virginia Dare Trail, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948) (Avalon Pier webcam) in Kill Devil Hills, or taking a leisurely hike on the picturesque Sweetgum Swamp Trail, or one of the six other trails, within the nearby Nags Head Woods Preserve (701 West Ocean Acres Drive, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948). Activities such as pirate-themed laser tag, a video game arcade and black light glow-in-the-dark mini golf are also options, and available at Destination Fun (1217 S. Croatan Highway, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948).

Riders will then resume the tour southbound to Jockey’s Ridge State Park (300 W. Carolista Drive, Nags Head, NC 27959). Jockey’s Ridge is home of the tallest active sand dune system in the eastern United States. Nature trails, kite flying, bird watching, and simply sitting back and enjoying incredible views of Albemarle Sound are among the favorite activities of visitors to the park. And ranger-led programs are offered throughout the year. The park also provides outside bathrooms that are typically open from the last frost of spring to the first frost of fall.

For dinner we’ll then stop for some authentic Eastern Carolina-style hand-pulled pork BBQ, or some smoked beef brisket, BBQ chicken, or hickory-smoked and slow-cooked pork spare ribs at the original Sooey’s BBQ and Rib Shack (3919 S. Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC 27959).

Continuing with a short ride south after dinner, we’ll officially enter the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The first day’s ride will end at the second of the lighthouses going south on the Outer Banks, the Bodie Island Light (8210 Bodie Island Lighthouse, Nags Head, NC 27959 / 35.8185°N 75.5633°W). The decision of whether to visit the lighthouse today, and climb its 214 steps, or wait until the following morning and visiting it before departing, will depend on arrival time and the remaining energy level of the riders.

The lighthouse is just 2.7 miles from the Oregon Inlet, an inlet that joins the Pamlico Sound with the Atlantic Ocean, and separates Bodie Island from Pea Island. And it is here, at the Oregon Inlet Campground (Highway 12, Nags Head, NC 27954), which is operated by the, U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Park Service, where riders will spend the night. Alternate accommodations can be made at the Sea Foam Motel (7111 South Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC 27959, Ph. 252-441-7320).

Day 2 – Bodie Island Lighthouse to Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
(43.1 miles / 268 steps)

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Our second day will start out with a hearty breakfast at The Dune Restaurant (7013 S. Croatan Hwy, Nags Head, NC 27959) so that we will be ready for the day’s ride. The breakfast and fruit bar, which is served daily in season and on weekends the rest of the year, is loaded with fresh fruit, pastries, homemade biscuits as well as eggs, grits, bacon, creamed chipped beef and sausage gravy, just to name a few. There are many choices available to order off the menu as well. No one will leave hungry.

The day’s ride will begin with crossing the 2.5-mile Herbert C. Bonner Bridge over the Oregon Inlet from Bodie Island to Pea Island, where we will enter the Outer Banks proper. Then, beginning at the northern end of the 13-mile long Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, riders will enjoy travelling through the 6,000-acre sanctuary consisting of ocean beach, dunes, upland, fresh and brackish water ponds, salt flats, and salt marsh. Elevated observation platforms along the way will be helpful in trying to spot some of the 365 different species of birds, 25 species of mammals, 24 species of reptiles, and five species of amphibians who make Pea Island their home.

The second half of the second day’s ride will take place along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, with the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Pamlico Sound to the west. Nicknamed the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” for its treacherous currents, shoals, and storms, Cape Hatteras has a wealth of history relating to shipwrecks, lighthouses, and the U.S. Lifesaving Service. Along the way we will ride through several small towns and villages such as Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, and Avon, where we will stop for lunch at Oceana’s Bistro (40774 NC-12 Avon, NC 27915). Oceana’s has an expansive menu with enough of a variety of specialty sandwiches, seafood platters, and other entrees to satisfy even the pickiest eater.

Attractions along today’s route include the Chicamacomico Life Saving Station, where visitors can view the historic building and boathouse that housed the service that was the predecessor to the United States Coast Guard, and hear the history of daring ocean rescues by brave men who dedicated their lives to the sea. Also, the Avon Fishing Pier the Buxton Woods Coastal Reserve, the Hatteras Island Visitor Center and Museum of the Sea, and the North Pond Trail are all options.

Today’s ride will conclude at the easternmost point on the Outer Banks, Cape Point, which is the site of the iconic Cape Hatteras Lighthouse (46379 Lighthouse Road, Buxton, NC 27920 / 35°15′01.92″N 75°31′43.74″W). Its 210-foot height makes it the tallest brick lighthouse structure in the United States. And having survived being physically moved away from a deteriorating shoreline, those with enough energy left to climb the 268 steps to the top will be rewarded with one of the best 360-degree ocean views on the east coast.

Dinner at the Lighthouse Sports Bar (47170 Highway 12, Buxton, NC 27920), will be followed by watching whatever game happens to be on, or playing a few games of pool or darts. There is also a full schedule of live music and other events to enjoy, regardless of the time of year.

We’ll stay overnight at the Cape Point Campground (46700 Lighthouse Road, Buxton, NC 27920), another National Park Service facility. Alternately, The Falcon Motel (46854 Highway NC 12, Buxton, NC 27920, Ph. 1-800-635-6911), offers rooms at reasonable rates.

Day 3 – Cape Hatteras Lighthouse to Ocracoke Lighthouse
(36.0 miles)

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We’ll start out the day with breakfast in Frisco at the Gingerbread House Bakery (52715 Hwy 12, Frisco, NC 27936), where customers can choose from an array of fresh house-baked goods including yeast-raised doughnuts, jumbo filled doughnuts, bear claws, cinnamon breakfast buns, apple fritters, and blueberry muffins. Omelets, breakfast sandwiches, a la carte items, and a fresh seasonal fruit bowl are also on the menu. And while we’re at the bakery, it might be a good idea to get some fig cake to go for a snack later in the day. In Ocracoke, figs and fig cake are a prominent part of the town’s cuisine, and the town has an annual fig festival that includes a fig cake contest.

Then, today’s third leg of the tour will start with a 40-minute-long free ferry ride from Hatteras to Ocracoke Island (http://www.ncdot.gov/ferry/, 1-800-293-3779, or Hatteras Ferry: 1-800-368-8949). But before getting in line for the ferry, a quick visit to the nearby Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum (59200 Museum Drive, Hatteras, NC 27943) would be a good idea. The treacherous seas off the Outer Banks and the large number of shipwrecks that have occurred there. And this museum, located at the ferry docks near the United States Coast Guard facility, chronicles much of it. Exhibits on display include artifacts from historic shipwrecks, unique beach finds and locally-carved ship models. It is worth a visit, although it is still a work in progress. The museum is also a great spot for a bathroom break before embarking on the ferry ride to Ocracoke Island.

The island of Ocracoke is located entirely within Hyde County, and has a rich history beginning with Algonquian-speaking Native Americans who occasionally visited but was never permanently settled there. Because of its remote location Ocracoke Island was not permanently settled until 1750, being a pirate haven at times before then, most famously as the location of the pirate Blackbeard’s death in 1718. The island’s history also includes Fort Ocracoke, a Confederate fortification constructed at the beginning of the American Civil War. The octagonal-shaped fort was built on a previous War of 1812 fortification site. Today the island is home to just over 500 residents, but a vacation destination for thousands more.

Upon arriving on Ocracoke Island, a short ride across the island will take us toward the quaint harbor town of Ocracoke in Hyde County.  Along the way we’ll stop for an early lunch at Howard’s Pub (1175 Irvin Garrish Highway, Ocracoke, NC 27960), where one of their award-winning juicy burgers, cooked to order and served with a side of French fries that are hand-cut from choice Idaho potatoes, can be perfectly paired with a choice from their wide variety domestic and international craft brews, including a couple of dozen different North Carolina craft beers. Their expansive menu also offers fresh local seafood; including the island’s only raw bar, soups and salads, char-grilled steaks and fish, pizzas, and a variety of sandwiches which can be enjoyed on the large screened porch with ceiling fans, from a rocking chair on the sky deck while taking in the ocean to sound side views, or in Howard’s Tower, which offers an enclosed view of the island and a quieter place to sit with friends.

Upon arriving in the island’s quirky namesake village, which surrounds Silver Lake Harbor (Silver Lake Harbor webcam), we will visit the Ocracoke Lighthouse (360 Lighthouse Road, Ocracoke, NC 27960 / 35°6′32.3″N 75°59′9.8″W). Built in 1823, Ocracoke Light is the oldest lighthouse in North Carolina, and stands 75 feet tall, with a diameter that narrows from 25 feet at the base to 12 feet at its peak. This lighthouse is not open to the public, but is still well worth a visit. We will then have time for exploring the many quirky shops and museums throughout the village of Ocracoke.

Riders will be able to spend the remainder of the day exploring the island’s various nature trails and beaches. Other activities and points of interest on the island include paddling the calm waters of Silver Lake Harbor and Pamlico Sound, the Ocracoke Pony Pens, a British Cemetery, the Ocracoke Preservation Museum, or a visit to Teach’s Hole Blackbeard Exhibit and Pirate Specialty Shop. An ATV Excursion (P.O. Box 790, Ocracoke, NC 27960, Ph. 252-928-4484) to nearby uninhabited Portsmouth Island is also an option.

For such a relatively small village there are plenty of places to eat in Ocracoke. So finding a good place for dinner will be easy. The hard part will be narrowing down the choices. For that reason riders will be encouraged to keep an eye out during today’s visit, because where we eat dinner on Day 3 will be determined by what the riders find and recommend.

Hammock Hills Nature Trails, which runs through some of the highest points on the island, is an ideal location for enjoying the sunset at the end of the day. And it is conveniently located directly across Highway 12 from the National Park Service’s Ocracoke Campground (4352 Irvin Garrish Highway, Ocracoke, NC 27960), where riders will be staying overnight. Alternative accommodations are available at Pam’s Pelican Bed & Breakfast (1021 Irvin Garrish Highway, Ocracoke Island, NC, Ph. 252-928-1661 or 1-888-7-Pelican), or Blackbeard’s Lodge (P.O. Box 298, 111 Back Road, Ocracoke, NC 27960, Ph. 1-800-892-5314).

Day 4 – Ocracoke Lighthouse to Cape Lookout Lighthouse
(56.7 miles / 207 Steps)

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A quick, casual breakfast at The Fig Tree Bakery and Deli and Sweet Tooth (1015 Irvin Garrish Hwy, Ocracoke, NC 27960-9605) will begin our fourth day. Menu choices include an array of fresh-from-the-oven baked goods, whether it’s something sweet like a cinnamon roll or a savory like a biscuit breakfast sandwich. Other breakfast items like platters and breakfast burritos are options as well.

Today’s leg of the tour begins with a ferry ride from Ocracoke Island across Pamlico Sound to Cedar Island (http://www.ncdot.gov/ferry/, 1-800-BY FERRY (1-800-293-3779) or Cedar Island Ferry, 1-800-856-0343). Upon disembarking the ferry, we’ll cycle through breathtaking salt marsh expanse of the Cedar Island Wildlife Refuge, located on the end of a peninsula marking the southern end of Pamlico Sound in Carteret County.  The 11,000-acre refuge lies approximately five miles west of the Atlantic Ocean, and is comprised of an extensive and undisturbed coastal area serving as home to over 270 species of birds such as the Green Heron, Clapper, Virginia Rail, and Marsh Hawk.

We’ll then ride through some small villages before crossing the bridge to Harker’s Island. Our destinations are the Cape Lookout National Seashore Visitor Center (1800 Island Road, Harkers Island, NC 28531, Ph. 252-728-2250) and the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum (1785 Island Road, Harkers Island, NC 28531), where we’ll gain insights into the area’s relationship to the sea and its local heritage. From there it’s a short transfer to the seaport of Beaufort.

One of the highlights of the day will be the fourth lighthouse of the tour, the Cape Lookout Lighthouse (Cape Lookout Road, Harkers Island, NC 28531 / 34°36′19″N 76°32′10″W). Cape Lookout is a 163-foot high lighthouse located on the Southern Outer Banks, and is the southernmost lighthouse on the Outer Banks and on the tour. The Outer Banks is comprised of the areas of coastal Currituck County, Dare County, and Hyde County. They stretch southward from Sandbridge in Virginia Beach, and are considered by some to reach as far south as Cape Lookout, including portions of Carteret County. Areas south of Cape Lookout in Carteret County are considered the Crystal Coast.

The Cape Lookout Lighthouse is the only such structure in the United States to bear the checkered daymark pattern, intended not only for differentiation between similar light towers, but also to show direction. The center of the black diamonds points in a north-south direction, while the center of the white diamonds points east-west. And it is one of the very few lighthouses that operate during the day, flashing every 15 seconds and visible at least 19 miles out to sea. The lighthouse is open to climbing through self-guided tours. And with 207 steps to the gallery, it is roughly equal to climbing a 12-story building.

After enjoying the last lighthouse we’ll see for the next couple of days, and the second to last one on our tour, we will take a short side trip to the “inner coast” village of Beaufort, which was ranked as “America’s Coolest Small Town” by readers of Budget Travel Magazine. Our time in Beaufort will be our only time on the “Crystal Coast,” the area just south of the Outer Banks.

Much of the meals this week naturally tend to lean toward restaurants specializing, or at least serving, fresh seafood. The lunch for Day 5 will add to the variety of cuisines for the tour. After arriving in Beaufort we’ll eat at Taste of China (1506 Live Oak Street, Beaufort, NC 28516). With a full menu that is bound to include everyone’s favorite Chinese dish, we’ll enjoy what has become one of the seaside city’s dining cornerstones.

Riders will be able to spend some time in Beaufort to enjoy: a leisurely historical walking tour to see sights and landmarks like the Old Burying Ground; visiting the waterfront North Carolina Maritime Museum (315 Front Street, Beaufort, NC 28516); hiking one of the trails of the Rachel Carson Coastal Estuarine Reserve to see the herd of famed wild horses that roam the islands freely; sampling one or more of the award-winning local brews offered at Mill Whistle Brewing (1354 Lennoxville Road, Beaufort, NC 28516-9020) and The Fishtowne Brewhouse (133B Turner St, Beaufort, NC 28516-2138), and/or; simply scoping out the village’s shopping and gallery scene.

We’ll have dinner before leaving Beaufort at Clawson’s Restaurant and Pub (425 Front Street, Beaufort, NC 28516), where, weather permitting, we will define al fresco and enjoy the view (Clawson’s waterfront webcam) over Taylor’s Creek and Carrot Island while we eat.

Because we will staying in a more rural area, and then starting out from there in the morning, riders may want to pick up something for breakfast for Day 5 before leaving Beaufort. There are plenty of places on the way out of the village, including supermarkets, where riders can get something for breakfast as well as stock up on road snacks.

Later in the day when the tour route leaves the riverbank and its white sand stretches, the landscape of the geographically diverse “Old North State” changes dramatically – from a beach edged by trees to the coastal plains before concluding in the Croatan National Forest (MAP) at the Oyster Point Campground (Forest Road 181, Newport, NC, 252-638-5628), which is maintained and operated by the U.S. Forest Service. Alternate accommodations are available at Econo Lodge Crystal Coast (3410 Bridges Street, Morehead City, NC 28557, Ph. 252-247-2940), or The Inlet Inn (601 Front Street, Beaufort, NC 28516, Ph. 252-728-3600).

Day 5 – Cape Lookout Lighthouse to New Bern, North Carolina
(60.6 miles)

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On the fifth day of the tour we will begin by riding inland through the Croatan National Forest. And this will be one of the highlights of the day. One of four national forests in North Carolina and the only true coastal forest east of the Mississippi River, the Croatan National Forest covers 159,885 acres of coastal land and is defined by water, bordered on the other three sides by the Neuse River, the Bogue Sound, and the White Oak River. The national forest is comprised of pine forests, saltwater estuaries, bogs and raised swamps called pocosins. But perhaps the most unusual and interesting aspect of the forest is the fact that carnivorous plants, including pitcher plants, sundew, and the Venus fly-trap, which Charles Darwin called “one of the most wonderful plants in the world,” are indigenous to the land.
And it would be wise to keep your eyes open and stay alert while riding through the forest. Some of the wildlife that can be found there include black bear, bobcat, raccoon, squirrel, river otter, muskrat, mink, a wide variety of reptiles and amphibians, including alligator, as well as red-cockaded woodpecker, osprey, peregrine falcon, various species of owls, quail, wild turkey and bald eagle.

Our destination for Day 5 is the historic town of New Bern, where we’ll begin our visit with lunch at Famous (2210 Neuse Boulevard, New Bern, NC 28560), a restaurant that specializes in Greek and Italian cuisine. From Chicken Souvlaki to a Gyro platter, and from hand-tossed pizzas to homemade lasagna or stuffed shells, Famous has everything you’d expect Greek and Italian restaurants to have on the menu, as well as award-winning subs, other great American staples, and more.

After lunch, we’ll first visit the birthplace of Pepsi (256 Middle Street, New Bern, NC 28560).  On this spot in his pharmacy, Caleb Bradham invented “Brad’s Drink,” which later he patented as Pepsi Cola. Today you can relax and enjoy a Pepsi Cola at the recreated soda fountain. New Bern’s other attractions include: the colonial-era Tryon Palace (529 S Front St, New Bern, NC 28562); the North Carolina History Center (529 S Front St, New Bern, NC 28562), and; Revolutionary Was hero John Wright Stanly’s house (307 George St, New Bern, NC 28562). Plenty of options for tours of the city are available as well. With sailing tours, tugboat tours, pontoon tours, and even yacht tours, virtually every mariner will find the vessel of their dreams to tour the cityscape in style. In addition, New Bern has a number of on-land tour options that include walking tours, bike tours, and/or trolley tours.

Dinner at New Bern’s Savage’s Wood Burning Pizzeria (303 Metcalf Street, New Bern, NC 28560) will enable us to continue exploring this quaint riverfront city at the confluence of the Neuse and the Trent rivers near the coast.

Today’s leg of the tour will end with a stay at “The Zig,” which bills itself as “A Living Part of New Bern History.”  At The Ziegler Hotel Suites (1914 Trent Blvd., New Bern, NC 28560, Ph. 252-638-6868) you can choose between the Elvis or Marilyn Monroe suites, with spacious full kitchens and washers and dryers. Or you can opt for the 40’s Room with Rat Pack and Sinatra era memorabilia; the 50’s Room with James Dean, Brando, Betty Boop and more; the 60’s Room featuring the Beatles, Hendrix and more, or; the Medieval Room for those that like distant history. Alternate accommodations are available at Moonlight Lake RV Park and Campground (180 Moonlight Road, New Bern, NC 28560, Ph. 252-745-9800), or the Bridgepoint Hotel and Marina (101 Howell Rd New Bern, NC 28562, Ph. 1-877-283-7713).

Day 6 – New Bern, North Carolina to Swan Quarter, North Carolina
(81.4 miles)

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Before leaving New Bern, we’ll have breakfast at The Carolina Bagel Company (3601 Trent Road, New Bern, NC 28562). Home of the “Carolina Breakfast,” their bagels and bagel breakfast sandwiches are always a hit. Traditional breakfast platters, a variety of decadent muffins, pastries, and other baked goods, or, if we can call ahead (252-636-0133), one or more of their 26 varieties of quiche are also options.

Venturing from the barrier islands to the mostly agrarian plains of the coastal mainland, we’ll cycle past cotton fields and wetlands during today’s ride. This portion of the tour, which is the longest distance to cover in a single day, will take riders down country roads as we meander past both the farmland and swamps of North Carolina’s Inner Banks region, and across the Pamlico and Pungo Rivers to Swan Quarter on the shores of Swanquarter Bay, an inlet of Pamlico Sound.

A classic diner-style lunch at Highway 55 Burgers and Shakes (888 U.S. 264, 27810 Belhaven, NC 27810) will sustain us for the remaining portion of today’s ride. In addition to a variety of sandwiches and platters, you can build your own burger. Or for the gastronomically gifted, you can participate in “The Five Five Challenge.” The challenge consists of 55 ounces of burger with at least 4 trimmings on a bun, plus fries & a 24 oz. drink. If you can eat it all in 30 minutes or less, it’s free. And they’ll even put your name on their website for bragging rights. But if you can’t finish, you have to pay for your lunch. So I guess there is such a thing as a free lunch.

One of the highlights of the day will be the Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge is located nine miles east of Swan Quarter, by U.S. Route 264 and North Carolina Highway 94 in Hyde County. It provides habitat for migratory waterfowl and other birds, for endangered species such as bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and American alligators. It also provides wildlife-related recreation and environmental education for the public on more than 50,000 acres of land. The refuge’s Lake Mattamuskeet is the largest natural lake in the state. It is 18 miles long, seven miles wide and, as the locals describe it, “a swan’s neck deep.” A shallow coastal lake, it averages only two to three feet in depth. And the view from middle of the lake, at the Lake Mattamuskeet Observation Deck on Frying Pan Landing, is worth riding to.

The day’s ride concludes with overnight accommodations at the Osprey Nest Camp Ground (6234 Piney Woods Road, Fairfield, NC 27826, Ph. 252-926-4491). However, after such a long ride, taking an extra day to rest is also a choice. For this option, one of the lodges or cabins at Carawans Motel and Cabins (510 NC Highway 94, Swan Quarter, NC 27885, Ph. 252-926-5861) is a better choice. With all the comforts of home, including a fully-equipped kitchen and bath, central heat and air, and satellite TV and wireless internet, taking some time to relax in relative luxury might be just what’s needed at this point in the tour. It will also provide a home base for exploring the nearby lake and wildlife refuge more thoroughly.

Depending on the decision of whether or not to take a rest day, we can either prepare a meal at the lodge or cabin where we are staying, or there are a number of dining options near Lake Mattamuskeet, such as a big juicy steak at Harris Steak & Seafood House (6555 NC-94, Fairfield, NC 27826).

Day 7 (or 8) – Swan Quarter, North Carolina to Roanoke Marshes Light
(65.7 miles)

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The next to last day of the tour begins by riding along the shore of Lake Mattamuskeet and the Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge (85 Mattamuskeet Road, Swan Quarter, NC 27885, Ph. 252-926-4021), and ends at the Roanoke Marshes Light. In between, riders will enjoy a moderate ride culminating with traversing the Croatan Sound by riding over the Virginia Dare Memorial Bridge to Roanoke Island.

We’ll have a continental breakfast this morning before leaving the lodge or cabin in Swan Quarter, so today will be a good day to ensure we have snacks, such as trail mix or granola bars, that we can intermittently snack on throughout the morning.

One of the highlights of today’s ride will be riding through the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge (100 Conservation Way, Manteo, NC 27954), bordered on the west by the Alligator River, the 152,000-acre refuge was established to preserve and protect a unique wetland habitat type – a pocosin – and its associated wildlife species. The refuge attracts visitors worldwide for its red wolf, and also includes 15 miles of marked paddling trails, a 10-mile wildlife drive, and two 1/2-mile wildlife trails in the refuge on the Dare County mainland. Public red wolf “howlings,” guided canoe tours and tram tours are possible (for a fee, with reservations required). Free interpretive programs are also available.

The Hungry Pelican Deli (205 Budleigh Street, Manteo, NC 27954) will be the place for a mid-afternoon lunch once we have crossed the Virginia Dare Bridge and arrived on Roanoke Island. With dozens of different sandwiches, as well as entrees, salads and other menu offerings, it is sure to hit the spot after today’s ride.

After lunch we will head toward the town of Manteo, on the east side of the island, where we will visit the last light of the tour – the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse (Queen Elizabeth Avenue, Manteo, NC 27954 / 35°48′40″N 75°42′02″W). This small lighthouse is located on the Manteo waterfront, and was dedicated as part of the Roanoke Island Maritime Museum in September of 2004. It is a replica of the original exterior reconstruction of the square cottage-style screw-pile lighthouse which once stood at the southern entrance to Croatan Sound, near Wanchese. The original lighthouse was decommissioned in 1955, and lost in the Sound during an attempt to move it to private property.

Other optional activities available in Manteo include: the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site (1401 National Park Drive, Manteo, NC 27954), the first English settlement in the present-day United States, a site that was preserved for its national significance in relation to the founding of the first English settlement in North America in 1587; Festival Park (1 Festival Park, Manteo, NC 27954-9396, across from the Manteo waterfront), which is home to the Elizabeth II, a modern replica of the 16th century ships that would have brought the English colonists to the New World, and; the Elizabethan Gardens (1411 National Park Drive, Manteo, NC 27954), on the north tip of the island.

A leisurely and somewhat more formal dinner on the Manteo waterfront at Ortega’z Grill (201 Sir Walter Raleigh Street, Manteo, NC 27954), another joint featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, will start off the last evening of our tour.  There, the husband and wife owners tag-team in the kitchen to deliver a packed menu of items, including soft shell crab quesadillas, tuna tacos, and shrimp and chorizo.

Following dinner, riders have the option of going to see the mystery of the Roanoke Island colonists’ disappearance unfold at The Lost Colony (1409 National Park Drive, Manteo NC 27954, Tickets: 252-473-6000), an outdoor play. The play tells the story of Roanoke Colony, which was the first attempt at founding a permanent English settlement in North America. In 1587, 117 English men, women and children sailed from England to Roanoke Island to establish the first settlement in the New World. Just three years later in 1590, when English ships returned to bring supplies, they found the island deserted with no sign of the colonists. After nearly 450 years, the mystery of what happened to the colonists remains unsolved.

Accommodations for our last night on the road are available back at the nearby Oregon Inlet Campground (Highway 12, Nags Head, NC 27954). Alternate accommodations are available at The Dare Haven Motel on Roanoke Island (Rt. 64/264, Manteo, NC 27954, 252-473-2322), or back at the Sea Foam Motel (7111 S. Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC 27959, (252) 441-7320).

Day 8 (or 9) – Roanoke Marshes Light back to Currituck Beach Lighthouse
(41.5 miles)

OBXL09

Thornton Wilder once said, “All good things must come to an end“, and today’s return to Corolla marks the end of the OBXL Bike Tour. The last leg of the tour begins with riding up the steepest hill to ascent on the tour, the Washington Baum Bridge connecting Roanoke Island to Nags Head on the Outer Banks. Despite having only a four percent elevation grade for only about 650 feet, the 454.1-foot long bridge and its approach will be the steepest hill to ascend on the entire tour. Otherwise, with today’s final ride being a relatively short and easy one, there is time for making stops to spend additional time along the way.

And our first stop will be for breakfast at Sam and Omie’s (7228 S. Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC 27959). A true Outer Banks original since 1937, the Waits sisters’ restaurant offers a full breakfast menu ranging from breakfast sandwiches to breakfast platters. And for the daring, you can work off your breakfast before riding very far by traversing the ropes course at First Flight Adventure Park (6716 South Croatan Highway, Nags Head, NC 27959, at Milepost 15.5).

On the remaining ride back to where the tour began in Corolla, options for various activities and outings abound along the way. Most of the route is along the same route we rode on the first day, so any of the activities that couldn’t be fit in during the first and next-to-last days are available. Additional choices, in geographic order along the route, include Mutiny Bay Miniature Golf (6704 S. Croatan Hwy, Nags Head, NC 27959), Full Throttle Speedway (6504 S Croatan Hwy, Nags Head, NC 27959).

And for those who wish to, we can stop along the way at Saint Andrew’s By-The-Sea church (4212 S. Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC 27959), a come as you are church just yards from the ocean and open every day except Saturday. It is also an option for offering prayers of thanks for our safety and the experiences of the past week, for quiet reflection and meditation, or simply a brief rest from the whirlwinds and rough waters that too often characterize the modern life to which we will be returning.

Shopping is also a good option for today. Although an option throughout the tour, waiting until near the end is a good choice so any purchases didn’t have to be carried around in your panniers for the entire week. Along today’s route is everything from malls to outlet stores to thrift stores. But the eclectic mix of locally-owned shops will likely be the most worthwhile.

Finally, we’ll make our last pit stop at Cravings (1209 Duck Road, Duck, NC 27949) to enjoy either a late lunch or early dinner, depending on whether we arrive before or after five o’clock. But that’s one of the great things about a self-paced tour. We’ll get there when we get there. Another joint featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Cravings may seem like an unintimidating drive-through next to a gas station, but don’t be fooled. It’s ideal for celebrating our last meal before arriving back at the starting and ending points of our bike tour.

BeachBikeTour01