This was to be our first Destination Wedding, that modern development in the marriage experience. The Destination: Nags Head, North Carolina.
Now normally I’d be a bit annoyed at the prospect of a 7-hour drive (or so GPS Lady claimed); but for a favored family member taking the plunge into the Pool of Marital Bliss, the effort is the least one can do.
Throw in the prospects for a Beach Party (or two), and suddenly it doesn’t seem like such a long trip. We had never taken the opportunity to visit the fair State of North Carolina; and we had certainly heard a number of good things about the Outer Banks region.
Afterall, could all those OBX car stickers be wrong?
Unfortunately that 7-hour drive turned into an interminable 11-hour Passion Play, which by its conclusion had neither me nor the spousal unit in a particularly good mood. GPS Lady had wanted me to take Route 13 South past Wilmington, DE. But of course, I knew better, didn’t I? Taking I-95 and running into a 2.5 hour parking lot south of D.C.
The one saving grace was that even those who had taken Route 13 on Friday, June 21 also stood in bumper-to-bumper traffic, courtesy of the Firefly Music Festival, a happening hosted at Dover Speedway. All of us suffered that day in our attempts to reach Nags Head!
By Saturday though, those horror stories began to fade from memory. That’s what a really nice day on a really nice beach can do for you. Well, that and a few adult beverages consumed quite legally by a gentle ocean on a magnificent afternoon.
Peaceful beach in Nags Head (Ramada Inn)
The choice of venue was the Ramada Plaza Nags Head Oceanfront, mainly for its convenience and ample room for the roughly 60 people who traveled there for the nuptials. The Ramada certainly fit the bill for solid amenities and a right-on-the-beach experience. Our only complaint was the slow kitchen service during the one breakfast we ate there. But there are plenty of other dining opportunities offered in town.
(The day after posting this, I mutter, “Oh (poo), I forgot the Wedding!!” The following edit was added …)
The nuptials were among the best in the many weddings I gave witnessed. The ocean backdrop, the sand between your toes, the intimacy, and Reverend Jay Bowman.
Reverend Bowman presided over the exchange of vows. He was of unparalleled passion; a bold, joyful voice; and a keen perspective on the depth of Love, the breadth of Commitment. If you’re ever looking for an officiant for an Outer Banks wedding, you can do no better than Jay when it comes to expressing the emotions of your magnificent moment!
The ocean was not only a star-filled backdrop with dolphins cruising just off the beach and large birds diving like darts into the ocean in search of fresh seafood. The ocean also served as Jay’s righteous metaphor for the commitment and future relationship of K & B.
More weddings should be done just this way, even if not on a beautiful beach in North Carolina!
If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, we didn’t find an outstandingly good one at the places we chose to eat-in.
The one morning favorite we did find – tragically on the way out of Nags Head – was Duck Donuts, located on Rt 158 north of the Ramada.
I know … donuts?!?
Trust me, you have to try them! Warm still when we picked up our order, Duck’s make all their donuts as plain as a cruller can get. Difference is, they will make your donuts to order, fresh out of the oven and iced, coated, sugar-fied, dipped, or lightly sweetened, however you want as you watch. They are light for such doughy goodness and absolutely delicious.
Other than Ducks however, we did not find any true culinary Wow Factors among the places we chose.
The one exception being the venue chosen for the post-wedding reception. Port of Call, also located on Rt 158, was a hit with those of us in the wedding party. The buffet arrangement consisted of a well-rounded menu of delicious appetizers and entrees. The prime rib and garlic mashed potatoes were the biggest hits. My favorites on the appetizer line were the shrimp and scallop options, both wrapped in bacon … of course!
Amusing that most of my travel blogs always get stuck at some point on food!
Anyway there is naturally much more to do in Nags Head than eating. I’m not much of a water bug, but there was plenty of activity at and beyond the water line, although the beach and ocean seem much, much quieter than a typical day on the South Jersey beaches with which I am familiar.
That may well be Nags Head’s biggest attraction … The Quiet! No boardwalk. No overcrowded beaches for a weekend in late June. Few airplane-towed advertisements … no fudgy-wudgy guys trolling the hot sand … few pleasure boats in sight from beachside …
On a stroll up the beach, we found long stretches of sand with a family here, a couple there with no one within 15-20 yards of their quiet, chosen blanket space. The beach itself was extremely clean, consisting of a rougher, brown sand than one encounters in South Jersey. The beach at the Ramada location was narrow but plainly more than sufficient for the numbers we encountered.
The Ramada had a HUGE advantage though, with a well-stocked and well-manned bar just over the top of the dune, located on a gazebo set upon the hotel’s beach-access boardwalk. And on that Saturday afternoon, four hours of entertainment in the form of a blues and rock trio.
Hence the secret to losing the bad memories from that 11-hour drive!
Key to diminishing your stress, like that of a ridiculously long car trip
Now of course all that quiet and no boardwalk tests your imagination should you desire the nightlife. There were plenty of places to enjoy the younger bar and dance party scene.
Kelly’s Restaurant had a very large live entertainment venue. The food? Not that good and served in a rather dated decor. The club room on the other hand looked like a great place to have fun.
Port of Call, the reception venue, also had a very nice – and loud – two-story bar and club room.
Another worthy attraction located just down the road in Kill Devil Hills was the Wright Brothers National Memorial, a U.S. National Park dedicated to the site of Orville and Wilbur‘s first successful efforts to put Man where he did not naturally belong. Well worth the price of admission ($4 per person), the visitors center is a museum to U.S. aviation history.
A 25-minute presentation of the Wrights’ lives and aeronautic accomplishments was enjoyable and informative; and it was preceded by a five-minute education on recognizing and surviving the dreaded rip tide.
As the Park Ranger emphasized, water safety is key to enjoying your time on the beaches of North Carolina!
Outside you can view the precise location of the very first Wright Brothers flights; view the primitive shacks that housed their living quarters and protected their aeroplanes; learn about the history of Kill Devil Hills; and enjoy a very thorough stretch-of-the-legs in a walk up to the Monument perched atop a very prominent hill.
Replica of Orville and Wilbur’s fantastic contraption
Finally, if you did not learn from my lesson for the trip down to Nags Head, take my advice and take Route 13 North home.
On a Monday afternoon, we covered the distance back to the Philly area in roughly 6.5 hours. There are long stretches of open road, but also red lights and changes to speed limits with which to contend. But the trip across the Bay Bridge and Tunnel is quite enjoyable. The scenery, pace, and fruit & produce stands along the way make the ride so much more relaxing and interesting than parking on I-95!
We definitely plan to revisit Nags Head someday. We’ll just plan the trip down a bit smarter next time.