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Living the OBX Dream... for a Week

Here it is! The recap of the best vacation I’ve taken as an adult…besides my honeymoon. (One day I’ll write about that trip, too. So much to say!)

My family rents a house on the beach in the Outer Banks every year during the off-season. The first year we went, Tom and I got engaged on the beach at sunrise the first morning there. Needless to say, in addition to being so much fun, OBX is pretty special to us.

This year, we packed my car to the brim, threw our bikes on the rack, had Mistletoe hop in the backseat, and off we went for our seven-hour drive.

When we got back, my friend Leigh thanked me for posting about the places I got coffee in OBX because she was heading down and now knew where she wanted to stop. So I thought…let me share where we stayed, the places we ate, the coffee spots we found, and the things we did in case you find yourself in OBX anytime soon and appreciate recommendations.

Where We Stayed: The North End of Corolla Beach

  • Last time we stayed on the Southern end of Corolla, which had a lot going for it, too. But the North end is closer to the town of Duck without being more than 10 minutes or so from things like the grocery store or the spots we like in Corolla.

  • If you’re able, renting a house for the week is a much more enjoyable time than getting a hotel.

Where We Ate…

We did a whole lot of cooking at the house. We had a schedule for the week and took turns making breakfast and dinner for all 18 of us. So before I list the few spots we tried, let me recommend this idea! Saves money, sure, but really great family time!

  • Sunset Grille and Raw Bar in Duck: I had wanted to go here since the first time I passed it almost seven years ago and finally made it this year! Everything about this place is a win. The Mahi Mahi with pineapple slaw, the views, the atmosphere, the staff...can't wait to go back.

  • Off the Wall Taphouse in Corolla: It was said they had the best burgers in Corolla, so we went. I don't have a direct comparison to say if that's true, but I can say it would be tough to beat. The service was certainly "southern" if you know what I mean (in noooooo rush at all), but the food was good.

  • Duck Donuts in Duck: If you go to OBX and you don’t get Duck Donuts at least once… I don’t know what to say. They are creatively flavored, warm vanilla cake donuts you’ll be sad you didn’t try.

Also, there is a place in Corolla called OBX Deli & Cheesesteaks. If you're from Philly or Jersey, do yourself a favor and don't go here. Order a cheesesteak when you get home.

What We Did

  • Bike Riding: It was nice to have our bikes with us to get outside without having to drive anywhere.

  • The Shops in Duck: It's a nice, quiet downtime with unique shops and boutiques

  • The Beach: This needs no explanation. It's glorious!

  • Mini Golf at Corolla Adventure Golf: 12 of us split into two groups to attempt this 27-hole mini golf course. Some of us made it 18 holes and got to watch the sunset... the younger single crew bailed somewhere around hole 14 and left us!

  • The Sand Dunes in Kill Devil Hills (Jockey's Ridge State Park): So. Much. Walking. But worth the stop. It's probably not worth the hassle if you have small kids, but I'm glad we went.

  • The Corolla Adventure Park: We did not go this year (our adventure was getting new tattoos while the family went), but we did go last year. It's like a multi-level ropes course. There's axe-throwing on-site if you're like us and would rather wait for the young, fit folks to finish the course.

  • Tattoos at Croatan Tattoo in Kill Devil Hills: I have wanted to get a little coffee cup tattoo in my travels for a good while. I've also been wanting to get a "Stay Wild" micro tattoo. It's something from my favorite modern poet that I adore, almost ironically. So, I put them together in a minimalist illustration that exemplifies how I stay wild in life. (This is the only tattoo on my body that doesn't have spiritual significance, but I like it.)

  • Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kitty Hawk: Whether you are into history and museums and such or not, never pass up an opportunity to visit a national monument. It was cool to see where the first flight happened and the various milestones they showcase in the park.

  • BINGO: Yes, we really did bring BINGO with us to play as a family one night and yes, it really was my husband's idea! We laughed so much...especially when we all caught Pop cheating! LOL.

And you have to make it a point to see at least one OBX sunrise and sunset while you’re there. It’s simply gorgeous, peaceful…just a big deep breath. The prettiest sunset I’ve ever seen was at Historic Corolla Park. The sky looked like a fresh canvas of vibrant, yet fading, colors. I was going to share a picture, but no pictures do it justice.

Time for the Coffee Shops…

  • Driftwood Coffee Co. in Corolla: This is a bit tucked away but it’s a cool shop with a very kind barista. I ordered a Coconut Latte and it did not disappoint.

  • The Kind Cup in Corolla: Their coffee is worth bringing home. I skipped the latte here and just got a cup of their South American roast. Plus, they have a boutique of unique, locally made items. Fun spot right in Historic Corolla Park! P.S. If you thought it would be nice to grab a coffee before you climbed the lighthouse near this coffee shop, I thought so, too. But the lighthouse folks won’t let you bring the coffee inside so save the stop for afterward.

  • Front Porch Cafe in Kill Devil Hills: This was a fun spot and their French Toast Latte was a winner. I could see myself working remotely from this shop if I lived in the area.

  • Duck Donuts in Duck: Maybe surprisingly, they have really enjoyable coffee. I had their Southern Pecan blend and it was delicious.

  • Doppio in Corolla: It’s like South Philly meets a beach town in this shop. Hipster vibe, a bit on the expensive side, but I mean…they have gelato and coffee in one spot. Can’t put a price on that. ;)

Fun story about Driftwood Coffee Co… at my bridal shower, a lovely family friend gave me the most thoughtful gift. It was a collection of memories she gathered from my Facebook accompanied by gift cards to coffee shops in the places I’ve been - including this cafe. We brought the gift card with us on vacation and stopped early in the week. When I used the gift card, the barista mentioned they don’t get a lot of online gift cards like this, and remembered who bought it. She said, “Oh, this was Cindy, right?” I couldn’t believe it - this gift card was purchased almost two years ago! She went on to say, “Yeah, she was so kind. You just don’t forget people like that.”

And thanks to Cindy’s gift, I also bought a sweet hand grinder for coffee beans so I can always have my own coffee when I travel. Oh, the life of a coffee snob…

In all seriousness, this vacation was the best one I’ve taken as an adult because I was able to fully unplug and truly rest; to connect with everyone there and be present. I wasn’t squeezing an hour of work in before bed, checking my emails every hour, or stressing about anything waiting for me when we got home. I was just present and seriously happy. And that is WITH having to sign like 38 documents for the mortgage company while away.

Such a blessing this time was! And even still, the greater blessing was coming home to a life I am not looking to "escape" from. Vacation is always nice, but loving my everyday is something special.

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