After traveling more than 1,540 miles over the course of three days, my folks and I were thrilled to be settling in for four nights at a motel right on the beach in Kill Devil Hills, N.C.
Since we arrived late Monday afternoon, the first goal was to get the car unloaded at our motel and then look for something other than ham and cheese sandwiches for supper.
I paged through the guide in our motel room and found what I thought sounded like a good place – it had seafood on the menu. It turned out to be the most expensive meal of the entire trip, unfortunately.
Deciding I’d splurge just this one time, I ordered the seafood platter. It arrived on our table in a neat little dish and featured shrimp, scallops and flaked fresh crab meat. It was delicious. Dining on fresh seafood is perhaps one of the greatest things about traveling to coastal communities – that, and of course, seeing the lighthouses and relaxing on the sandy beaches.
Those who know me well – or have been reading my blog for several years – know that I have a fondness for lighthouses. While that sparked my desire to travel to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, it certainly wasn’t the only thing we visited on our travels. In fact, several of the other activities we discovered ranked higher on our “most fun” list than any of the four lighthouse stops.
While I will dedicate a later blog to the lighthouses, I will tell you that our “hands-down, all-time favorite” thing to do on the Outer Banks was to climb aboard a sight-seeing safari truck up at Corolla and hit the sandy beaches in search of the Banker horses.
These feral horses are descendants of those brought by Spaniards in the 1500s. While the herd has dwindled to about 140 horses today, they remain in the wild, free to roam thousands of acres in a national preserve and throughout the secluded community of Carova on the far northern reach of the Outer Banks.
The entire experience is one we never would have been able to do on our own. For starters, beach driving requires a four-wheel-drive vehicle, and our family sedan wouldn’t have made it more than a car’s length off Highway 12 at Corolla before getting stuck.
Strapped onto bench seats behind the cab of the truck, we could see in all directions – from the sandy beaches and dunes to the Atlantic ocean and the extravagant homes and rental houses. This was a place that, if I really wanted to get away from it all, could be considered a little slice of Heaven on Earth.
Our tour guide told us the history of the Banker horses, how fundraising groups have become established and laws written to protect these animals from overpopulation, inbreeding and disease. We learned how these horses differ from domesticated horses, and why they are not to be fed – their digestive system cannot tolerate horse treats like carrots and apples. In fact, our guide said a tourist last year tossed an apple to one of the horses, and the animal became extremely sick and died.
Seeing the horses in their natural habitat was pretty cool, but what was even better was having a two-hour-long escorted ride on the beach, breathing in the salt air, hearing the waves crash toward shore and taking in the beauty of the sand dunes.