Hotel at a Glance: Sea Ranch Resort
Kill Devil Hills has been known as the birthplace of aviation since 1903, when it served as the setting of the Wright brothers' first powered flight. But its wide, sandy beaches are equally worthy of recognition. Sea Ranch Resort gives guests the best of both worlds: it's just steps from the Atlantic Ocean and conveniently close to area attractions, including the Wright Brothers National Memorial park, state parks, and quaint seaside towns.
- Home away from home: Each room has a flat-screen TV with cable and HBO, a mini fridge, and a microwave; each condo-style suite also comes with a full kitchen, a living room, and an oceanfront balcony.
- Included breakfast: Choose from two eggs any style with hash browns or grits, bacon, and toast; pancakes with bacon; or biscuits and gravy. Each meal includes coffee, tea, or soda.
- Oceanfront seasonal dining: The onsite Beachside Bistro (reopening March 13) serves coastal American cuisine
- Take a swim: A glass atrium encloses a heated pool. (Closed January and February, but indoor swimming is available at the local YMCA).
- Squeeze in a workout: The resort has a fitness center and gives out complimentary guest passes to the nearby Outer Banks Family YMCA.
The Northern Beaches of the Outer Banks, North Carolina: Idyllic Beach Towns, Sand Dunes, and Wright Brothers Flight History
Dubbed the “East Coast’s recreational playground” by Frommer’s, the Outer Banks is a string of narrow barrier islands that hugs the northern coast of North Carolina. Vacationers have flocked to the islands’ postcard-worthy beaches and idyllic villages since the 18th century. The most northerly island in the Outer Banks, Bodie Island, is home to five such towns, known collectively as the Northern Beaches: Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, and Nags Head.
Head to Kill Devil Hills to see the Wright Brothers National Memorial park, where a large granite boulder commemorates the spot where the world’s first powered flight took off, in 1903. The memorial also includes replicas of the brothers' early gliders. Just outside the town of Nags Head lie some of the East Coast’s tallest natural sand dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Strong winds off the ocean constantly reshape the dunes and make the area a popular spot for hang-gliding and flying kites.
It’s worth it to make the drive south to Cape Hatteras National Seashore, nicknamed the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” for the many ships that have crashed into its dangerous sandbars during storms. Here, you can climb the 248 steps to the top of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, whose iconic exterior is a swirl of black and white stripes. There's also abundant wildlife along the seashore, including five species of sea turtles; female loggerhead sea turtles often nest on these beaches.