Waterfront Retreat on Scenic Barrier Island
Passage along North Carolina’s coast was once notoriously dangerous. In an effort to save shipwrecked sailors, the government built a series of maritime rescue outposts, including U.S. Life Saving Station Number 5. After a fire destroyed the original 1874 structure, a new station was built in 1899, and it stands to this day as a focal point of The Sanderling Resort and Spa.
Voted one of Condé Nast Traveler's top 150 resorts in America, The Sanderling offers the kind of lavish amenities one might expect from a AAA resort, but in a decidedly unpretentious setting. The seaside compound’s windswept wooden structures echo the Life Saving Station’s gracefully aged façade and blend in with the barrier island’s landscape of dunes and whooshing sawgrass. From the private balconies attached to each of the Main Inn's first-floor rooms, scenes of the Atlantic unfold as pelicans dive for their lunch amid crashing waves. On the inn's lower levels, a fully equipped fitness center keeps muscles from slacking off on vacation, and an indoor pool splashes with lap swimmers and semipro marco polo players. At The Sanderling Spa & Salon, named the country’s third best by Condé Nast Traveler, massage therapists unwind tight muscles during Swedish or deep-tissue massages (not included with Groupon).
Mornings at the resort find guests at the nautically themed Lifesaving Station Restaurant, whose talented chefs serve a hearty breakfast of buttermilk hotcakes, smoked salmon on a bagel, or omelets bursting with fresh ingredients.
The Outer Banks, North Carolina: Ornithological and American History Mecca
The Outer Banks is home to both man's first flight and the annual flight of countless migratory birds. On the way north to the Wright Brothers National Memorial, travelers can stop off at the 2,600-acre Donal C. O’Brien Jr. Audubon Sanctuary and Center at Pine Island, a favorite resting spot for migrating cormorants, geese, and men in bird costumes.
South of the resort lie the bustling towns of Kill Devil Hill, Nags Head, and Kitty Hawk, which thrive year-round with restaurants and microbreweries. There are nearly 2000 known sunken ships along the Outer Banks, and expeditions and seasonal diving trips routinely explore the history of these vessels. Across the water, the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site marks the location of England's first American colony with a museum and self-guided tours.