Outer Banks & Northern Coast
Family Fun On Albemarle Sound
When vacationers come to the Outer Banks, the natural tendency is to be a little dazzled by the attractions that beckon from the East: pristine beaches, the world-class surfcasting, the great piers stretching out into the Atlantic, the terrific surfing that awaits on the surface of the restless waters and, further out, the shipwrecks that lurk beneath.
But visitors sometimes forget that just to the West – in many spots, just a few yards or even feet from the beaches – a whole other world is waiting to be discovered. The tranquil, fascinating world of our sounds.
Here are just a few of the fun things to do that you and your family will find in and around Albemarle Sound:
The Chowan and Roanoke rivers are the largest of many streams flowing into this generally freshwater sound, which also forms a vital link to the Intracoastal Waterway. The second largest of our major sounds, the Albermarle is also perhaps the most history-haunted. Fort Raleigh National Historic Site on Roanoke Island and the Wright Brothers National Memorial at Kitty Hawk are located at the eastern-most end and Edenton, a town rich in architecture and history since the pre-revolutionary days, lies furthest to the west.
Take a stroll around Edenton and find the first church built in North Carolina, St. Paul’s. Edenton was also the site of the October 1774 "Tea Party" where 51 local ladies pledged their support to the American cause in one of the first instances of political activism by American women. The New York Times once described Edenton as the loveliest small town in America.
A few miles away, you’ll discover Somerset Place, a plantation where slaves cultivating rice and corn supported a life of refinement for the owner. With its spacious lawn and formal garden, its expansive porches and expensive furnishings, Somerset still reflects the elegance it possessed when first built by wealthy planter Josiah Collins III around 1830.
Getting back to the joys of Albemarle Sound itself, this happens to be an ideal place to kayak, canoe and fish.
And on the sound side of Jockey’s Ridge, you’ll discover yet another little-known treasure: the Sweetgum Swamp Trail at Nags Head Woods. According to The Nature Conservancy, the combination of maritime swamp forest and maritime deciduous forest found at Nags Head Woods exists in only four places in the world. Fortunately, this globally endangered ecosystem is protected from salt spray thanks to its location behind Jockey’s Ridge, the largest sand dune in the eastern United States.
According to John Rucker, author of the superb Seasonal Guide to the Natural Year, "this 1,100 acre publicly and privately owned preserve supports more than 300 plant species as well as the most diverse reptile and amphibian fauna on North Carolina’s Outer Banks." Johnson calls the Sweetgum Swamp Trail, along with the connecting Blueberry Ridge Trail, "the premier nature walk on North Carolina’s barrier islands."
added: December 15, 2008
updated: April 15, 2013