We had such a great family trip in Rodanthe, in the Outer Banks, North Carolina. For those who have never been, the OBX is beautiful, fun, and deciding on which island to stay on and which beaches and towns to explore is half the fun. Here’s a map, since maps are fab. http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/byways/byways/12834/maps

For our family reunion, we stayed in Rodanthe (pronounced row-danth-ee), the setting for the book-turned-movie “Nights in Rodanthe” (which I still haven’t read or seen, incidentally). A little info on Rodanthe in the link, below: http://www.outerbanks.com/

Since there were a ton of us, 15 adults and 8 kids (!!!), we needed a big house with lots of bedrooms. The OBX is a great choice when you want to accommodate a crowd like that, as there are plenty of vrbo rental options and many of them cater to large groups. We had family members in from Texas, Illinois, Wisconsin, New Jersey, and North Carolina for our visit. Our house was off the beach, complete with a swimming pool, game room, and a bunch of bedrooms and bathrooms.

And pictures of the rental:

The huge house we rented for all 24 of us to fit into.
This was the boardwalk leading from our rental house to the ocean.
Kite flying on the deck was a huge hit.



As we were in the Outer Banks over the 4th of July holiday, we got to celebrate a bit- three of the little cousins (and three of the big ones) completed an Independence Day 5k- the first big race for these little girlies🏅.

Red, white, and blue all over.

The fireworks kept on going- paired with s’mores (cooked on the grill) it made for a perfect night.

Rodanthe is narrow, so if your house is tall enough you can take in the sunrises over the ocean and the sunsets over the sound.


Sunrise over the ocean in Rodanthe
A stormy sunset

One of our favorite activities in the Outer Banks is lighthouse exploration. There are actually 11 lighthouses of different types in the OBX- Coastal, Harbor, River, and Range Lights. If you want to learn all about the functions and forms of each (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?), this is a handy link:


http://www.outerbankslighthousesociety.org/nclighthouses.htmlThis particular lighthouse is the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse- it’s striking from the outside, with its barbershop pole stripes and red base, but my favorite part is the seashell-like interior, you can see up through almost the entire stairwell to the top, and it has great color and symmetry. It’s definitely worth the visit and the trek up the stairs to get to the top.

The cost is $8 for adults and $4 for seniors and children. There are a lot of somewhat alarming cautions for this “strenuous” stair climb, but seriously, if you are used to walking and taking the stairs, its no biggie. Here’s some information:


Pictures on the way up and the way back down, below.

Another really fun (and inexpensive!) day trip is taking the car ferry to other islands in the Outer Banks- we went for a day from Cape Hatteras to Ocracoke (pronounced okra-coke, exactly how it’s spelled). It is free to travel back and forth on this route and about an hour trip each way. I couldn’t believe it was free- still can’t!

Once you’re on Ocracoke you can explore this quaint and fun little island- there are great beaches for sea shelling (a picture of one my finds, below) and, gasp!, another lighthouse! You can’t go inside the Ocracoke Lighthouse, but it’s fun to see nonetheless.

Ferry selfie
My little Pea staying safely nearby the life preserver
The car ferry
Ocracoke Lighthouse
Major sea shell find

Also, we saw dolphins🐬!


You can also get to and from the OBX to the mainland via car ferry, we changed up our trip home by taking a ferry from Cape Hatteras to Ocracoke to Swan Quarter. It cost $15 for the car, no additional per passenger charge. Ultimately the trip may be longer, but relaxing on a boat really breaks up the day and makes you feel like you’re getting in a little bit more vacation.

One item to note is that if you are going on one of the ferries that you have to pay for, call ahead and make a reservation. The ferries do fill up, especially in the summer, and I’ve heard that sometimes it can be a few hours’ wait. The free ferries don’t do reservations, so be prepared to wait on busier days. Bring snacks, water, a game or book. Schedule and information can be found here: https://www.ncdot.gov/download/transit/ferry/

Obviously the beach is the reason most people head to the Outer Banks. Rodanthe has some lovely beaches, not too crowded and during our visit the waves were big but not overwhelming for our 4-9 year old crowd. Also, we had the pleasure of watching a few rays skim the water, and even watched them leaping out of the waves- this went on for a couple hours one day! We were careful to maintain our distance and they were really spectacular to watch. No pictures because this isn’t National Geographic- my iPhone isn’t that good.

Little girl beach day


Sea shell hunting left a little to be desired in Rodanthe, at least at our beach near the house. Still, the stones and shells we did find were lovely, so no complaints.

Uncle Bob, protector from the waves
Beach mermaid

On the last day of our trip we visited the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. This park has 13 miles of trails to explore. We only had time to do a quick 1 mile walk, but we still saw plenty of birds, dragonflies, lizards, turtles, and fish. Definitely a great stop and I highly recommend the visitors center and gift shop- there are fun activities for kids and we bought some unique and reasonably priced souvenirs- including a Pea Island hat for our Penelope Pea!



This guy’s antennae couldn’t even fit in my picture

There is a lot to do in the Outer Banks. During our stay, some of the crew went shrimping and crabbing for our dinner, we rented a kayak for the week and took it out in the sound and the sea, we found some playground time, and got in a few runs on the beach. You can also rent bicycles, learn to surf or kiteboard, or go whale watching. I think the only thing we wanted to do but didn’t pull off was a night out for the grown ups. After getting kids settled we headed out, and it was about 10:00 PM. We could not find a single bar/restaurant that was open on a Friday night! But when all is said and done, we had great food, drinks, and fun at the house, so maybe a night away from our little oasis wasn’t even needed.

Crabs for dinner- photo courtesy Jessica Heinke

The end of our trip meant saying goodbye to grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren. What fun memories we made in Rodanthe and the Outer Banks- until the next time!

Blowing kisses to grandpa


We all just showed up like that- white shirts and windswept hair