Bodie Lighthouse Photo Credit: Kaua’i Dreams, via Flickr. Licensed CC.
Bodie Lighthouse
Photo Credit: Kaua’i Dreams, via Flickr. Licensed CC.

Hot weather is not required to soak up all the rich goodness of the Outer Banks. You’ll find timely activities to match any season, plus all the fun, fine food and festivities visitors want to complement an off-season getaway.

Take time going through the portal and enjoy the town of Manteo. It’s on the eastern side of Roanoke Island, which sits between North Carolina’s mainland and the barrier island beach towns that include Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, Duck, Rodanthe, Avon and Hatteras.

Manteo is everything you could hope for in a small, coastal village; its long history is embedded in many of its buildings, sites and landmarks. Stroll along the downtown waterfront boardwalk and marina, shop for unique art pieces, then set out to explore Roanoke Island’s attractions. They include Roanoke Island Festival Park with its 16th-century replica ship Elizabeth II and the ever-fascinating Fort Raleigh National Historic Site and Island Farm (circa 1847).

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History buffs will also be delighted to learn that Roanoke Island played an important role during the Civil War after its capture by the federal army in 1862. Hundreds of African-American slaves fled to this safe haven and established a working community.

Save part of a day to meander through the must-see Elizabethan Gardens, a living memorial to the Lost Colony. It’s an enchanting surprise within the coastal environment: Even in winter, the gardens seem lush, with patches of color adorning the landscape. Period sculptures add reflection and serenity to the gardens.

Before leaving Manteo, stop in the Full Moon Café & Brewery to sample the beer and enjoy a tasty lunch or dinner. The Manhattan clam chowder is an awesome way to start.

Once you make your way across the sound and onto the barrier islands via the long and tall connecter bridge, the town (and beach) of Nags Head is your first encounter. Here is an outdoor lover’s paradise. Thousands of visitors flock each year to 400-acre Jockey’s Ridge State Park — featuring the tallest sand dunes on the East Coast — to hike, hang-glide and fly kites.

The Bodie (pronounced “body”) Island Lighthouse is nearby. A major renovation project allows visitors to climb to the top of the 156-foot lighthouse built in 1872. A self-guided nature trail leads to a wildlife viewing platform built in the surrounding marshes, where egrets, herons, glossy ibises and wading birds can be easily observed in their most natural of habitats.

Three fishing piers extend from Nags Head: the Nags Head Fishing Pier, the Outer Banks Fishing Pier and the North Carolina Aquariums’ Jennette’s Pier, new in 2011. Jennette’s Pier is fascinating for educational programs, alternative energy demonstrations, live animal exhibits, and even cooking classes. Awarded the Platinum LEED Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council in 2012, the pier features three iconic wind turbines, solar panels, a reclaimed water system and geothermal wells that provide heating and cooling.

When it’s time to come in from the pristine beaches in Nags Head, the town offers a multitude of shopping, entertainment and dining options. : :

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— Originally published by The Charlotte Observer on March 7, 2014. Reprinted with permission. qnotes is a member of The Observer’s Charlotte News Alliance.