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Retirement on North Carolina's Beautiful Outer Banks
If your goal is to retire to a temperate climate with endless vistas, then the Outer Banks may be for you. This 200-mile string of barrier islands and peninsulas stretches from Virginia Beach to the southern edge of North Carolina.
The islands cover most of North Carolina's coastline, protecting Currituck Sound, Albemarle Sound, Pamlico Sound, and the Intracoastal Waterway from the Atlantic. Inhabited islands and peninsulas include the Currituck Banks, Bodie, Roanoke, and Hatteras. The uninhabited Portsmith Island, Core Banks, and Shackleford Banks are part of the massive Cape Lookout National Seashore.
The region's cost of living can be comparable to mainland city living. Housing on the Atlantic side can be expensive and crowded with rentals, but there are affordable dwellings on the west side. Although there are no major airports, and national chain stores are rare, OBX has a state-of-the-art hospital and assisted living facilities.
The College of Ablemarle has a campus in Manteo that supports life-long learners. The region is known for its restaurants, and some of the country's best chefs call the Outer Banks home. There are wine tasting rooms in many communities, and the Outer Banks Brewing Station has a fine selection of handcrafted beers. Musical festivals are held from Corolla to Roanoke. The visual arts are also well represented.
Although winters can be mild and years can pass between snowfalls, the Outer Banks are vulnerable to ocean-driven storms like hurricanes and nor'easters. The surrounding seas can become treacherous quickly, and the Banks (also known as OBX) have earned the nickname "the Graveyard of the Atlantic." In addition, the islands are not secured to offshore coral reefs and are susceptible to consequential beach erosion. Hatteras, for example, was cut in two by Hurricane Isabel in 2003.
OBX is rich in history. Pirates like Edward Teach (a.k.a. Black Beard) haunted its shorelines. The Wright Brothers had their first flight near Kitty Hawk at Kill Devil Hills. A monument and museum remain.
The first English colony was established on Roanoke Island in 1587. The vanished colony is remembered in Manteo at the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. The site includes lush Elizabethan gardens and the Waterside Theatre. The theatre is home to "he Lost Colony," America's longest running outdoor symphonic drama.
The Graveyard of the Atlantic Maritime Museum is also on Hatteras and chronicles maritime history from 1524 to 1945. OBX has five notable light houses. The Ocracoke house is North Carolina's oldest. The Roanoke Marshes have one of the last screwpile lighthouses in the US.
OBX is known for its open beachfronts, but there are also sounds to fish and kayak, state parks to explore, birds to watch, and trails to bike. The Cape Hatteras National Seashore has four campgrounds and 70 miles of changing landscape. Jockey's Ridge State Park has some of the tallest sand dunes in the Eastern United States. There is also the Currituck Heritage Park, False Cape State Park, and Fort Macon State Park.
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