Raleigh Ecological Services Field Office
Conserving the Nature of America

Outer Banks Scenic Byway Receives National Designation

Pea Island NWR

Heading north from the village of Rodanthe, NC Highway 12 appears as a fragile vein running through Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.

The Outer Banks Scenic Byway received national status on Friday, October 16, 2009, as one of America's Byways®, placing NC Highway 12 on the map, so to speak, for its fascinating coastal heritage and unique natural landscapes, making the leg of the historic two-lane highway from Nags Head, NC to Down East a perfect autumn drive for exploring the beauty of the barrier islands and connecting with the coastal communities that set the destination apart.

"The Outer Banks touch people in different ways. Part of that connection, whether it is to the beach, or the landscape, or to the memories made while vacationing here is inextricably linked to the drive," explains Lee Nettles, managing director for the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau. "When you round the curve of NC 12 and see Oregon Inlet and Hatteras Island for the first time, for example, that never leaves you. Those moments of surprise and wonder continue the whole length of the Outer Banks Scenic Byway."

The itinerary for this newest national byway features drives along barrier islands featuring national landmarks and coastal villages and two car ferry rides. The byway travels through two national seashores, Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout, and two national wildlife refuges, Pea Island and Cedar Island. Along the byway are four historic lighthouses and world famous stopovers for migrating song birds and waterfowl.

Scattered across this wild and scenic coastline are maritime villages with a common cultural heritage. "Come on down and I’ll tell you a story," says Allen Burrus, whose family has operated a grocery store in Hatteras village since 1866. "It’s not too hot and it’s not too cold and there’s always room on the porch for sitting and greeting."

Delve into Ocracoke stories during the third season of Ocrafolk School, Oct. 25 through 30. Ocracoke’s history and seafaring traditions will be explored in one of the school’s classes. Other courses look into ships in bottles, island photography and cooking, exploring songwriting and pottery.

More stories will be told this fall at the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center on Harkers Island at the southern entrance to the Outer Banks National Scenic Byway.

The museum and the Cape Lookout National Seashore celebrate the 150th anniversary of the lighting of the Cape Lookout Lighthouse throughout the month of October culminating with a relighting ceremony on Nov. 1. The museum, which celebrates the maritime heritage of North Carolina’s true Down East, opens its main gallery with a two-day festival, Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.

To explore the natural world that created byway stories, Wings over Water offers a six-day celebration of the wild side of the Outer Banks region. The Nov. 3 to 8 celebration features over 100 adventurous field trips, including kayaking at sunrise and sunset, exploring shifting sands, and venturing to the close-by Gulf Stream to view seabirds.

For events across the Outer Banks visit www.outerbanks.org. To learn more about the Outer Banks Scenic Byway with photos and maps, go to www.outerbanksscenicbyway.org or call 1-877-629-4386. Outer Banks Scenic Byway, P.O. Box 147, Rodanthe, NC 27968.

The Outer Banks of North Carolina is a 130 mile chain of barrier islands located midway on the Atlantic Coast. The Outer Banks Visitors Bureau is a public authority and the lead marketing and promotional agency for Dare County's Outer Banks.

Last Updated: August 6, 2015