PhotoNorth Carolina's Outer Banks are a favorite beach destination for consumers in the Mid-Atlantic region and beyond.

Made up of some 125 miles of barrier island beaches jutting into the Atlantic Ocean, the Outer Banks have long been a favorite of vacationing families, since most of the accommodations consist of houses that can be rented by the week.

At the peak of vacation season in late July, workmen accidentally severed the main power line serving Hatteras Island, one of the southern-most islands in the chain. It required the evacuation of vacationers from that island until power was restored late last week.

"We got the wind kicked out of us," said Outer Banks Visitors Bureau Executive Director Lee Nettles.

It was made worse, Nettles said, by what he termed "sensationalized or ill-framed reports" by the media that suggested the whole Outer Banks was experiencing a total blackout. In fact, the northern beaches, including six towns from Duck to Nags Head, and the Roanoke Island town of Manteo, still had the lights on.

Back to normal

By last weekend, everything was back to normal as Dennis Fisher of Philadelphia, along with his extended family, headed for their reserved beach house on Hatteras Island. They had nervously awaited word on whether they could check in as scheduled.

"Our arrival on Sunday was unimpeded by traffic," Fisher told ConsumerAffairs. "We saw where the electric company installed more poles, but we really could not tell where the underground cables had been severed."

Fisher and his family report everything on the island seems to be back to normal. He said they had to reset all of the clocks once they arrived at their beach house and reprogram the TV, but that was the only sign that there had been a power outage. He also says the crowds appear to be back, which will be music to Nettles' ears.

The Visitor's Bureau has posted an accommodations guide, with a list of hotels on the Outer Banks and whether or not they have vacancies, for use by consumers making last minute vacation plans. Meanwhile, the region's attractions, are as crowded as you would expect in August.

Attractions

Famous as the launching pad for the Wright Brothers' first airplane, the Outer Banks have longĀ been associated with flight, aided by a stiff and steady ocean breeze. Jockeys Ridge State Park features a towering sand dune, a favorite venue for hang gliding and kite flying.

Roanoke Island, located in the bay on the western side of the islands, has a place in history as well. It was the site of the first English military outpost on American soil, established in 1585. Today, the settlement is referred to as "the lost colony," because the colonists disappeared three years after their last shipload of supplies arrived from England. Though there are many theories about what happened, no one really knows for sure.

Visitors to Roanoke Island can go aboard the Elizabeth II, a replica of a ship from the era. Costumed sailors interact with visitors as they set sails, swab decks, and perform other nautical chores.

The island also has a settlement site, complete with costumed interpreters, an American Indian town, and a museum.

Just about every kind of fishing

Anglers are also drawn to the Outer Banks, especially in the fall. Fishermen can choose from surf and pier fishing, freshwater, fly and sound fishing, and inshore and offshore charter fishing.

Offshore anglers only have to venture 12 to 15 miles out to sea in order to reach the Gulf Stream, providing a diverse assortment of fish.

Since 2007, North Carolina has offered a Coastal Recreational Fishing License. It can be purchased on a 10-day, annual, or lifetime basis.

Getting there

The closest major airport to the Outer Banks is Norfolk International. It's served by Delta, United, American, Southwest, and Allegiant Air.

From Norfolk, the northern Outer Banks are reached by taking highway 168, then 158 and crossing Albemarle Sound at Kitty Hawk. The southern islands are reachable by taking highway 17 to highway 64.


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