6 Jul 2022
Here are some helpful tips from your friends at Beach Realty who have learned the hard way through years of experience on How to OBX Safely!
Already booked your Outer Banks vacation? Awesome! We are looking forward to having you. Still searching for that perfect vacation home? Watch this handy video on how to search our site providing all of your “must haves” to find that perfect home.
And now while we have your attention, let’s make sure that your stay on the Outer Banks is everything you hope it will be, and more. Not only do we want you to have fun, and relax, but we want you to make lifelong memories while here. The good kind! So in order to help you do just that, let’s go over some ways to play and stay safe! Outer Banks style!
Beach Rule #1: Choose a Point of Reference …Unless You are Trying to Get Lost
You’ve finally made it. Your toes are officially in the sand. Now it’s time for a walk. Head North? Head South? Go for a swim? Ugghh decisions, decisions! Whichever direction you choose to head, we have one bit of advice: Remember. Where. You. Parked.
Trust us. You get up for a walk, the next thing you know you realize you don’t know how far down the beach you have meandered. Your pockets are filled with shells. It’s probably a good idea to turn around. So you head back. After a few more shell and sea glass finds, pelican counting, deep hole traversing (more on this topic later), and dips in the surf, … you realize you don’t know where you are. Other than on the beach. In the Outer Banks. Loving it. But you’re thirsty and your stomach is growling. Your thoughts turn to: Ok, so did the family next to us with the bright yellow umbrella pack up and head in? What color were our chairs? Why do all of the houses suddenly look the same? Why do all the people look the same? What do I want to eat for lunch? Will I ever see my friends and family again? Who wears bathing suit bottoms like that…? I think I may be chaffing. I wonder if anyone invented a good product for that. I wonder if they appeared on Shark Tank. Is that a Shark in the ocean in the distance? Should I shout and wave my hands? I think I need to take another dip in the water. I’m pretty sure those are just dolphins. What color bathing suit was my wife wearing today? Did she leave to go buy another one?
Ok so you get the picture. Our advice, before your walk, take a mental note of an object that can not move. Not a person, chair, or umbrella. Perhaps a unique feature on a house and its position to your beach setup. This is your marker. This is home base. You are now safe. Now go enjoy that walk!
Beach Rule #2: Umbrella Ella Ella Eh Eh Eh … ahem
We realize the tan lines have likely faded since your last sun-worshipping vacation. We also know a great way to ruin a vacation is with a nasty sunburn. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid it and enjoy skin that doesn’t want to peel off in three days. Your first mode of defense is of course sunscreen. So apply and re-apply accordingly. Sun hats and shirts with SPF are great too! Then there’s the umbrella. Because let’s be honest, who wants to feel like a basted turkey all day long, or be the one doing the basting. I mean, how nice is it to take a swim in the water and when all the sunscreen has washed off, head up to your chair under that umbrella and do absolutely nothing at all but drip dry?
So let’s talk about those umbrellas. There are many types to choose from and some are easier to set up than others. We can not express with enough enthusiasm the importance of ensuring your umbrella is anchored into the sand securely. If you would like one less thing to worry about, such as umbrella safety, then why not have someone set it up for you? Our friends at Ocean Atlantic Rentals will be happy to do just that! In fact, they can provide your entire beach ensemble, set it up and break it down daily. Less for you to buy, less to pack, and less to mess with! Beach Realty guests receive a discount, which you can find in your Guest Mobile App.
Now back to the topic of safety...
Many beach goer’s will opt to purchase a standard beach umbrella without factoring in how it will stay in the sand. You can bet your bottom dollar that umbrella if just stuck a few inches into the sand isn’t going to stay there for very long. One gentle Atlantic breeze and bye-bye umbrella! So if you don’t want one of your beach memories to consist of “That day my umbrella flew out of the sand and immediately took flight heading straight towards a group of young kids who were burying their mother in the sand. I leapt to chase after the umbrella as it gained momentum bouncing over sandcastles and deep freshly dug holes left by their proud owner from earlier in the day. One hole I wasn’t able to clear caused me to fall face-first into the sand, scorpion style. Ouch. As I stood and tried to open my sand-filled eyes to see, what appeared to be a champion MMA fighter was swiftly heading my way, umbrella in hand.”
So let’s keep that from happening, shall we? But how? Option1: Rent. Option 2: Make sure you secure your tent pole with a Beach Umbrella Anchor. Option 3: Check out these great inventions, the Shibumi Shade and the Cool Cabana. No poles equals no potential impalement and no umbrella chasing! These shade options can typically be found at any of the Ace Hardware stores, the latter also at Whalebone Surf shop. Of course check online or call the stores first to make sure they are in stock. Now go get you one!
Also, be aware that each town has beach ordinances that include types of equipment allowed on the beach, and for how long. Here they are for easy reference:
Beach Rule #3: Holey Moley
Holes. Now why do you need to dig a hole? Aren’t you on vacation? Who are you burying? What do you have against relaxation? You could have stayed home and done yard work, but you chose to pack a giant shovel to bring with you to the beach, instead of water and sunscreen to try and dig your way to China. Ok…whew… now that you know what all of the locals watching you during your digging extravaganza are thinking, let’s talk about what the real issue is with digging holes on the beach.
#1: No one wants to fall into one (unless hiding is necessary).
#2: If they get deep enough, they can cave in and cause anyone inside the hole … well death.
#3: People walking at sunset, after dark, or before sunrise may fall into your hole and break their leg, ankle, or flip flop.
#4: Lifeguards trying to save someone’s life could fall into your hole whether on foot or while driving an ATV. If you want to see a four-wheel drive vehicle catch air, we suggest stopping at Digger’s Dungeon (home of the famous Monster Truck Gravedigger) located on Caratoke Highway. You can’t miss it! It’s pretty cool.
Beach Rule #4: Leave Only Foot Prints…but still wear shoes, the sand might be hot!
Sure looking for and finding sea glass is always fun. But contributing to the production of sea glass by leaving bottles on the beach takes the magic right out of the whole thing. The beach isn’t the place we want to see trash, and no we aren’t referring to your Uncle Kevin. If trash is your thing, there are some really cool places to look for and even purchase it. Say what? Yes, like artwork, repurposed into some amazing stuff that will check off that “Hey I need to buy a really unique souvenir before our vacation is over” box. So make sure you stop into shops like Class n Trash and Sea Green Gallery to see just how creative the art of re-use can be. What you won’t see in these places are cigarette butts, empty bottles, broken beach toys, forgotten sunglasses, and straws that can harm endangered species because repurposing these items for artwork isn’t a thing. What is a thing, are trash cans and recycle bins, and bags you can tuck into your beach bag to make sure you don’t leave anything behind when your beach time has come to an end.
So when you see these signs entering the beach, please make sure you have a way to keep your trash from becoming litter on the beach factoring in mind ocean breezes and our scavenging seagull friends that are great at turning beachgoers into litterbugs. Which we know, you are not.
Beach Rule #5: Driving
Down here on the banks, we don’t do highway exits and clover leaves. To get around, we have just two main roads; Hwy 158 and NC 12. These two roads (and their connecting ones) carry many folks during the Spring and Summer months, folks eager to explore, arrive at their destination or head home after a long day. Visitors and residents alike are eager to get where they are headed, as soon as possible. We want everyone to do that, and safely. So while you can take a break from those highways and interstates for a few days, here’s how you can roll through your Outer Banks vacation safely and without incident. The beach road (NC 12) is two lanes and has several beach accesses (both private and public). The public ones will have crosswalks that come with the “Pedestrians Have the Right of Way” law. Regardless of which side of the road you are on, keep your eyes peeled for pedestrians waiting to cross. Then stop and let them do just that. When turning left or right onto either 158 (in town called the Bypass) or onto the "beach road", NC 12, make sure when you look left, then right, you are not only looking for cars but for pedestrians on foot, and bikes that could have intentions to cross in front of you as you turn. No one wants to be a pancake, but if you want pancakes, there are too many options to name around town. Go get you some.
So, when traveling along the beach road, in addition to crosswalks, also keep an eye out for beachgoers eager to cross the road without the safety of a public crosswalk, and for volleyballs, frisbees, basketballs, dogs, and kids chasing dogs breaching the end of their yard, or driveway. The beauty of NC 12, is driving along the dunes (especially in Kitty Hawk and South Nags Head) and enjoying the slow pace. Be prepared to stop and enjoy the comradery of the joy of beach life. The Bypass, aptly named, has four lanes and a center turn lane. Many will confuse this lane as an acceleration or merge lane which is why it has earned the nickname of “the suicide lane”. So on that note, when turning North from the West side of the bypass, if possible do this at a traffic light. We have those now. They are great. This might mean you need to drive a few blocks South in the opposite direction of your destination, and then turn left towards the beach, around the block to safely turn right onto the Bypass to head Northward. This is ok. You will be ok. You will not be amongst the others that impatiently turn into traffic using the turn/suicide lane as a merge lane. And by all means, DO NOT cross the Bypass on foot. This rarely ends well.
Listen to local Detective, Christian Aguirre discuss Bicycle and Pedestrian safety with Outer Banks hospital on their monthly podcast.
Beach Rule #6: Swimming Safety
We have seen even the best of swimmers meet their match taking a dip in the ocean. You can go from Michael Phelps to beached seal in the blink of an eye without respecting the ocean and all its magesty. So be prepared, tighten up your trunks, and try not to laugh at the guy next to you unintentionally body surfing into shore face down in the buff.
Also, lifeguards. They are great and here is a handy reference that will tell you not only which beach accesses have them, but everything you need to know from parking, to accessibility, showers, and bathrooms. You will also find information on swimming safety including rip current information here.
Keep checking back as we update this post with more useful information on how to stay safe and enjoy your Outer Banks vacation. We are excited to have you here!