It’s a rugged, beautiful and lonely land. The Outer Banks are a string of narrow barrier islands sheltering North Carolina’s mainland coast. For thousands of years, they have acted as a natural buffer zone between the ravaging Atlantic and shallow offshore sounds.
Windswept dunes and sandy beaches mix with fertile marshes and tranquil woodlands. Here, the warm waters of the Gulf Stream merge with the cooler Labrador currents, creating a home for a wide variety of rare plants and animals. The pristine Outer Banks are a nesting area for terns, American Oystercatchers and Black Skimmers. Shy Sea Turtles crawl up from the surf to lay eggs on its sun-warmed beaches. And if you’re lucky, you can even catch a glimpse of wild horses roaming about the Northern Shores.
The treacherous waters off the Outer Banks have been dubbed the Graveyard of the Atlantic, entombing about 2,000 vessels — one of the highest concentrations of shipwrecks in the world. Many a desperate seaman has lost his fight not only against the angry sea, but also against forces of war and piracy.
Long stretches of these fragile ribbons of sand have been placed under federal protection to preserve natural and cultural resources. The Outer Banks are host to two National Seashores: Cape Hatteras and remote Cape Lookout, further to the south and reachable only by boat or ferry.
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