Keep the Camera at the Ready
The beautiful beaches and sea breeze that are so wonderful on the Outer Banks are why so many people visit and come back year after year. And there is a lot to be said for that; we would never disagree that perfect sand and refreshing ocean air makes for a great place to vacation.
At some point though, other interests may crop up. We thought we could help that process along by making some suggestions for other things to do—this time for photographers.
These are just some general ideas about places where good Outer Banks photos may be waiting. They are by no means the only places.
This seems almost too obvious, but it has to be listed.
Depending one how good the camera is, there can be some great action shots on a busy day in the summer; kids body surfing, a mom or dad taking a baby into the water for the first time, skim boarders…the list is pretty much endless.
Most of this type of photography can be done very well with a phone camera. Some of these shots, though, may take some form of telephoto or zoom lens, and that will require a little better camera than typically comes with a cellphone.
However, don’t overlook an early morning visit to the beach to catch a sunrise. There are so many colors and they are so subtly arranged that no painting could ever do it justice.
Or—a full moon over a calm sea is spectacular.
Looking for an iconic Outer Banks sunset picture? Go to Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head.
The top of Jockey’s Ridge provides a 360 degree view of the Outer Banks. To the west, the dune slopes gradually to Roanoke Sound, and the sunsets from the top of the hill are the stuff of legend.
During the day there is plenty to see as well. Jockey’s Ridge is where Kitty Hawk Kites has their hang gliding school and, especially late spring through early fall there is almost always a class on the dune.
Jockey’s Ridge is also one of the finest places in the world to fly a kite. Some great shots are just waiting to be recorded.
Looking for an iconic Outer Banks sunset picture? Go to the Whalehed Club in Corolla.
Wait a minute…didn’t we just say that about Jockey’s Ridge? Yes we did, but that’s not the only place to get a great sunset shot.
Nestled along the banks of Currituck Sound, the Whalehead Club is an iconic and beautiful example of art nouveau architecture. The grounds are meticulously maintained and there are a number of places at the site where beautiful shots of the main building, boathouse or footbridge are calling out to be taken.
The Whalehead Club is immediately adjacent to the Currituck Beach Lighthouse. A suggestion for a memorable Outer Banks image is to take a picture across the boat basin toward the lighthouse.
The Not So Obvious
Recognizing that not everyone has a 4WD vehicle or wishes to pay the National Park Service beach driving fee, we’re going to recommend the south side of Oregon Inlet. The north side with its dynamic tidal flow, salt flats and hundreds of fishermen is great as well, but the south side is free and not as well known.
The parking lot is just past the south end of the Bonner Bridge on the east side of the road. There is a path at the north end of the parking lot that parallels the waters of the inlet.
The somewhat dilapidated building at the site was at one time the Oregon Inlet Lifesaving Station until the Coast Guard was created and then became part of the USCG. It was in active use until 1988 when the new Oregon Inlet was competed on the north side of Oregon Inlet.
There are some plans to restore the building, built in 1898, but funding is not currently available.
However, the possibilities for photography are endless.
Continue walking east and the beach comes to a clear point where the ocean and inlet meet. There is always a lot of boat traffic through the inlet and some great shots are waiting to be taken.
Bodie Island Lighthouse
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse gets all the press, but Bodie Island Lighthouse in South Nags Head—and the grounds surrounding it—is a wonder to see.
There are some easily navigated, well-marked trails on the site that have some great opportunities for photography. Also, looking back to the lighthouse, the images that may be captured are classic.
The lighthouse is available for climbing. Not quite as high as Cape Hatteras, it nonetheless affords a spectacular view of the surrounding marsh, wetlands and Oregon Inlet.
Nags Head Woods
There are four maintained maritime forests on the Outer Banks and all of them are worth a visit—especially a visit with a camera. We’ve chosen Nags Head Woods because it has the best marked trails and the best trail maps.
Protected from the extremes of ocean winds by a ridge of relict sand dunes, Nags Head Woods is a dense, verdant maritime forest. Walking along the trails the ocean seems a distant memory, but listen carefully, and the sound of surf can be heard.
The images captured here will not be typical Outer Banks beach scenes or sunsets, but they are every bit as much a part of life on a sandbar as the Atlantic Ocean or any of the sounds. Keep the camera at the ready; there is so much to see in Nags Head Woods that opportunities may come at any time.
Something to look for—there are a number of small family cemeteries in the Woods. Be respectful, but there are some interesting images to be captured.
Be open to the experience and take lots of pictures. Nothing says they all have to be kept. Just keep the best.