The Outer Banks is famous for
its family friendly beaches, uncluttered with steady Atlantic surf
lapping at the miles and miles of welcoming sand. Whether it is
the patient consistency of the surf fisherman or the manic rush of the
skim boarder, the laconic drifting of the tanning sun worshipper or
the long walks that serve to shield the real intent of the people watchers,
the ocean provides endless possibilities for entertainment.
But the Outer Banks is a string
of barrier islands, and as such it has another side, one that also holds
riches of its own. Welcome to the Sound Side!
The largest lagoon on the east
coast of the U.S. is the Pamlico Sound, which starts at Oregon Inlet
to the north and ends on the southern end with Drum Inlet stretching
80 miles long and 30 miles wide at its widest. The brackish waters
are fed by the Neuse and the Pamlico rivers mixing with the salty ocean
brine, creating a playground of water sports of deserved international
While the deep draft boats
are making their way out to the ocean in the narrow channel leading
out of Oregon Inlet, churning their way out to the Gulf Stream and the
big game fish, a whole different fleet spreads out across the shallow
waters of the sound. Flat bottom skiffs are about all that can
navigate a good portion of the Pamlico, with depths often no more than
three feet for miles and rarely getting deeper than 15 feet. But
there are many more of these versatile workhorses parked on trailers
in driveways across America than there are million dollar charter boats
parked in $100,000 boat slips in sexy marinas, and there is no better
place to slip these fishing machines into the water than the Pamlico.
What waits for the avid angler,
swimming just below the surface? There is an amazing variety of
fish that call the Pamlico Sound home. Puppy Drum, Red Drum, Speckled
Trout, Flounder and Rock Fish are found in abundance, with an occasional
visit from Tarpon and Spanish Mackerel, and there are lots of resources
available, both in print and online, to direct the Pamlico angler to
the hot spots and guide her toward the seasonal variances that are inevitable.
If you want some local direction, guides are available with insights
earned through years of experience navigating these beautiful and varied
waters. For those that prefer to go it alone, there is no shortage
of public access for the trailered craft, many with support stations
including bathrooms, picnic tables and even charcoal grills.
No longer a quirky oddity,
wind sports are some of the fastest growing sporting passions in the
world, and few places on earth attract as many enthusiasts as the hallowed
waters of the Pamlico Sound. It is not a curious accident that
the Wright Brothers National Memorial selected the general area as the perfect place to
invent human flight. Wind here is a constant feature of the landscape,
with 10-30 mph gusts as common as the sand on the beaches. The
sound is isolated from the offshore whitecaps that can get in the way
of smooth sailing on a small board, and the lack of large boats due
to the shallow nature of the water provides a perfect environment for
the wind sport aficionado. As a result, people come to the Pamlico
Sound from all over the world to enjoy the perfect place to indulge
Getting to the water is easy.
Simply drive along Route 12 through the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and it won't
be long before you see the sails and kites of kindred spirits plying
the Pamlico waters. Some people simply pull off the road and lug
their gear down to the water. Others find the planned public put-ins
more advantageous, providing the same creature comforts enjoyed by boaters.
No matter what time of year, you will find people as or more consumed
as you are with the thrill and freedom of harnessing the wind for propulsion.
Want to see the experts at
work? There is no better place in the country than Canadian Hole
just north of Buxton. Huge kites pull the boarders across the
smooth water at breathtaking speed, creating a thrill ride that tiptoes
along the fine line of controlled flight and chaos. Bring your
camera, landlubbers. Some of the kites are breathtaking.
OTHER WAYS TO PLAY
Anything that skims across
the surface of the water will find the waters of Pamlico Sound beckoning
to them. Jet skiers will find exploring the area perfectly suited
to their tiny craft as they can travel prodigious distances quickly,
are maneuverable and have almost no draft at all. If a leisurely
approach is more your style, the intricate byways and inlets that abound
along the shores of the Pamlico simply beg the kayaker to explore, and
the wind and open water lures sail boaters to this endlessly fascinating
waterway. Just watch your keel!
THE "OTHER" OUTER BANKS
The ocean will always be a
romantic lure, drawing families and spawning movie genres, but for those
with an eye for something just a bit different, just a bit more unspoiled,
and just as fun and exciting, drive less than a mile across the tiny
barrier islands of the Outer Banks and discover Pamlico Sound.
Recess never gets old. Hit the playground!