The Outer Banks always sets the mood for romance
I’ll admit it: I’m a romantic. I am instantly drawn into stories of love (both true and unrequited), tales of soul mates, and undying chivalry, so it’s no surprise that I am an unashamed fan of any story told by Nicholas Sparks. His novels are of the truest forms of loves, those that defy all odds and always seem to end perfectly, even when they end sadly. The settings for his books are mostly along the dreamy North Carolina coast, the place where young love blossoms and old love finds a familiar wrinkled hand to hold. Edenton finds its place in Spark’s The Rescue, Southport sets the scene for Safe Haven, and New Bern’s Spanish moss-covered tranquility is idyllic in The Wedding, A Bend in the Road, and the infamous tear-jerking love story, The Notebook.
North Carolina’s coast is a romantic’s fantasyland, with wide sandy beaches, endless waves, and infinite opportunities for romance. Few places in the Outer Banks or along the North Carolina coast feature a more complete sense of seclusion or romance than Currituck, aptly named as you can find it tucked away in the upper peninsula of the state and completely surrounded by water and marshes on three sides. You can almost hear Billie Holliday singing “I’ll Be Seeing You” as you pull into this magical place of sand and sea, and little is needed to feel at home—you need only pack some casual clothes, a spirit of adventure, and a tender heart to truly enjoy a romantic getaway in Currituck.
Anyone can travel by car, but when the trip requires a ride across water, you know the destination will be memorable. Knott’s Island is 45 minutes by sea, and you start your journey at the dock located near the Historic Currituck Courthouse. Home to the Mackey Island Wildlife Refuge, the island in Spring is a nature-lover’s paradise, and your exploration is only limited by the last call for a ferry ride back to the mainland. Part of the Charles Kuralt Trail, the wildlife refuge is home to a variety of animals, including bald eagles and snow geese, and reconnecting with your outdoor spirit is made simple in this peaceful place. Nature’s bounties don’t stop at animal life. Spend the afternoon enjoying fresh fruit and wines at Martin’s Vineyards. When the season is right, you can fill a basket with fruit you pick straight from the trees, including apples (July to November), peaches (June to August), pumpkins (October) and grapes (October and November). What could possibly be more romantic than picking grapes? Only enjoying grapes in their fermented form, wines available in the vineyard’s shop for both tasting and purchase. Dry and semi-dry reds, sweet and dry whites are ready to be poured, and be sure to buy a bottle for later as well.
The Currituck Beach Lighthouse and Keeper’s House
Lighthouses of history guided ships to harbor, or warned sailors of dangerous rocky ground within their paths, but they have also been written into many works of great literature as symbols of waiting for a true love, as literal beacons in the night helping to guide lovers back to their mates. Few lighthouses in the country can compare to the beauty of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse (pictured above), one of the most popular sights to see in the area. The lighthouse was completed in 1875 and served to fill a ‘dark space’ between Cape Henry and Bodie Island, and its unpainted brick structure serves as a reminder of the importance of simplistic beauty. Even though the flashes of light emitted from the 163-feet-tall lighthouse were automated in 1939, its 20-second interval flashes still stand as a warning to ship captains, as well as a symbol of the loyal love of romantic literature. For those looking for the best view, climb the 214 steps to the top for a small fee. Almost as a tribute to that ideal is the inclusion of the Lighthouse Keeper’s House, a sweeping white Victorian home with green shutters that is in the final stages of a full restoration. The grounds are open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., from March 29 through November 30. To Illuminate the Dark Space, a historical account of the history of the lighthouse, is available for free download here.
Coinjock Marina Restaurant
Finish the day with a stroll on the beach to watch the setting of the sun, or enjoy a quick drive south for dinner at the Coinjock Marina Restaurant. With fresh seafood and waterfront views, the restaurant has been favored by locals and visitors since 1978, and there’s a reason it’s still around to tell its tales: the food is delicious. Start the evening with a cocktail from the Sandbar (I keep hearing about Wendy’ s Key Lime Martini) and an order of mini crabcakes or a bowl of creamy crab bisque. Main course? The fresh catch is always a good option, or for the Southern appetite, fried chicken or pork chops is paired perfectly with one of eight sides, including sweet potatoes and green beans. The Coinjock is not a pretentious restaurant, and you are invited to dress down and focus on good conversation in the casual atmosphere of this Intercoastal Waterway locale with memorable views.