The shifting shoals and fierce storms that have wrecked thousands of ships off North Carolina's Outer Banks have collateral benefits. The "graveyard of the Atlantic" is also the East Coast's premier surf and wind-sports hub.
November's unexpected window of steady breezes and mellow surf breaks, which comes after hurricane season and before winter's nor'easters, highlights the banks' full spectrum of options: surfing, paddling, kiteboarding, and hang gliding. To make sure you check them all off your list, this four-day trip skips the commercial northern strip and concentrates on the 75 miles (121 kilometers) of white sands, dunes, and marshes within Cape Hatteras National Seashore—the first oceanfront to merit national protection. With tourist season long gone, you'll have the East Coast's largest stretch of undeveloped beach all to yourself.
TOTAL MILEAGE: 353 (568 kilometers)
DAY 1: Mileage: 125 (201 kilometers)
Spot egrets and terns at Oregon Inlet at the Wings Over Water Festival (www.wingsoverwater.org), November 7-12.
The Atlantic's choppy surf is great for those skilled enough to jump waves, but for novice kiteboarders, the Pamlico Sound offers smoother sailing. "It's like a big practice pool, waist deep for 30 miles (48 kilometers) in every direction," says Real Kiteboarding co-founder Trip Forman. Take morning intro lessons and you'll be skimming the sound by nightfall.
DAY 2: Mileage: 52 (84 kilometers)
Hop a free ride to Ocracoke Island. A ferry runs to and from Cape Hatteras every half-hour.
The only road through Ocracoke Island leads to its one and only village. (You guessed it, Ocracoke Village.) Stroll the cobblestone lanes, lunch on the rooftop deck at Howard's Pub, then take a sunset paddle past tidal marshes at Springer's Point, where the pirate Blackbeard was sent to a watery grave in 1718.
DAY 3: Mileage: 29 (47 kilometers)
For daily surf conditions, call Natural Art's 24-hour report (+1 252 995 4646) or watch the live webcam at www.surfline.com.
The zigzag curves of Hatteras Island's coast grant surfable breaks from every wind direction. The best waves hit at Cape Point, near the lighthouse. Pick up a board, wet suit, and guide from Natural Art Surf Shop, in Buxton. Come dusk, ditch the neoprene and dine on fresh scallops at the Breakwater Restaurant, on Oden's Dock.
DAY 4: Mileage: 147 (237 kilometers)
Check out the local music scene at Outer Banks Brewing Station, in Kill Devil Hills. (Try the pale Ölsch beer.)
During a three-hour hang gliding lesson with Kitty Hawk Kites, in Nags Head, you'll make your own inaugural flight from a dune close to the Wright Brothers' 1903 launchpad. The clinic includes five jumps off of Jockey's Ridge, a 90-foot (27-meter) sand peak that dominates a slim slip of land barely a mile across.
DO: Real Kiteboarding ($300 for introductory lessons; www.realkiteboarding.com); Ride the Wind ($35 for a two-hour kayaking tour; www.surfocracoke.com); Natural Art Surf Shop ($15 a day for surfboard and wet suit rental; 252-995-5682); Kitty Hawk Kites ($89 for a beginner hang gliding class; www.kittyhawk.com)
SLEEP: The Inn on Pamlico Sound ($145; www.innonpamlicosound.com); The Cove B&B ($105; www.thecovebb.com); First Colony Inn ($89; www.firstcolonyinn.com)
Our November 2006 issue features the best new adventure travel trips; an exclusive look inside Iran; a Greenland global warming report; backcountry spas; digital cameras; travel Web sites; weekend getaways; and more.
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