OUTER BANKS: the BEST road trip of the USA East Coast?
(pensive music) A 200-mile string of barrier islands, a ride that feels like traveling between the ocean and sand. Culture, nature, peace. Visit the Outer Banks in North Carolina with me and ride the complete Outer Banks Scenic Byway from Cedar Island to Cape Hatteras and Nags Head.
(dramatic music) (upbeat music) - So I just turned off to go shopping here because the place that I'm going to tonight has I think one restaurant but according to Google, this one restaurant is closed on Sundays and Mondays and it's Sunday today. So I had to get some supplies. So I'm surviving dinner and tomorrow morning because tomorrow morning will be a very early start. But now 100 kilometer left.
Let's go. - So everyone, we turn off here now and follow Highway 70 that at one point turns into Highway 12 and it's kind of a dead-end road because it goes to this place called Cedar Island, and you might wonder how we continue. We will take a ferry but not today, only tomorrow. (singer humming) At the junction I turned off, the Outer Banks Scenic Byway already started.
The byway stretches 137 miles or 221 kilometers from Cedar Island that you can reach from the mainland over several barrier islands north to Nags Head. - The thing is in my experience, scenic byways here in the US never promise too much because as soon as they are declared a scenic byways, the environment is really, really nice. And we are not even yet on the real Outer Banks barrier islands, and I think it's still starting to get nicer now. (upbeat music) - So even I'm not on the Outer Banks islands yet, this is already called the Outer Banks Scenic Highway. And it actually feels a little bit Scandinavian because there's lots of water, and trees kind of like half growing in the water and yeah, it's pretty nice and much, much less traffic now, so not so many other cars anymore.
I'm very happy. (lively music) - This really reminds me of some parts of Finland and Sweden that we traveled on our Expedition North. I think it's really nice. It's interesting though because we are not even halfway done with our East Coast journey and not northern at all. So this nature here, I really didn't expect this.
And all the trees are quite a change to the coast and marshlands that we have seen on this trip so far. - So this here now is the official Cedar Island Wildlife Refuge. I don't have the map in front of my eyes but maybe this is the bridge now that takes us onto Cedar Island. Or maybe we have been on Cedar Island already.
I actually don't know. (upbeat music) The Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1964 and includes roughly 11,000 acres of marshlands and 3,480 acres of woodland and pocosin habit. There are only two main roads that wind through Cedar Island: North Carolina Highway 12, which runs through the length of the island, and Lola Road, and Northbound Route 12 is the only way to drive through Cedar Island without using a ferry connection.
- So guys, I just wanted to fly the drone here... ...well, the drones... because I think this wetland here behind me and this flat with some forest, I think it's just absolutely stunning. But when I tried to start the drone, it turned out that it's kind of like a military area or I actually don't know, but it's a no-flight zone.
So no drone footage for you guys. Because I get asked this question again and again: for flying a drone in the United States, I use an app called B4UFLY. And it has maps of all flight and no-flight zones of the country. This way you can be sure not to operate your drone illegally or in protected nature areas. - Getting close to our destination for tonight and I'm very curious about it. The place I booked was not on any of the big booking platforms.
So I hope it even works out, and that there is a reservation because I'm taking a ferry super, super early tomorrow at 7 AM that will bring me to the Outer Banks. (upbeat music) - So this seems to be the place. It's actually a pretty huge campground here too, and all of this doesn't look bad at all.
Actually pretty nice here. (upbeat music) - I got my door code and oh my God, guys, you have no clue how much I love motel life. I think motels where you can park right in front of your room with your vehicle is really the way to go and the most convenient thing on Earth when traveling.
- Welcome to Cedar Island and welcome to my motel. The motel of the Cedar Island Ranch Beach Camp and Stables was the perfect road trip accommodation for me, and the perfect place to spend a night before the big Outer Banks journey was about to start. The rooms were clean enough and it was only a five-minute walk to the beach and the ferry station. - So this is where I'm going tomorrow where I'm gonna pick up the ferry. (tranquil music) - Good morning, everyone.
It's 6:45. I'm already dressed and kind of ready to go. I'm preparing the bike because I'm going to the ferry now to Outer Banks, and Hatteras Island. (bike revving) - Good morning. This is the earliest start of the this trip so far.
7 AM and on the road already. But it will not be a road for every long because right here is the ferry terminal. (upbeat music) - You can park right behind the other motorcycle.
- [Lea] Okay, thank you so much. - [Operator] Thank you, have a good day. - [Lea] So I really hope that the waters here are not too wavy. You guys know about my sea sickness and the ferry ride is not so short. So there would be enough time for me to get sick if there are any waves happening here. (upbeat music) - That's much smaller than I thought.
- Yeah. - [Lea] I thought we gonna get this one. (upbeat music) (lively music) The ferry from Cedar Island to Ocracoke is the best way to get to the Outer Banks barrier islands coming from the south.
At my time of traveling, the ferry departed three times a day and the ride on the ferry was about 2 hours and 30 minutes. During the main season, the ferry can get quite busy, so I can highly recommend to make a reservation before you go. I will drop you the information about the ferry and where to make a reservation in the description of this video.
- Believe it or not, but this ferry ride was actually pretty nice because there were no waves. I'm not seasick and I feel like that's a big accomplishment. So yeah, it was a very nice ride. I as well met a lot of nice people here on the ferry that I talked to.
Very nice atmosphere. Can highly recommend. (lively music) The ferry ride is a basically straight 22-mile or 35-milometer shot across the Pamlico Sound.
The only land you will see though is Cedar Island when departing and Ocracoke Village on your arrival. But for the rest of the trip, the only scenery is open water and occasionally passing shrimping boats. - That's my new motorcycle friends. This is the place where you meet real overlanders.
This guy here rode from Texas all the way to here, and has already done a lot of journeys here across the US. And this guy with his Harley, just rode from San Diego to here. (upbeat music) - Now we will see what all this Outer Banks hype is about. Ocracoke, here we come.
Outer Banks, here we come. (upbeat music) So the first island that you reach with the ferry has, in my opinion, the best name. And I will just try to say it as often as possible. The name is Ocracoke. And I think it's an amazing name and yeah, that's the first island that you reach from the ferry, and it's pretty small and you go over this island and then you have to take directly another ferry that brings you then to the next island. And that's where I'm heading now to the next ferry.
The community of Ocracoke describes itself as rough around the edges because of miles and miles of pristine undeveloped and uncrowded beaches. A get-away to Ocracoke Island is about getting back to nature, and about soaking up the special atmosphere and culture that only exists on islands. (inspirational music) (lively music) Ocracoke Inlet was first placed on the map when English explorers wrecked a sailing ship there in 1585. Two centuries later, this was one of the busiest inlets on the East Coast. Realizing that a lighthouse was necessary to help boats navigating through the Ocracoke Inlet, a wooden pyramid-shaped tower was constructed, but when the inlet's steepest channels moved, a new structure in a new location was needed. This lighthouse was completed in 1823 and the Ocracoke Island Lighthouse still stands and functions today, being the second-oldest operating lighthouse in the United States of America.
Now we will cross this Ocracoke Island here and go to the next ferry and that's the fun here. You literally go from one island to the next. (upbeat music) Spanning almost the entire coast of North Carolina, Outer Banks are a 200-mile or 320-kilometer string of barrier islands. I was wondering why everyone was so obsessed with this region because more than a handful people told me this is a must-visit on the East Coast until I left the ferry that I took from Cedar Island to Ocracoke. I immediately started to understand why people who once come here often return every single year.
It's not just the beautiful beaches but before all, a sense of calm relaxation that is hard to describe in words. (tires squealing) Only that this sense of calm and relaxation was interrupted when I reached the next ferry. - So you can't miss the ferry because the only big road across Ocracoke Island ends here. And there is already quite a few cars lined up but I'm positive that we will catch the next ferry because it's not that many.
- So it seems like getting on the next ferry is much more a problem than getting on the first ferry because you can't prebook this one and the guy just told me that he's not sure that we are far enough in front in line to make this next one, which means if we don't, we have to wait for exactly an hour. Otherwise it's 30 minutes. Little did I know that the next ferry was much smaller than the first ferry.
And that it would take me quite some hours to catch one. - So this ferry is completely ridiculous if you ask me. A local behind me was already saying, "I don't think we will make the two next ones," and I was like "what?". It's only 10 cars in front of us.
So it's a super, super small ferry and then there is this priority lane so everyone who has a priority pass is going first. Now I doubt that we will make the next one but maybe we will see. - And that's the enemies. The big trucks who go to the priority lane. We didn't make the next ferry and barely moved forward in our line.
- I was just told by some locals that the water here is very shallow, which means the ferries can't be too big, that's why it's also very small. (upbeat music) - And I'm by the way meanwhile waiting one and a half hours and now here below this tree because that's the only spot of shade that i could find. And yeah, I asked the guy who is standing in front of the ferry if I can pull up with motorcycle and if they can squeeze it on and he said "no". Not very nice. Especially, it's very hot. It's 35 degrees or something like that.
- People are coming off. So we will see. After waiting for about three hours, I finally caught the ferry that would take me from Ocracoke to Hatteras.
Once on the ferry, that is, by the way, free of charge, it was a pretty straightforward ride of about 45 minutes. - I made it on this ferry and behind me, you can see what is the problem. These trucks here, they stand on two lanes of the ferry. So if you have two big trucks, there's basically no other space for vehicles anymore. And I really don't understand why the guys at the entrance would not let motorcycles pass first because I mean, you see that behind me. There could have been standing another five motorcycles next to this truck while no car can stand there.
That doesn't make sense to me but otherwise, the people on the ferry were very nice. Like the Cedar Island to Ocracoke ferry connection, the Ocracoke to Hatteras ferry connection is as well a part of the Outer Banks Scenic Byway, so if you want to experience the whole Outer Banks ride, they are both a must. To avoid being stuck in a traffic jam to Hatteras, there is a local rule of thumb. The best time to head to Ocracoke is in the evening and the best time to head to Hatteras, in the morning. (tranquil music) - Welcome to Hatteras. From here on, we don't have to take any other ferries no more because the northern parts of the Outer Banks is connected to the mainland at one point or even several points actually with bridges.
But first things first, I will head to my accommodation now. Hatteras is one of the longest islands in the continental United States and yet is also one of the Outer Banks's least populated regions. With just seven small villages scattered throughout roughly 50 miles or 80 kilometers of coastline, the island has become famous to those who look for a vacation without the hustle and bustle.
There are no major resorts, huge hotels, amusement parks or big beach boardwalks here. Instead, vacationers will find miles of wide open space. (inspirational music) - Before going to my hotel, I first will head to the supermarket. Due to the long wait at the ferry, no restaurants are open anymore because lunchtime is over since quite a while but I'm super hungry. (upbeat music) - That's what I bought. - So this I think is my hotel.
I'm very lucky because it was one of the only places that still had a room here on the Outer Banks. But I think this hotel as well will be amazing because it had super good ratings, and trust me, I meanwhile got very good in judging if a place is nice or not from online ratings. I'm a professional in that.
(lively music) - Oh my God, look at this view. (upbeat music) The Inn on Pamlico Sound is indeed an absolutely lovely place. And if there would have been free rooms available, I would have stayed at least two or three nights. But I was happy to at least enjoy the awesome views from the pool on the Pamlico Sound and a delicious dinner for one night. This is the first hotel on this trip I would really recommend you to stay at because it's really so cozy. - If this is not the most beautiful place on the East Coast, I don't know.
It's really very beautiful. (crickets chirping) - Good morning, everyone. As you can see behind me, the sun is just about to rise. It's 10 to 6. I'm all packed, ready to go. And ready for the Outer Banks experience today.
- Look at the moon. Wow. (bike revving) (tranquil music) - Good morning, everyone.
So yesterday I had an early start due to the ferry and today I'm starting even more early because there is basically only one road from here to the mainland and I want to have that a little bit to myself. And I think it is as well never wrong to enjoy the sunrise on a motorcycle. - And because it's so nice to do some sightseeing in the morning, we turn off here now and it looks like another lighthouse to visit. - Nothing wrong with early mornings. So beautiful here. And here there is the lighthouse of this cape here.
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse protects one of the most hazardous section of the Atlantic Coast. Offshore of Cape Hatteras, the Gulf Stream collides with the Virginia Drift, a branch of the Labrador current from Canada. Storms, shallow water and shifting sandbars have sunk over 1,000 ships off Cape Hatteras since 1600, giving this area the nickname the Graveyard of the Atlantic.
The lighthouse was built in 1870 and since then protects travelers on the ocean. - This is so cool now. You don't see it so good in reality because of the dunes but here on the navigation system, there is just this thin strip of land right and left of me and the road in the middle feels like only a road in the middle of the ocean.
The Cape Hatteras National Seashore accounts for roughly 70 miles of the barrier islands that make up the Outer Banks. And is separated from the North Carolina mainland by the Pamlico Sound. In some places, Hatteras Island is only several meters wide and offers stunning views on the surrounding nature and the ocean. (inspirational music) - This ride is so nice. The roads are completely empty and it's not so hot yet.
I'm really enjoying this and it's such a cool surrounding and such a nice morning. (upbeat music) (lively music) Not only the nature of the Outer Banks is special, as well the architecture is. Around 1855, the first oceanfront cottage was built.
By 1885, there were 13 cottages built from ships salvaged and scavenged wood along a mile-long stretch of coastline. Today you mostly find an appealing coastal style with houses on pilings at the Outer Banks. Due to the limited distance to the ocean on the narrow Hatteras Island, putting a house on pilings allowed waves and storm tides to pass under the home rather than flooding it. (lively music) - Guys, I know you might have enough of lighthouses already but because the Outer Banks are all about nature and the sea, there is not too many other monuments or sights on the way, so we will stop at another lighthouse now and I promise, I think it will be the last one of this Outer Banks journey, at least I think so now but you never know.
Tucked away between tall pine trees and freshwater marshland, the Bodie Island Lighthouse presents anything but a typical lighthouse setting. The lighthouse was built in 1872 and stands 156 feet or 48 meters tall and is actually celebrating 150 years in 2022. - I think lighthouses here at Outer Banks are a big thing. Of course they are important but they are as well the sights that you see here.
It's like THE things where you see signs that say like lighthouse here. So yeah, if you come here, I guess you have to watch a few lighthouses. (upbeat music) - Because I got up so super early today, I'm very hungry already but the problem is that it's only 7 and most places open at eight, so I guess I just have to continue the ride and hope to find something in the next towns because here is a town and there would have been something but it doesn't open until in an hour or so. Meanwhile, the journey had made me pretty hungry, already since 7 AM I had been looking for a diner or a cafe but couldn't find anything that was open. Only when I reached Nags Head, which is nearly at the end of the Outer Banks Scenic Byway, I came across Sam and Omie's, a lovely and famous diner. (upbeat music) (upbeat music) Nags Head is one of the most developed vacation regions of the Outer Banks due to neighboring the mainland and being connected to the mainland by bridges.
This is also where the Outer Banks Scenic Byway ends. But before leaving the Outer Banks, there are still a few things you should put on your bucket list. - So we are turning off now to look at a state park, Jockey's Ridge State Park to be precise, and I actually don't really know yet what's going on there. But it's famous here in the area so we go. (tranquil music) Jockey's Ridge State Park is indeed home to the tallest living sand dune system on the Atlantic Coast and provides an ideal location for flying kites. Hang gliding is a hallmark activity at the park.
Unfortunately, I still seem to be too early and I couldn't see anyone flying but instead, I enjoyed the nature around me. - It seems like this whole area here is about flying things. First Jockey's State Park with the hang gliders, and the next place I am going to is one of the most important landmarks here on the coast when it comes to flying. So stay tuned.
- I'm not sure what I'm doing here is completely legal. I thought you have to pay an entrance fee for this historic site and it feels like I'm sneaking in from the back. Oh oh. (lively music) My dream of traveling and experiencing the world brought me to this place called Kitty Hawk.
And over a century earlier, wind, sand and a dream of flying brought Wilbur and Orville Wright to this same place. After four years of scientific experimentation, they achieved the first successful sustained powered flight in a heavier than air machine on December 17th in 1903. A 60-feet or 18-meters-high granite monument dedicated in 1933 is perched atop the 90-foot-tall or 27-meter-high Kill Devil Hill. It remembers Wilbur and Orville Wright and their first attempts of flying.
- So guys, I want a big thank you for this one. I walked up this hill just for you in all my gear. Look. That doesn't look that steep but that's the hill and back here is the parking. It's a far way just for the channel. (upbeat music) - Guys, I promise, we will go back to the Wright Brothers because there is so much more to learn but I now really want to approach the site from the real entrance so I can visit the tourist center and the museum they have there without feeling bad.
I could have just walked there actually but I always think it's right to support culture and education. (upbeat music) (inspirational music) If you enter the monument from the official side, you will have to pay an entry fee but you as well can visit the Visitors Center that is home to a museum. It features models and actual tools and machines used by the Wright Brothers during their flights and a life-sized replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer, the first powered heavier than air aircraft in history to achieve controlled flight. Next to the visitors center, you find two wooden sheds that recreate the world's first airplane hangar and the brothers' living quarters.
It is also possible to walk along the actual routes of their flights along stone markers. - So everyone, this was it, the famous Outer Banks. It was recommended to me by so many of you.
And did I like it? You know I always tell you the truth... and I loved it. I think it's such a cool and peaceful and somehow not super crowded place here on the East Coast. And now, now we will have a big change of scenery because now we are heading to the mountain. (upbeat music) This was the famous Outer Banks Scenic Byway. If you enjoyed it as much as I did, give this video a thumbs up and comment and hit the bell button to subscribe to the East Coast journey because the next episode will take us to a destination that is one of the most famous for motorcycle and overland travelers on the East Coast in the United States: the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Tune in next Thursday to join the adventure. (bike roaring)