In the early 1960s, my daddy read an article about the Outer Banks of North Carolina and the new ferry connecting the barrier islands to the North Carolina Coast. Wanting to explore this area my parents loaded the five of us in the station wagon with no seatbelts, no child safety seat, and only a pallet in the back for Cathy, Melanie and me. After spending the night near Cedar Island, at the Sea Level Inn, we boarded the ferry for the two-and-a-half-hour ride to Ocracoke Island. The sleepy little fishing village is the southern-most town within the limits of the Cape Hatteras National Sea Shore and was the perfect place to begin our adventure. Historically, Ocracoke had been the home to many pirates including the famous Blackbeard who was killed on the island in 1718. In addition, wild ponies roamed freely and were probably descendants of horses that survived the many shipwrecks along the coast. In the 60’s remains of these shipwrecks could be seen all along the isolated coast. The little island of Ocracoke had few residents and one main road which headed toward Hatteras. Except for a few small motels, simple restaurants, light Houses, and the monument to the Wright Brothers there was little to see along the Outer Banks except for the exceptional beauty of the unspoiled coast. There were few tourists and no traffic. Of course, we had no reservations and had to stay in an old hotel in Avon because of the limited lodging. Even as a child, I remember the trip was one of my favorites and as far as my family was concerned, the Outer Banks was delightfully wild and isolated. By the way, Momma remarked that daddy would take $200 and that would supply all our needs while we were gone.
Fast forward to August of 1975 when Bunny and I took a short road trip to the Outer Banks with four of our best friends. Thursday afternoon the six of us piled into Bunny’s car; 3 in the front; 3 in the back with no concern for seatbelts or safety. Since the car was full, we loaded our luggage on top of the car and headed north. We probably looked like the Beverly Hillbillies, but we really did not care; we were young and on the way to an adventure. As luck would have it, we spent the night in the same old motel near Cedar Island and boarded the ferry the next morning for Ocracoke. Also, as before, we had no plans, no reservations and the six of us had very little money. Arriving in Ocracoke, I realized that the small fishing village had not grown and was still charmingly quaint. There were no crowds, no traffic, only a small group of considerate tourists seeking to enjoy the beauty of the remote coastal area. Over the next few days our group enjoyed climbing the light houses, learning the history of flight at the Wright Brothers Memorial and seeing some of the largest sand dunes ever. We even added a little culture by attending the Lost Colony Drama in Manteo. Lodging was still limited but luckily, we found rooms at Man’s Harbor Marina near Manteo. To say the motel was modest is probably an exaggeration but it was in our price range and that’s what mattered. Since there was no pool, the manager directed us to a private beach along the beautiful Croatan Sound. Regardless of where we traveled over the next 45 years, the trip to the Outer banks with our friends was one of the best. By the way Bunny and I probably did not even have $200 to spend on this long weekend escapade.
This August, Bunny and I once again headed out of Cedar Island on the ferry to spend a few relaxed days on the island of Ocracoke. Since we had traveled in 2000 through the entire barrier islands our goal was to just enjoy the simple beauty of Ocracoke and not spend so much time in the car. As most travelers we wore our seatbelts the entire time, enjoyed constant pandora and SiriusXM music. Cell phones provided GPS guidance and this time we had plenty of room since it was just the two of us in the car. Instead of staying in the old motel near Cedar Island, we enjoyed the beautiful town of Beaufort NC in a comfortable inn by the water. The ferry was the same and provided a safe trip across the Pamlico Sound. As we approached the island it seemed to be a bustling community of houses, boats and new buildings. Leaving the ferry, we were shocked at the people, cars, golf carts, bikes, and dogs. In fact, our hotel across from the Marina did not even have an extra parking place. So much for a quiet relaxing time on the island of Ocracoke. During our visit we learned the island got a water system in 1977 along with a doctor, ABC Store and bar. The first good TV reception came in 85 and the first condo was built in 1987. From then on, the simple fishing village exploded into a tourist magnet. Driving was dangerous and it took both of us to watch for pedestrians, golf carts and bike riders. During our stay, Bunny and I visited with a volunteer in the museum who had lived on the island 6 months out of the year since the 1960s. We shared our dismay at how the island had transformed into a tourist area and she agreed that tourism was a big focus on the little island. Apparently, the tourist season runs from spring until the middle of November and all businesses try to make their living during that time. The lady also noted that after the tourists leave in November the island returns to a small population and the fishing village is quiet once again. No doubt, communities must be successful to survive and grow, but it’s sad the way progress can often produce a Paradise Lost. We were happy for the success Ocracoke had found, but just as happy to return home to Salters where we could finally enjoy some peace and quiet. And for the record, we spent more than $300 a day on our final trip to Ocracoke in August. And that my friend is the price of progress.
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