Driving to the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum can be done in less than two hours from the Northern Beaches. Located just beyond the Ocracoke ferry docks, it’s a perfect distance for a day trip. This is a beautiful, at times, spectacular ride that goes to the southern tip of Hatteras Island. It is a perfect spot for an Outer Banks day trip. See a little about this museum and good places to stop in this post.
Divided into the Northern Beaches and Hatteras Island, Oregon Inlet separates the Outer Banks into two islands. Connecting the two islands is the Marc C Basnight Bridge. This 2.8 mile long engineering marvel spans the inlet. You’ll have spectacular views of the Oregon Inlet, salt marsh, the Atlantic and Pamlico Sound as you pass over this bridge.
The northern end of Hatteras Island is Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge (PINWR). This area is part of the US Fish and Wildlife system. Get out and stretch your legs at the trail about 3.75 miles south of the bridge. PINWR is world renown as a birder’s paradise. A walk down this easily navigated trail is a great introduction to birding because of all the waterfowl found along that trail. The shipwreck of the Oriental is also viewable in this area.
Hatteras Island is a place of small towns and villages separated by the open expanse of beach, scrub pine and dunes of Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
Rodanthe is the northern most village on Hatteras Island. It’s part of what is locally referred to as the Tri-Villages, Rodanthe, Waves and Salvo. Because visitors fill the roads and businesses during the summer, it may not be apparent these are villages. However, there is no doubt during the off season. See Tri-Villages homes for sale here.
Avon, the next town south from the Tri-Villages, is more or less the commercial center of Hatteras Island. Here there’s a Food Lion, an Ace Hardware, and many locally owned shops and restuarants. There’s also a sidewalk along NC 12 for most of the village. See Avon homes for sale here.
Buxton, seven miles away is perhaps the population center. Visit the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in this village. It is the tallest brick lighthouse in the United States. You can’t miss it as you drive into town. Most times it is open for climbing. Check here for available climbing times and dates. The south end of the Buxton area is known as Frisco. These two villages have relatively large year round populations, the most high ground of any area of Hatteras Island and protected maritime forest. See Buxton and Frisco homes for sale here.
Hatteras Village is only three miles farther down the road. Hatteras is home to a thriving commercial and sport fishing fleet. Go as far south as the pavement will take you. The building that looks somewhat like a ship is the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum. This is a small museum, yet it is packed with some wonderful and little known stories of the Outer Banks. See Hatteras Village homes for sale here.
Museum and History
Learn about history of Outer Banks sport fishing and Ernal Foster at the museum. Foster realized in the 1930s that he could earn a better living at taking well-to-do Hatteras visitors fishing in the Gulf Stream, than he ever could hauling a net every day. The three boats of his Albatross Fleet are still working sport fishing watercraft. The exhibit on the Civil War on the Outer Banks is fascinating. It recounts a largely forgotten campaign of the the War Between the States. Moreover, it shows that this first Union victory in 1861 was a significant strategic initiative.
Perhaps the most effective display in the museum, though, are the descriptions of life life along coastal North Carolina during WWII. In 1942, Nazi U-boats patrolled the sea lanes just off the Outer Banks, sinking ships at will, bringing the horror of war to the nation’s doorstep.
Housed at the museum is an enigma machine, the Nazi decoding device that allowed Germany to send undecipherable messages to U-boat commanders. Also, a remarkably detailed model of a U-boat cutaway. You can see what life would have been like for the German sailors here.
The museum is part of the North Carolina Maritime Museum system. Admission is free, although donations are accepted. Check the website here for hours of operation.