Exploring the Inner Banks is always fun, but doing it by water is a game changer. We’ve had our boat for about a year now, and more than anything we love the freedom it gives us to venture to all of the roadless islands that dot our coastline.
Now I realize that I’ve already laid claim to “my perfect day” in the Day Trippin’ to Shackleford Banks blog post earlier this summer. I think I spoke too soon because this last trip to Cape Lookout trumped the perfection of Shackelford. They’re similar in ways but oh so different at the same time.
Not sure if it was the calm wind or the perfect weather, or maybe it was the company… but this day now reigns supreme as the best of summer 2019.
THE GREAT CAPE ESCAPE
I’ve only been to Cape Lookout once before… it was on Labor Day and as you can imagine, it was quite a popular destination. Just us and 1000s of our closest friends decided to descend on the island for the holiday. We squeezed the boat into a prime parking spot in front of the lighthouse, with boats and boaters as far as the eye could see. It was a great time don’t get me wrong, but take it from me… go on a random Tuesday.
With the first day of school looming, we ignored our mounting to-do lists and hopped on the boat, beach bound with the Broughton family close behind. About an hour down the ICW, we crossed through Beaufort inlet and swung a left into what looked like the Caribbean, far from the brackish waters of the Neuse River. The iconic lighthouse came into view as we paralleled Shack and cruised the eight miles to Cape Lookout.
What I saw wasn’t really reminiscent of the first trip… what was this hidden gem and why hadn’t we come sooner?! Just like that, we were worlds away in what could easily be mistaken for the islands. White sandy, shell-lined beaches for days that gently sloped into the aqua water. I was instantly relaxed surrounded by all of this primal beauty.
The backside of a sandy peninsula looked like home for the day so we anchored up the back of the Parker to the beach and on the bow, we dropped anchor into about 12’ of water.
Blair and Chris had a one track mind and were eager to take Liam and Keegan fishing. Cali and I happily volunteered to stay put with the older two. As I looked around, I had an ah-ha moment… the ‘Crystal Coast’… yep, I get it now.
We set out to explore, shell bucket in one hand, cold bev in the other. Hidden between the dunes was crystal clear shallow pools, and sandbars on the oceanside meant you could wade out forever and still be in knee deep water.
The shells were awesome. By the end of the walk we were beachcombing snobs… “oh that huge conch has a tiny hole, I’ll pass”. It was a bountiful excursion, our bucket and pockets runneth over.
The boys got hungry for lunch and came back after a short, but successful, Spanish Mackerel run. The older kids couldn’t wait to show the littles all of their secret spots. They stayed in the wade pools until they were prunes, then headed out to the sandbar for a relaxing afternoon float.
OUR PRIVATE BEACH
It wasn’t exactly a deserted island, but it kind of felt that way. It looked like the Southern edge of the civilized world. There were scattered boats anchored up and beach chair pairs with mostly older couples. I mentioned to Blair that we seemed to be the only family amongst the retirees. His response “is there anything you’d rather do when you retire?” Good point.
TAKE A LEAP
Cali and I judged a tower jumping contest from shore. The rising tide was pushing us back a bit and the Zak Brown song came on the boat radio… “only worry in the world is the tide gonna reach my chair”… so true, what a sweet reality.
They jumped and jumped and jumped again, the kids (and kids at heart) of a Carolina summer.
SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?
It was almost 4:00 and I was due at wine club at 6:00. Blair asked if we needed to head home. And he would’ve left (I don’t get out much) but I know he didn’t want to… I can’t imagine anyone would. I looked at gin clear water and listened to the bursts of laughter… nope, we’re going to bask in every second of sunlight. We’re running out of time to savor summer and this day is summer’s gift.
About the only thing that could get our crew to willingly leave this paradise was the fact that we were all getting hungry. Note to self: bring more food next time… or a grill. We skipped our tried and true Dockhouse and landed on the top deck of Moonrakers where the view is as impressive as the decor.
Even though it is a bit swanky on the first floor, the top deck is the no judgement zone, reserved for salty boaters like us. They had a great kids menu and we dined on fancy shmancy small plates, hit the spot. Apparently they serve three menus up there depending on the time of day… and of course the bar is always open.
When we were sufficiently fat and happy, we headed home… riding off into the sunset with two sun-kissed kiddos passed out on the boat deck. What. A. Day.
RICH IN HISTORY
The diamond patterned lighthouse built in the early 1800s stands tall at the South end of a 56 mile national seashore. It’s still a working lighthouse, a beacon that has been guiding boaters around the strip of unspoiled beaches for centuries.
Long ago Cape Lookout used to have a small village but it has been uninhabited since 1966, except for the overnighters at the lighthouse Keeper’s Quarters and the occasional adventurous campers. Read more about the lighthouse caretakers in this neat article from Our State magazine, ‘Keepers of the Light’.
No problem. Take the Island Express ferry over from Harker’s Island, a catamaran ferry over from Beaufort or the ferry from Davis. Bring or rent ATVs to explore miles and miles of pristine natural beaches. I’ve never done this but think it would be really cool…another adventure for another day I suppose, add it to the list!