NC Outer Banks Via US 64: Make the drive part of the vacation
Vacationers to the Outer Banks generally arrive via US 64 East, and from Raleigh to the coast can seem a like boring drive after the rolling Piedmont hills flatten into farmland with little passing scenery. The relatively new highway bypasses the many small towns every few miles, with Rocky Mount and Williamston being the only towns of any significant size. Northeastern North Carolina possesses a charm of its own, but it is not always readily apparent.
About twenty miles from Rocky Mount is the growing town of Tarborro. Incorporated in 1760, Tarboro retains a close tie with its past through magnificently preserved homes and buildings ranging from Colonial to Victorian. Over 300 structures make up the 45-block Historic District which includes residential dwellings, historic churches and original 19th century storefronts along Tarboro’s Main Street.
Does small town life seem too slow to keep you interested? Incorporated in 1872, the Town of Robersonville is home to the 3/8-mile asphalt East Carolina Motor Speedway. During racing season the Grandstands open at 5 p.m.and racing starts at 7:00 p.m.
You certainly don't have to make it all the way to the Outer Banks to start fishing, particularly in the spring when runs of herring put Jamesville on the map. Just past Williamston, Jamesville is the first small town you'll actually slow down to pass thru when the Highway ceases to be a freeway.
In Plymouth, a short diverson from Highway 64 will take you to the Roanoke River where the Port O'Plymouth Museum, the Roanoke River Maritime Museeum and the Ronaoke River Lighthouse are just a few of the town's historical attractions.
History buffs should also plan a stopover in Creswell to tour Somerset Place and picnic at Pettigrew State Park. The restored antebellum period plantation home and outbuildings of Somerset Place can be toured with no admission charge.
The last leg of the drive begins just pass Columbia, and though the beach is less than an hour or so down the road, this is were boredom threatens to set in. Straight and empty roads run between wide canals, and passing zones are plentiful. But the monotony of this stretch is conducive to speeding, and law enforcement officers ticket in the area regularly. Stop and stretch your legs at the Scuppernong River Interpretive Boardwalk to set the mood for the rest of the drive.
Rather than hurrying through the last 40 miles or so and risking a speeding ticket, settle back and look for wildlife. Turtles sunbathe regularly in the canals, and large birds such as heron nest near the Alligator River. The Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge is home to black bears, American alligators and red wolves, so have your camera ready.
The best way to get to the Outer Banks is to start your holiday when you pull out of your driveway. Forget the hustle and hurry up method of driving you use to get to work, and roll along, prepared to stop for anything that looks interesting. You have plenty of time to get where you're going--it's a vacation.
Seven of Thirty
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