By Land and Sea in the Carolinas

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I recently returned from a trip to North and South Carolina (and Georgia as well) — the first trip of my “50 by 50” initiative to complete seeing all of the 50 US states by the time I turn 50 in 2016. It was a fun journey steeped in history, which we were lucky to see not only by land but by water as well.

North Carolina

The first stop after landing in North Carolina was the Outer Banks. There, on Roanoke Island, we stayed on a docked yacht called The Starry Banner. What a fun and unique experience that was! The boat had all the comforts of home: you first stepped into a comfortable salon with a corner wrap-around couch, sound system, and flat-screen TV. A few steps below that was a galley, with an equipped kitchen, head (bathroom), and small sleeping space upfront that would be suitable for a third person or children.

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At the aft of the boat was the main bedroom, and it was beautiful. Small of course, as space on boats generally is; but this was one of the most comfortable beds I have ever slept on. There was also an upper deck on top that was delightful for sitting with a glass of wine or reading on pretty days. The yacht is self-serviced, meaning that no breakfast or maid service is provided but you have total privacy and the comforts of home.

The Starry Banner was docked at the marina in the town of Manteo, an incredibly picturesque place of clapboard buildings that house restaurants, shops, and even a brewpub (the Full Moon, one of our favorite spots there). Everything in the town was steps away from the boat, which provided the perfect location to explore Roanoke Island.

The island is full of both history and mysteries: It was the first place that English settlers ever landed, in 1585 as part of an expedition put together by Sir Walter Raleigh. After attempts to make a colony, several years later (1590) one of the original settlers, John White, returned to the colony from England only to find it abandoned. There were nobodies and no clues as to what had happened to the colonists. They had simply vanished, and the fate of “The Lost Colony” remains a mystery today. At the historic site, they put on an outdoor period drama that reenacts the story of the Lost Colony (Memorial through Labor Day).

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Other historic sites to see on Roanoke Island include:

  •  Roanoke Island Festival Park: 25-acre interactive historic site representing the first English settlement attempt, including a recreation of the Elizabeth II ship, American Indian town, and Adventure Museum.
  •  Fort Raleigh National Historic Site
  •  North Carolina Aquarium

Roanoke Island is just between the mainland of North Carolina and the Outer Banks, the peninsula string that includes Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head, and Cape Hatteras. We drove over to check out the Wright Brothers Memorial at Kill Devil Hills — a great museum and site of the world’s first powered airplane flight, by Orville and Wilbur Wright. The two brothers didn’t even have a high school diploma and ran a bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio — but they were still able to figure out one of the world’s most difficult physics problems, to make a successful flight before anyone else on earth was able to do so. This was the highlight of my trip!

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South Carolina

After our three days in the Outer Banks, we drove down to Charleston, South Carolina to experience a different sort of history — once more stepped in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. The historic district of Charleston is so postcard-pretty perfect, the restored homes so gorgeous, that it almost feels like a movie set. Fake, almost; I expected to see ladies in hoop skirts step out of the horse-drawn carriages that ply the streets, or Rhett Butler to come strolling around the corner.

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In Charleston we stayed right in the middle of the historic district: our location could not have been better than the Jacobson Building at 19 Broad Street. On the main street of downtown Charleston, 19 Broad was a block from the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon (dating from the 17th Century, where many Revolutionary War patriots were imprisoned) and just around the corner from Rainbow Row (a series of thirteen colorful, photo-worthy houses reminiscent of the Caribbean).

We stayed in one of the Jacobson Building’s six self-serviced suites; it offered space and comfort with amenities like a coffee maker, a small fridge, and plates/glasses/silverware so we could keep breakfast, snacks, and wine for ourselves. Being self-serviced it also was without daily maid service, but more like having your own personal apartment in the heart of Charleston. The best thing was being able to walk almost everywhere we went, including the French Quarter, South of Broad mansions, Charleston City Market, historic homes open to the public such as the Nathanial Russell and Aiken-Rhett houses, and old atmospheric cemeteries where some of the city’s most prominent citizens are buried.

We were also fortunate enough to see Charleston by boat as well, courtesy of some friends who have a boat-sharing membership with Freedom Boat Club. We spent the day in Charleston Harbor and on the Cooper and Ashley Rivers, seeing sites such as Fort Sumter and the USS Yorktown. But the best part about the boating was seeing the dolphins, who swam and fed all around our boat and others during the entire trip. It was magical!

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Stay tuned for my upcoming blog post about our next destination: Savannah, Georgia.

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