Climbing to the top of Cape Lookout is roughly the equivalent of climbing to the top of a 12-story building!
In our July/August issue (on newsstands now!), we explored the best sporty activities in the top 10 most visited cities across the country. But that doesn't mean others don't have something fun to offer! After visiting North Carolina's Crystal Coast, it's safe to say there are plenty of fit activities to take advantage of if you're looking for more than a "lay on the beach and drink all of the margaritas" type of getaway. Here, some of our personal faves:
Surfing. Hang ten in these waters and you can definitely call yourself a surfer. The waves vary from two- to three-feet high—perfect for beginners—and can get all the way up to 19-feet during a tropical storm (obviously better for those well-versed on the board). We loved our lessons from Mike over at Hot Wax Surf Shop, but if the adrenaline rush isn't quite your style, they also offer more low-key stand-up paddleboarding (SUP).
Beach Running. Rent a house from Emerald Isle Realty and you'll only have to take a few steps before you're at the beach. Perfect for lounging and getting in a quality workout! We were hosted by the company in one of their beachfront homes, and had a personal walkway leading straight onto the beach—no crazy maneuvering required! Waking up to the sound of the ocean each morning had us leaping out of bed and lacing up the sneaks for a quiet, peaceful jog along the water before diving into the day. If your feet are ready for it, head closer to the water and forgo shoes for some barefoot running so you can really feel the sand beneath you (and burn up to 60 percent more calories!). Watch the sun fully rise post-run and indulge in a little seaside yoga for a true feeling of bliss. Lighthouse Climbing. If you want to see the Southern Outer Banks from a higher perspective, head over to Cape Lookout National Seashore over on Harkers Island. Accessible by ferry, we suggest packing a picnic to enjoy by the water, then climbing the 207 steps to the top of the lighthouse! The breathtaking 360 views allow you to take in miles of uninhabited territory, except for the wild Spanish mustangs over on Shackleford Banks. The park is a sea turtle nesting area, too, so keep an eye out for hatching nests. Once you're finished, ask the ferry driver to slowly bring you over to the Banks, where you can get a closer view of the elegant horses. If you're extra lucky (like we were!), you may just get a little show from the wild dolphins while you zip back to land.
Sightseeing in Beaufort. A short drive away, this quaint little town is not only voted America's Coolest Small Town, it's also the famous location of Nicholas Sparks' A Walk to Remember (and we know you've seen that movie!). Stroll the waterfront docks while the sailboats and yachts come in and out, spot the wild mustangs from across the water, or tour the historic area of town. Definitely a walkable town for those who love window shopping, this is a fun way to take in a cool movie location, soak in a little American history and log those 10,000 steps!
Now you tell us: What's your favorite way to explore a new place while on vacation?