DUCK, North Carolina – Hurricane Dorian is long gone, the leaves are changing and the temperatures are, well, more temperate than the summer months. In other words, there’s no better time than Fall to visit the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Actually, there’s no bad time to visit the Outer Banks, but for golf packages, as well as less crowded restaurants, beaches and national parks, Fall is the ideal choice.
Where to begin? Try the west side of Wright Memorial Bridge, which is home to Kilmarlic Club and Carolina Club. Each offer packages through OBX Golf – a good resource for first time or repeat golfers to the Outer Banks.
“When people come here (to the Outer Banks) we want them to know they’re somewhere that is kind of a hidden gem,’’ said Bryan Sullivan, director of golf at Kilmarlic Golf Club. “After they have played the courses, eaten at the restaurants and gone to the beaches, they will know they got everything they wanted from a golf destination.’’
Indeed. Kilmarlic, for example, is an outstanding Tom Steele design that plays along the marshland of Albemarle Sound and through an ancient maritime forest. Kilmarlic plays only 6,550 yards from the tips, but that’s more-than long enough for most players, particularly considering that final three holes – a 565-yard, par-five, 215-yard par-three and 514-yard, par-five – are as good a finishing stretch as you’ll find in the Outer Banks.
“It’s a fun course to play,’’ Sullivan said. “It plays close to the marshes and gives you that true Outer Banks feel. We think we’re getting to be a ‘must play’ course when you come to the Outer Banks.’’
Kilmarlic also is a “must stay’’ on the Outer Banks. The club has 12, two-bedroom, two bath cottages, each with a full kitchen, that make it easy to stay in the growing Powell’s Point area. Six more cottages are planned for some time in the next two years.
“We offer everything for everybody,’’ Sullivan said. “With us having lodging and with the nearby water park, we’ve really become a destination.’’
Less than 15 minutes north of Kilmarlic – in Granby – is the Carolina Club. A parkland-style course that plays around 7,000 yards from the tips, the Carolina Club is a fine example of a public course, featuring tree-lined fairways and fast Bentgrass greens. There’s nothing tricked up about the course – it’s just fun to play.
The same is true of Carolina Club’s sister course – Pointe – that is located just over the Wright Memorial Bridge. Pointe isn’t long – only 6,276 from the tips – but there are no tricks – just plenty of wide fairways and enough water to keep you honest.
The east side of the bridge – from Duck to Kitty Hawk to Manteo – is where the Outer Banks has gained most of its reputation (and history) as one of the country’s great golf and family destinations. And Sanderling Resort in Duck is its signature resort hotel. Set along a wide stretch of beach, Sanderling is comprised of three buildings – the North Inn, South Inn and Beach House. Each building has different floorplans, so there’s something for everybody, whether it’s couples, families or golf buddies.
Sunrises over the Atlantic and sunsets over the bay each can be spectacular.
“For locals and many visitors, Fall is our favorite time,’’ said Wendy Murray, the resort’s director of sales and marketing. “The days are still warm, so you are able to enjoy the ocean temperatures or long walks on the beach. Everything is still open with no lines or waits. It’s just a little slower, a little more relaxed.
“We want to create a memorable experience and be amazing hosts as if we are welcoming you into our home at the beach. The on-site amenities allow for relaxing (spa), culinary experiences (dining) and some adventure (Kitty Hawk Kites).’’
The Life Saving Station is Sanderling’s three meals per day restaurant. It’s particularly a good spot for dinner as most eateries in Duck close at or before 9 p.m.
While Sanderling doesn’t offer golf packages, it does have a partnership with the Currituck Club, four miles away in Corolla, which provides discounts for resort guests.
“We get a lot of guests who are interested in golf as an amenity,’’ Murray said.
Sanderling is a great headquarters hotel for Outer Banks attractions such as the Wright Brothers National Memorial at Kitty Hawk (also known as Kill Devil Hills) and the Corolla Wild Mustangs Spanish Mustangs, descendants of the Mustangs the Spanish brought to the New World in the 16th century.
Approximately 100 of the horses call the large sand dunes of Corolla home. They’re well protected by human bodyguards, so they best way to see them is from one of the tours that take guest from Corolla to the dunes. If those guests are lucky, they might even see the horses walk along the beach. It’s a sight that’s not to be missed.
Not far away, the Wright Brothers National Memorial also is not be missed. After all, it’s not often you can literally walk on ground that changed the world. That is, just a few yards outside of the Visitor’s Center is the grass “runway’’ where on Dec. 17, 1903, Orville Wright became the first man to successfully fly a heavier-than-air aircaft.
There are plenty of quality mid-priced hotels and motels around the Memorial. The most convenient is the Days Inn Kill Devil Hills – Wilbur – almost directly across the highway from the Memorial.
There’s plenty to eat, too. Like seafood? Head to Awful Arthur’s Oyster Bar; for BBQ go to the Pig Man; and for steak, there is JK’s. The area’s best lunch is at Kill Devil Grill.
A few miles from the Memorial is Nag’s Head Golf Links – perhaps the best known course in the Outer Banks. Designed by Bob Moore, Nag’s Head is a links-style layout that like most links-style courses, is at the mercy of the wind. In this case, the wind that blows off Roanoke Sound.
Only 6,126 yards from the tips, Nag’s Head, with all of its nooks and crannies, is one of the more eccentric courses you’ll likely ever play. Anything more than 3-wood or 4-iron off the tee – for most players – is flirting with disaster on almost every hole. Given that, it’s a course you’ll want to play more than one time again because local knowledge lets you know where NOT to hit your ball. But regardless of whether you play it one time or 100 times, Nag’s Head Golf Links is always a treat.
Did I mention history? Just a few miles from Nag’s Head is the waterfront town on Manteo on Roanoke Island. Quiet and unassuming, Manteo is filled with history and eclectic charm. For history, of course, there is Fort Raleigh National Monument, which tells the story of the Lost Colony of Roanoke.
Near the heart of downtown Manteo – in an old brick department store – there’s Outer Banks Distilling. Founded by three local childhood friends, Outer Banks Distilling makes Kill Devil Rum onsite. Take the tour to learn how OBX Distilling creates its rum “from molasses to glasses’’ and even sip some of the product. You’ll even learn where the phrase “Kill Devil’’ originated.
The gift shop, of course, sells Kill Devil Rum. Even if you don’t like rum, don’t leave OBX Distilling without a jar of rum molasses and rum pecans.
Like everything else in the Outer Banks, you won’t be disappointed.