Bucket Lists of the Banks
Whether you are a tourist who has just unpacked your bags and is ready for an epic week at the beach, or someone who grew up with sand between your toes and think you’ve seen (and done) it all, there’s always a grand adventure to be found on the Outer Banks.
Even the seasoned – and not so seasoned – locals still have plenty to explore when it comes to these beautiful islands. A few of our favorite year-round residents have weighed in on what tops their own OBX bucket lists. From flying high above the barrier islands to camping along the coast, and sailing across the sea, they share some bucket list possibilities that are sure to get one’s adrenaline pumping and offer a whole new perspective of this amazing place many of us call home.
Aubrey Davis, an Outer Banks resident since 2001, is co-owner of Outer Banks Brewing Station. Before opening the pub, he was a mechanical engineer for the National Park Service and part of a team that replaced the old heating and cooling system in the White House during the Clinton administration.
Even after more than 15 years of Outer Banks living, Davis has a few things he wants to mark off his bucket list. The first is to spend a week camping and boating from Portsmouth Island to Cape Lookout. Next on his list is “to ride out a Category 3 storm at the top of the Wright Brothers National Memorial.”
If he hits the lottery, Davis says he’d like “to fly out 11 friends to Frying Pan Tower Bed and Breakfast at the southern most end of the Graveyard of the Atlantic and rent out all eight rooms for four nights.” Lastly, with a couple of metal detectors and some moonshine, he’d like to canoe and camp around the waterways at Buffalo City (if he can’t get his hands on some moonshine, Kill Devil Rum will do).
Southern Shores resident Carol Willett is a former public servant turned sculptor who works primarily in papier and cloth mache. She’s lived all over the world, but has called the Outer Banks home since 2010.
“The things I love most about the Outer Banks are the whimsical weather, the fresh air, the background symphony of the ocean and the courtesy and civility of the people. This place feels like home more than anywhere else I’ve been in the world.”
On her OBX bucket list?
“I think it would be a great adventure to go on a bi-plane ride up and down the coast. I’d like to check out the view from up there,” she said. “I’d also love to have tea with someone whose family has been here the longest and find out how all those generations managed to make their way here on this ribbon of sand. I’m ‘rootless’ and people with ‘roots’ are fascinating.”
Deshawn Banks is a leisure activity specialist at Dare County Parks and Recreation and much loved among local kids at the department’s Kill Devil Hills facility. He’s called the Outer Banks home for the past 18 years and says he loves the area because of all of the great people and the variety of activities it has for youth. He knows he loves the Outer Banks from the ground, but wants to see it from high above. On the top of his bucket list is “to hang glide over the entire Outer Banks and see it from a different point of view.”
Cola Vaughan, who moved to the Outer Banks permanently in 1978, is the owner of Cola Vaughan Realty. He says he wants to explore every nook and cranny of the Outer Banks by boat. “I’d like to kayak or sail a small sailboat all the way down the inner islands and the ‘reef’ on the west side of the Outer Banks from Monkey Island to Portsmouth Island. There are all kinds of interesting spots like the Penguin Islands just west of the Nags Head Golf Links and Birds Island north of Hatteras.”
As owner of First Flight Adventure Park, adventure is Abby Carey’s middle name. An Outer Banks resident since 2010, she recently started kite boarding. “I’ve only gone out on the sound, but I’d love to gain the confidence to kite board in the ocean where you can ride actual waves. It looks like so much fun!”
She says she’d also like to jump off the end of one of the ocean piers.
Nora Wilkerson, the lead reservation specialist at Outer Banks Blue, has been an Outer Banker since she was one year old (29 years!) and loves these islands’ small town feel and being surrounded by so much nature and beauty. For her, she’d love to see that beauty by horseback.
“I really want to go horseback riding on the beach. Visitors come here for the beach and to relax. That’s one of the best ways to be in touch with nature. I have not yet had the chance to go. It is hard to get down to Buxton in the summertime due to a busy schedule and having to fight traffic.”
Jeff Hanson has been an Outer Banker for the past 13 years. A retired oceanographer from the United States Army Corps of Engineers, he is now owner of WaveForce Technologies where he offers oceanographic consulting and surf forecast modeling. He’s always outside, whether boating, fishing or playing in the waves with his grandchildren. But for him, his top bucket list item is “to catch a monster cobia, preferably by kayak.”
A few other items on Hanson’s bucket list are to shed all his possessions, live on a boat and surf like he grew up surfing rather than trying to learn after 50. He’d also like to do something really meaningful for the Outer Banks community.
David Elder, Kill Devil Hills Ocean Rescue director and First Flight High School swim coach, has been here for 25 years. Easily bucket list material, Elder jumped from the Avalon Pier with a pair of fins and a knife in 2014 to rescue an 85-pound loggerhead turtle entangled in fishing gear. He then swam the struggling turtle into shore and was met by Network for Endangered Sea Turtle volunteers.
Today, his bucket list item is to sail across the Atlantic Ocean, and perhaps even around the world. “It’d be a great way to face my fears and live by my wits.” The only thing holding him back is his landbound pooch, Linus. Other items Elder would like to cross off his list include traveling every year, painting with watercolors, and selling everything he can and giving away the rest.
Ama Frimpong is the co-director at Mano Al Hermano. From Ghana, West Africa, she has a background in immigration law and criminal defense. Frimpong has only been living on the Outer Banks since January, but she already has a few things to knock off her bucket list. “Being so new on the Outer Banks, there is so much that I haven’t done,” Frimpong says. “The one thing I can immediately think of is so basic. I’d like to go out on a boat. I’d also like to see the wild horses in Corolla.”
Jessica Loose, co-director at Mano Al Hermano with Frimpong, moved to the Outer Banks in 1984 and is the daughter of political refugees from Nazi Germany. She has a background in Chinese Poetry and Painting and also earned a Master of Education in English as a Second Language. She retired from Dare County Schools last year. On the top of her local bucket is “to devote time again to my Chinese brush painting and to paint Outer Banks beachscapes using these centuries-old techniques.”
She’d also like to have edible vegetables in her organic garden 12 months out of the year and illustrate Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching.
So if you are looking to add something to your bucket list and then cross it off, these ideas straight from the locals just may inspire you to have an Outer Banks experience you won’t forget. Or who knows – you may even find yourself parachuting out of an airplane or exploring the Atlantic from dozens of feet below the surface. ♦