I was driving up to Corolla the other day and I passed the Duck Pier and it struck me that there is a whole range of things to do on the Outer Banks that are not the typical beach activities. Not that there is anything wrong with going to the beach–because, let’s face it, there is magic in the sound of the surf, warm sunshine and a good book.

However, there are other things to do on the Outer Banks that help to make it such a wonderful and unique place.

Since I mentioned it first, I’ll start with the Duck Pier or as it is officially known, the Army Corps of Engineers Field Research Facility. The mission of the FRF is to study near shore wave action, and it is considered the pre-eminent wave research facility in the world. It really is. Scientists come from all over the world to study the data and techniques used to gather the information. Tours are offered once a day during the summer.

Here is some info from their website: Guided public tours of the Field Research Facility are offered during the summer months beginning June 13th and ending August 19th.

Monday through Friday at 10:00 a.m. and lasting for approximately 1 hour. The gate will open for the tour at 9:30 a.m. and close promptly at 10:00 a.m. Wear appropriate shoes, the tour takes place completely outdoors along a sand trail.  252-261-6840 ext.221.

As a historic footnote, the area surrounding the FRF was a live bombing range during WWII and there are signs posted advising people to stay on the road and trail. There is still live ordinance under the sand, so it’s probably a good idea to follow the advice.

Extraordinary forces of nature formed the Outer Banks and as a consequence there are some very unique environments here. There are four maritime forests dotting the Outer Banks shoreline. There is the Currituck Banks forest in Corolla, Kitty Hawk Woods in Kitty Hawk, Nags Head Woods in Kill Devil Hills and Buxton Woods in Buxton.

All of the forests have hiking trails running through them and for people who like to get out and walk around a bit, they are well worth it.

In some ways Buxton Woods is the most remarkable. Existing at the merging of subtropical and temperate zones, the forest has palmetto palms growing next to cedar trees and other norther hardwoods.

Both Kitty Hawk Woods and Nags Head Woods have evolved in an environment protected from the sea by a line of dunes. They are surprisingly hilly and at the top of the ridges there is an almost mountain-like environment of hardwood trees that falls off to freshwater ponds that are typical of the coastal plain of North Carolina.

The Corolla Banks forest is a relatively flat environment dominated by live oak and massive pine trees. There is a foot trail and a board walk that go from the trailhead to Currituck Sound. The trailhead is at the sharp bend in the road north of the village of Corolla.

Nags Head Woods is administered by the Nature Conservancy. To get to the parking lot, turn at Pigman’s Barbecue, stay on Ocean Acres Road until it goes over a hill and becomes a dirt road and look to your left.

Buxton Woods is on the east side of SR 12. The trails for Kitty Hawk Woods may be difficult to locate if you are not familiar with the town of Kitty Hawk. Stop by the office on West Kitty Hawk Road (turn at the Kitty Hawk 7-11) and get a map or ask for directions.