The kids’ Spring Break was a month away. Mother Nature was dropping subtle hints of warmer temperatures. Businesses were slowly easing COVID restrictions. I already secured that week off from work.
The big question was: What should we do?
Planning a getaway with two teenagers presents limitations we didn’t have when the kids were younger. While they love their mother and stepfather very much, they didn’t want to spend their entire Spring Break with us. And not only did they want to take advantage of their time off to have fun with friends, but for the first time, we also had to take into consideration my 17-year-old son’s new job and his ability to get time off.
After deciding on three nights away, we then decided the Outer Banks would be the perfect short getaway. And while we could have chosen to stay in Kitty Hawk or Nags Head or Duck with only a couple of hours in the car, I wanted to go a little farther to get a more unique experience. After all, we live in Virginia Beach. I wanted something more than staying a few nights in another beach town.
The next day I started researching Ocracoke.
I’d been to the island of Ocracoke once before several years earlier and loved it. Accessible only by ferry, the village is small and artsy and laid back and exactly the unique experience I wanted the kids to have.
So what did we do in Ocracoke for our short Spring Break trip?
If I was skeptical about our decision to hit the road on Easter Sunday, risking the possibility that things would be closed for the holiday, that worry didn’t last long. Not only was everything we needed — like gas and fast food — open, but the traffic to the Outer Banks was light and the line for the free Hatteras Inlet Ferry to Ocracoke was short.
After a little over three hours of driving and 20 minutes of waiting in a line of cars, we drove onto the ferry. The weather was chilly but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky as my boyfriend and I put on masks and strolled around the upper deck. An hour later, the ferry docked on the island of Ocracoke.
Ocracoke Island is only 16 miles long so it didn’t take us long to arrive in Ocracoke Village and find our villa at The Castle on Silver Lake.
We looked into renting a house as friends recommended, but all the house rentals I found online required a minimum of a week stay. Fortunately, our villa at The Castle ended up being perfect for our family, with a kitchen, a living room area for the kids to hang out and sleep in and a separate bedroom for the adults. Our back deck overlooked the pool, and our front deck was a few steps to the stairwell that brought us to a rooftop deck that looked like the best spot on the island for watching the sunset.
We unpacked our car and got right back in to find dinner. Despite the fact that it was Easter, it wasn’t hard to find an open restaurant. It may not have been a traditional Easter dinner, but I loved my crab cake at Howard’s Pub.
Ready to be off the road for the night, we found our way to the top of that rooftop deck to confirm that the sunset was indeed beautiful from that spot.
With our energy fading, we decided to enjoy some down time in the villa. For me, that meant a hot bath in the jetted tub with a glass of wine and a good novel, a little tv and an early bedtime.
Because a primary goal of the vacation was to relax, I let the kids sleep in while I grabbed the car keys and drove around until I found the Ocracoke Coffee Co. to pick up caffeine and bagels.
After my boyfriend and I ate — and the teens continued to sleep — we followed through on the kids’ biggest request. That’s right, we rented a golf cart.
Golf carts seemed to be the primary mode of transportation in Ocracoke, and to us it seemed like a fun way to explore. (The kids later said the highlight of the trip for them was the golf cart. According to my 13-year-old, it was “the best money we’ve ever spent.”)
We were lucky to spot rentals at an inn across the street from our villa, where we parked it nightly to charge. Of course, the adults had to test drive it first so after signing the paperwork we drove over to the Ocracoke Variety Store to pick up some groceries before waking up the kids.
With one teenager who has a driver’s license and a younger teen to help navigate, the adults sat in the back and enjoyed letting the kids guide our golf cart explorations all over the village, stopping for photos, a hidden beach access, a cemetery, gift shops and ice cream at Slushy’s.
After exploring we stopped at Eduardo’s Taco Stand and ordered tacos and burritos and street corn to bring back to our villa for lunch.
We planned to look into letting the kids go parasailing, but after finally locating the one parasailing company in Ocracoke, we were told the boat wasn’t running until May or June. With nothing else planned, we opted for chill time. For me that meant reading by the pool before more family golf cart adventures, pizza delivery to our villa from Sorellas, another sunset on the rooftop deck and a pitch black leisurely walk with a sky full of the brightest stars I’ve ever seen.
The combination of my body being accustomed to waking up at 5am and my inability to sleep soundly in a bed that isn’t my own had me awake and ready to move while it was still dark out. I brewed a pot of coffee in our kitchen, grabbed a yogurt and my book and headed out to a deck overlooking Silver Lake that’s owned by The Castle. I wasn’t on the right side of the island to see the sun rising, but watching the colors replace darkness in the quiet solitude started my day with a sense of calm and peace.
While my family continued to sleep, I found one of The Castle’s bikes and rode from one end of the village to the other, breathing in the crisp air and wondering where the day would bring us.
Our first golf cart stop was the Ocracoke Lighthouse. Visitors aren’t able to go inside so we weren’t there long, but it was worth the photo op to get up close to the landmark that was part of our sunset views.
After more golf carting, shopping and then circling back to our villa to eat leftovers for lunch, we headed over to Ride the Wind surf shop to rent kayaks. While I sat behind my daughter in one kayak and my boyfriend and son shared the other, we paddled around Silver Lake under a cloudless blue sky for an hour.
One advantage of vacationing with teenagers is they’re old enough to be left alone while the adults go on a date. Although we invited the kids to dinner at Dajio, they chose to raid the fridge in the villa. I’m pretty sure my shrimp and grits were way better than their ramen.
After dinner, we all bundled up, tossed the firewood and lighter we bought at the variety store along with our beach bag into the car and headed out of the village and toward the ferry for the big finale of our trip: a beach bonfire.
With our signed beach fire permit required by the National Park Service in hand, we found the perfect spot for us on a stretch of beach that was completely empty. The kids dug a small pit and arranged the firewood and fire starter, while my boyfriend supervised and I spread out beach towels. Within no time, we were telling bad ghost stories around a warm fire as we roasted hot dogs and watched the sun setting behind the sand dunes.
It was too cold to swim and soon enough the fire started dying down so we safely put out the fire and returned to our villa for our final night in Ocracoke.
As usual I was the first one up. I enjoyed another morning bike ride, this time winding around small neighborhood roads and taking advantage of the quiet before waking everyone else up and packing our bags.
We were hoping to make the 10:30am ferry, but after arriving a few minutes after 10:00, we caught the end of the line of cars and drove right onto the ferry a half hour earlier than expected.
An hour on the ferry then three hours on the road and we were home, another family vacation in the books. I cherish every trip with my favorite people, thankful for the opportunity to get a change of scenery and spend some quality time together.
Thanks for the memories, Ocracoke.