To paraphrase a wise woman (or man), it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. The Outer Banks is a fabulous destination. What’s not to like about miles and miles of beautiful beaches? In Hampton Roads those beautiful beaches are not that far away. We can be sitting on the sand and sipping a cold beverage within hours.
But slow down, dear friends. You could take all day to arrive at the beach, or you could extend your vacation and meander your way back home. There are all kinds of things to do, see and eat along the Caratoke Highway on the way to the Wright Memorial Bridge and those beautiful beaches.
We have good friends who own a beach house in Corolla. We’ve taken the drive back and forth many times in the six years we’ve lived in Hampton Roads. I love the beach. I’m always glad to arrive, put on my bathing suit and climb that sand dune over to the beach. I also love to stop and explore on the way down and on the way back. You can enjoy the journey and enjoy the destination.
Here is a list of some of my favorite reasons to stop along the Caratoke Highway. Some are big and bold with 25 signs announcing the goodies within. Some you might drive right on by without even noticing. Stop at these, and you will not be sorry.
It can be challenging to turn left onto the Caratoke Highway so I’ve listed my picks in order, heading south (on the right side of the Highway) to the bridge, then heading north (on the right side of the Highway) back to North Carolina/Virginia border. I’m sure I’ve missed some real treasures. Tell me about them, and I’ll stop next time.
To the Beach – south on the Caratoke Highway
Currituck Welcome Center
I know it feels like you just got on the road, but stop at the Currituck Welcome Center in Moyock, less than a mile across the state line.
There are friendly people who will answer your questions here. They will tell you about some great places to eat and things to do, both on the Outer Banks and along the way. This is where I learned about the place to get the BEST sweet corn in Currituck County (more on that later). These people live here, love it, and are happy to share.
Powell’s Roadside Market
You can’t miss Powell’s. There are two locations, both on the right side of the Highway, heading south. The first location is the largest. Watch for the fifty signs, Burma Shave style along the road, announcing what’s in season. Right now, they have North Carolina shrimp and Georgia watermelons for $1.99, but that can change tomorrow. They sell lots and lots of fresh produce. They also sell jams, sauces, salsas and anything pickled from eggs to watermelon rind. They are not good about updating their FB page, but you’ll know what they have just by looking at the signs.
Morris Farm Market
Not too much further down Caratoke Highway, you’ll spot lots of old tractors along the road. They’re the signal that you are coming up to Morris Farm Market in Coinjock. They have a wide variety of produce. They also have live music from time to time, so check out their FB page.
Roberts Ridge Farm
The ladies at the Currituck Welcome Center let me in on a local secret, which I’m telling you. If you detour off the Highway, towards Elizabeth City, you will find the best sweet corn in Currituck County to take to the beach. Turn right on 158, a.k.a. Shortcut Road. Up about 5 miles, you will see the sign for Roberts Ridge Farm. Harvey and his crew go out into the fields every morning and pick sweet corn to sell at their farm stand. They also grow and sell the famous Rocky Hock melons. It’s worth the detour.
Be sure you take a cooler with you. You will find good things to eat along the way. It’s always hot in the summer. You know that, you live here. You will have dinner in your cooler by the time you get to the beach.
The Gravedigger and Everything Else Gravedigger
I have a 7-year-old grandson who loves Monster Jam. If you are unfamiliar, it’s trucks on steroids that compete around the country all year long. The Monster Trucks come to Hampton Coliseum and Scope Arena a couple times of year. Joe loves Monster Jam. To my surprise, I enjoy it too.
The favorite Monster Truck around here is Gravedigger, because it’s local. Local meaning the headquarters of the Anderson family and Gravedigger is right on Caratoke Highway on the way to OBX.
This is a complex. There is Diggers Dungeon, Diggers Diner, Diggers Farm Market and best of all, Monster Truck rides. Worth a stop if you like trucks.
Grandy Greenhouse & Farm Market
Grandy Greenhouse & Farm Market is my favorite farm market on the way to OBX. The produce is always excellent. This is where I stock up on peaches, melons, and tomatoes to take to the beach house. This is where I always get a fresh fruit flurry at Allie’s Frozen Yogurt.
Weeping Radish is North Carolina’s first craft brewery, a butcher shop and a restaurant. Owner Uli Bennewitz has lived in this country for forty years, but his beers are still authentic Bavarian style brews. You can stop to eat here, or load up your cooler with beer and brats for the beach. There are baby goats out front. Baby goats are always worth the stop.
You can’t miss this giant waterpark that opened a few years ago, not far from the bridge to the beach. https://www.h2obxwaterpark.com
If you get bored at the beach, it’s easy to pop back over to H2OBX for the day from the beach. They offer an 8-day vacation pass for $39.99 per person. It’s a different kind of water experience for sure.
Carolina Charm Plants and Gifts
Carolina Charm is the place to get beautiful birdhouses with copper roofs and room for ten purple martin families. Purple martins eat mosquitoes, so the more purple martins you have living in your backyard, the less mosquitoes. There are also bat houses, bee houses and bluebird houses. This charming gift shop is anchored by a charming old house. They also sell flowers, outdoor plants, birdfeeders and other gifts.
Your beach vacation is over and it’s time to head on home to Hampton Roads. Extend your vacation, slow down and stop along the way.
Back to home – north on Caratoke Highway
Simply Southern Kitchen
Save lunch for Simply Southern Kitchen. Lots of five star reviews on Yelp and open for lunch and dinner. This restaurant prides itself on good, down-home food, like fried chicken, pork chops and jumbo shrimp. They have mac and cheese, collards, corn on the cob and hush puppies of course.
Lammers Stained Glass Gifts & Antiques
This is a shop I have driven by many times and never stopped until the ladies at the Currituck Visitors Center told me it was “fun, funky and fabulous.” The Lammers family runs the shop in the historic Grover Cleveland Newbern House, built sometime around 1910. It looks small from the outside, but inside, it goes on and on. There is plenty of stained glass, both new and old, but also food, quirky kitchen utensils that you can’t live without, vintage comic books, posters, vinyl records and license plates, seashells, North Carolina pottery, driftwood, seashells, antique gumball machines and more, more, more. It is charming. It is fun. You can spend two hours here. It’s worth a stop.
It’s not Napa, but there is an authentic vineyard and wine tasting room on the Caratoke Highway. Slow down when you see the grape arbors of Sanctuary Vineyards and pull in at the wine tasting barn/shop. I don’t know much about wine, but the folks at the Sanctuary are there to teach and let you taste. They have live music and other events happening through the season. Check out their FB page for more details.
Cotton Gin and Thyme & Tide Café
There are four Cotton Gin locations, three on the Outer Banks and this one in Jarvisburg on the Highway. The Wright family has owned this property for over 100 years. They also own the Sanctuary Vineyards next door. Cotton Gin is another one of those rambling old buildings that you can get delightfully lost in. It’s a gift shop with many top brands. My favorite thing to buy here are the Scout bags. They are the perfect bags for the beach and pool. I have them in several different sizes and colors. They are indestructible and shed the sand and water. Thyme & Tide Café within Cotton Gin, is open for breakfast, brunch through 8:00 pm in season.
Cindy’s Kitchen is another one of those places I would have zoomed on by without a recommendation from the ladies at the Currituck Visitors Center. If you like desserts, if you have a sweet tooth, you need to stop here. They have salads, homemade soups and deviled eggs but they are famous for their 12-layer chocolate cake. Yummy! There are also cookies, pecan bars, pies, banana pudding and fresh apple crumb. Fill up your cooler here and take it all home.
Currituck BBQ Company
Save some room in your cooler (or your belly) for Currituck BBQ, just a few doors down from Cindy’s Kitchen. Since moving south six years ago, my husband has been making a study of good barbeque. This is good barbeque. I love the brisket. My husband always goes for the pulled pork. The barbeque, the sauces, and the sides are all made right here. You put in your order at the counter. You can eat inside in the very unassuming restaurant with the locals, or you can take your BBQ outside and eat under the large pavilion. We stop here every time.
Just like that, you’re back home in Hampton Roads. What did I bring back in my cooler the last time I traveled the Caratoke Highway? Bratwurst from Weeping Radish Brewery, a giant, sweet melon and juicy peaches from Grandy Greenhouse & Farm Market and 100 % Scuppernong Grape Juice from Powells Farm Market that I’m saving for a special occasion.