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When Bridgewater residents Art and Mary Braunschweiger started planning their summer beach vacation for this year, Jasper and Bumper loomed large.
The couple wanted to travel with their two yellow labs, so instead of their usual Jersey shore getaway, the whole family headed south. We're definitely coming back." About a seven-hour drive from the Newark area, the Outer Banks, OBX for short, is made up of a series of barrier islands that jut out off the coast of North Carolina.
"There's no place in New Jersey that welcomes dogs on the beaches during the season," said Art while hanging out with the "kids" outside of the Cape Hatteras Light House. A narrow collection of distinct communities connected by bridges, OBX is home to about 60,000 residents year-round.
Drawn by stunning wide beaches, stellar fishing, a shallow coastline dotted with historic wrecks and a laid back string of beach towns, as many as 500,000 visitors arrive during the season.
Most stay in the oversized homes that line the beaches, six, seven and eight-bedroom abodes that can easily host a multi-gen family gathering or getaway of multiple couples.
The size and diversity of the housing stock coupled with competitive rates - you can rent a six bedroom beachfront house with a ton of amenities from about ,000 in high season, makes OBX a worthwhile destination for a longer beach getaway.
Some rentals will stock your fridge for you, and you can even hire a personal chef to take care of the cookery while you're on vacation.
Farther south is quaint Roanoke Island, with its pedestrian friendly downtown and Elizabethan gardens.
If you yearn for solitude and pristine nature, Hatteras is even quieter still, with vast stretches of land devoted to sand dunes and sea oats, the perfect place to unplug and commune with nature.
To a first time visitor to OBX, one surprising thing is the dearth of Southern culture.
Even dating back to the Civil War, these remote islands kept out the fray, cut off, literally from the economic engine of slavery and all of the issues it evoked.
Fishing has been how people survived and made a living for generations, a population of entrepreneurs and working folks who tend to think outside the box.