Travel: The Outer Banks

Escape to the seaside sans the Shore crowds

OBX bumper stickers are ubiquitous for a reason: The Outer Banks, with its laid-back vibe and miles of beaches unblemished by overdevelopment, is hard not to fall for. Thick vegetation that lines roads and beaches holds myriad birds and other critters, and occasional breaks in the flora yield glimpses of colorful houses perched high on stilts. Jersey Shore-goers will delight in the free beach access. June is the region’s sweet spot—the temperatures and ocean are summer-warm, but sticky humidity and big-time crowds have yet to arrive. Plus, on the 14th, the town of Nags Head celebrates its 50th anniversary with a charity golf tourney and gala.

Stay: The area’s only inclusive resort, the Sanderling Resort and Spa feels like a cozy inn. All 88 rooms face either sea or sound, and offer furnished balconies and access to the hotel’s spa and beach. Rooms from $350 per night in season.

Visit: Jockey’s Ridge State Park, with its breathtaking 90-plus-foot sand dunes, and the Wright Brothers National Memorial, celebrating the adventuresome duo’s forays into flight. Take in the unspoiled coastline with a drive along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, stopping in Buxton to visit the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse—the nation’s tallest. On Roanoke Island, check out the exquisite Elizabethan Gardens, modeled after a 16th-century English garden and home to the “Old Oak,” a tree dating to 1585. You’ll also want to consider extracting yourself from your beach chair for biking, hang-gliding, fishing, kite-surfing, kayaking—and a trip to the Sanderling’s tranquil spa (opt for the Soothing Sea Stone Massage).

Eat: At the Sanderling, the nautically festooned Lifesaving Station is great for local seafood like Carolina sunburst trout, while the pricier Left Bank features upscale, new American fare with a local and sustainable bent. Off-property, JK’s is superb for wood-grilled steaks. If you make the drive down to Buxton, don’t miss the Captain’s Table (252-995-3117) for golden-crisp hush puppies and smoky, tangy Carolina pulled pork.