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Having started out as a small fishing community, Duck was named for the many waterfowl that nested on its marshy shores. Half a decade ago, only one store existed in Duck and until the early 80s, it remained a quaint fishing village and a secret among a select few who explored its wide-open beaches and gnarled, salt-laden landscapes, and wondered at its spectacular sunsets. Since then Duck has gained national attention.
Today, rental properties seem to outnumber the ducks, and realtors and retailers outnumber duck hunters and fishermen. From May until September, there are at least a thousand tourists for every Duck native, and absentee landlords own considerably more of Duck than its year-round residents.
Aside from its beaches, Duck has become well known for its mile-long stretch of shopping. Those staying elsewhere on the Outer Banks usually make a special day trip to Duck to stroll, shop and eat when they've had enough fun in the sun. Despite the traffic, Duck makes the most of its commercial area by packing as much as possible into one perfectly walkable area. Fortunately, by limiting commercial development to the strip along Highway 12, Duck has been able to retain its charm despite its growth.
There are plenty of recreation, dining and shopping opportunities for the whole family in Duck. There are the beaches for the kids, and in the afternoon the town is perfect for browsing with its many boutiques, galleries and unique gift shops. For nature lovers, Duck is a must. Its miles of protected sanctuary wilderness and its attractive beaches provide an ideal environment for abundant native wildlife. Duck also has its lively side: the sounds area on the north end features kayak rentals, parasailing, jet ski rentals, plus sailing and windsurfing outfitters. The bike path running the length of the village is well traveled with early morning exercisers, tots on trikes, and inline skaters. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Duck Field Research Pier is also an interesting attraction. This nationally renowned coastal research facility is open to the public for tours. Five miles north of Duck is Sanderling, an exclusive resort community with an amazingly upscale inn, restaurant and spa, while to the south is the incorporated town of Southern Shores, which is predominantly residential and very similar in character to the quiet side of Duck.
Like the rest of the more transient, northern Outer Bank beaches, parking in Duck during the summer months is a mess, especially on weekends. Weekdays, however, you can drive through the gates, park your car, and follow the barbed-wire fence all the way down to the beach.
Are there Ducks in Duck? Yes.
Places to stay? Unless you make reservations fairly far in advance, chances are most places in Duck will be booked out for the summer. Moreover, cottage prices are fairly high. On a budget? You may want to stay farther south in town.
The Sand & Surf: This sand is smooth, light gray and perfect for walking. The beach is not ideal for shelling or bathing, though, as it can be somewhat gravely at the water line. The rolling surf delights vigorous swimmers.
Dress code: For Duck, khakis and polos prevail. Its more conservative ambience and cooler climate demands dressier wear than, say, the Florida Panhandle.
Duck is a handy base for taking in the beaches, marshes and historical attractions that stretch 75 miles south to Cape Hatteras. There's romance there, too; a rougher, edge-of-the-continent kind of romance.
Ecotourism opportunities abound
Visit Sanderling, an exclusive resort community with an amazingly upscale inn, restaurant and spa.
Enjoy gorgeous sunsets on the soundside
Browse boutiques, galleries and unique gift shops
Visit the Army Corps of Engineers Duck Field Research Pier
Surfing near the pier
Rolling surf is great for adventurous swimmers
Build a sandcastle
The beach sand is smooth and light gray and is perfect for for walking
All kinds of fishing. Acclaimed to be some of the best in the world.
The nearest airport is in Norfolk, Va. Take I-85 north through Charlotte, N.C. 64 east and over the bridge to Nags Head, north on N.C. 158 and then N.C. 12 to Duck. The Norfolk airport is served by several major airlines while private, charter and regional carrier aircraft use the Dare County Regional Airport in Manteo, the Currituck County Airport, or the Wright Memorial Airstrip (for limited tie-downs) in Kill Devil Hills, N.C. Have a great deal of patience on that final leg from Norfolk, Va. to the Banks. The traffic can be nightmarish, but once you cross the long bridge over Currituck Sound, it's all good.
The Outer Banks is just 1 1/2 hours by automobile from Norfolk, Virginia; 3 1/2 hours from Richmond, Virginia; and 5 hours from Washington, D.C.
West and South to the Northern Beaches via Elizabeth City
Exit I-95 in Rocky Mount
US 64 East to Williamston
US 17 North via Edenton to Elizabeth City
US 158 East to Kitty Hawk
West and South to the Northern Beaches via Plymouth
Exit I-95 in Rocky Mount
US 64 East to Williamston
US 64 via Plymouth to Manteo
The Blue Point Grille in Duck (Milepost 5, Duck Road; 252-261-8090), is the prime vantage point from which to watch the sun gloriously sink into Currituck Sound, perhaps after you've strolled the adjacent boardwalk shops.