Family Vacation Ideas ~ Kids Beach Activity Guide
Imagine a giant sandbox that goes on for miles and miles, located right next to the world’s largest swimming hole, with nothing but sea and sand as far as the eye can see. No, you’re not dreaming – this is a description of the sunny Hatteras Island beaches, and kids just like you have been coming to vacation on the Outer Banks for generations. After all, who doesn’t love the cool combination of waves and surf, sandy feet and sun? But before you pack up the sunscreen and the surf boards, you might wonder what’s out there to discover on the shore, and what to do both on and off the sand. Well, believe it or not, there are tons of answers, and the fun starts the second you step onto the beach.
Explore the Sand
A shovel, a bucket, and nothing but sand can certainly start off a good day at the beach. Use a piece of driftwood to etch out shapes along the shore, or write your name in letters so large that every passing helicopter or airplane will pause to see your message.
If the parents will oblige, you can even turn mom and dad into a veritable work of art by burying them up to their elbows in sand and then sculpting sand shapes around them. You might want to ask them first, of course, as not all moms and dads like to be buried in sand (and this goes for little brother and sisters too.)
Once you have them buried, break out the sand tools, like buckets, shells, and pebbles, and start decorating! A few stone scales and a fin, and dad will make the perfect mermaid, or you can design a new “sand bathing suit” for mom with colorful seashells. Whatever you do, just make sure you have a camera so you can take pictures.
Hunt for Sand Diggers
Head down to the shoreline, right at the edge of where the waves are washing in, and start digging. Chances are that sooner or later you’ll notice small pink little crabs digging next to you. Don’t be scared – these little critters are called “sand diggers” or mole crabs, and they are perfectly harmless. With a hard sandy gray shell and pink sides and belly, these guys don’t look like an everyday crab, but with their 8 small legs that are almost always moving, they can burrow into the sand with the best of them, looking for food, or simply a temporary shelter from the crashing waves.
Build a Sandcastle
What better way to get your hands dirty than by building a sandcastle? Of course, you don’t need too much stuff to build a perfectly good sandcastle. A bucket and a shovel can make a castle anyone would be proud of, but if you want to try something a little different, grab a small twig or medium sized sea-shell you find along your trek out to the beach to help cut out tiny windows and doors, and make squiggly decorations all around the castle walls.
The dirtiest and the most delicate castle are “mud castles.” These are created by taking a big gob of watery sand, and letting the little drops of water slip through your fingers into the sand. You’ll find as the water and sand mixture drips onto the beach, it will create unique little castles in just a matter of seconds. There’s no wrong way to make a mud castle, so this kind of castle is perfect for all ages.
Fun in the Ocean and Sound
Ready to play in the ocean? An inflatable raft can go a long way with keeping you afloat, and of course, there’s nothing like water Frisbee or volleyball to get everyone involved in the fun.
But one of the best ways to enjoy the beach is by board, and a good way to introduce yourself to the board sports is by buying or renting a body board or skim board. A flat body board, usually made of Styrofoam with a plastic base, will let you ride the waves into shore, while a skinny wooden skim board lets you skid along the waves just as they crash into the surf.
Once you’ve got the wave riding technique down, you might want to try surfing or even kiteboarding, one of the newest water sports to hit the East Coast. The waves off of North Carolina’s coast are legendary to the surfer set, and many local shops offer surf board rentals and lessons. For kiteboarding beginners, the easy going Pamlico Sound is the perfect playground for learning how to ride the wind. Many local shops offer lessons and rentals as well, although it’s best to call ahead as lessons for this popular sport often book fast.
Fishing for Fun
Once you’ve gotten your sunscreen on, it might be time to try fishing. Anglers come from all over the world to fish on the Outer Banks, and it doesn’t matter if you’re big, small, young, or old – around here, everyone has a chance at catchin’ the big one.
There are tons of different places to cast your line. Local piers can be a great place to fish, and often charge just a couple dollars for a whole day’s worth of fishing. You can also take a boat out to the fishy inlets and sound waters, or simply cast away from the beach. If you don’t have a fishing pole handy, there are plenty of local beach and tackle shops that can provide you with the perfect pole for your fishing adventure. These shops can even tell you what’s biting and where, and if you do land a big one, they can issue you a “citation,” which is a special certificate issued by the state of North Carolina for folks who catch the big fish.
Naturally, there’s never just one way to have fun on Hatteras Island, and the cool things to do both on and off the beach are only limited by your imagination. Grab the parents, the friends, and even the little brother or sister, and get your feet wet with a beach vacation you’ll never forget.