The Southern Outer Banks of North Carolina is designed to be a nice place during the winter.
There are not many places on the east coast with south facing beaches and water that stays warm well into November.
While it is a little confusing to newcomers that the water is to the south and not to the east, it is a very good thing in the winter. If you think about it, having all the tree-covered sand dunes and the Croatan National Forest between you and the north winds is a great thing if you want to stay warm while walking the beach on a cold day. A trip over to the Northern Outer Banks on a windy day will convince most people of the wisdom of my weather observations.
Having south facing beaches also makes for some great sunsets. While a beautiful sunset won't keep you warm, psychologically it will help you survive winter. The brilliant sunsets do present a few challenges. Driving into the sun when you are headed down the beach towards the town of Emerald Isle just when the sun is setting can be an interesting experience. It is not something that you want to try without sun glasses and your car's visor in the down position.
Beyond the south facing beaches, the area's trees really do help to keep us warm in the winter. We are a heavily forested area which is a little unusual for southern beaches. With our home located just off the White Oak River and surrounded by woods, about the only winds that really hit us full force are ones from the southwest. Those are not normally very cold winds.
The area is also blessed with sunshine more than half of the time. With clear blue skies and the warmth of a North Carolina sun, it is no surprise that we often see the first ripe strawberries in the area in early April. We have even enjoyed them in late March.
Winter at the beach isn't such a bad thing for those of us living here. We have the place pretty much to ourselves. There is never a wait for a seat in a restaurant in the winter, and the parking at the grocery stores is a lot less hectic in January than it is in July.
This year we have been blessed with especially nice weather during the fall and even some fantastic early winter days. While we are facing a "cold snap" here in the middle of January, most people would be pretty excited to have low temperatures that are only a couple of degrees Fahrenheit below freezing.
Last year we did have a serious winter. It was perhaps the coldest in over 100 years, but winter has been a totally different story this year. We are actually still eating lettuce from our fall garden. Last year the water temperature was in the mid-thirties at this time of year. I even had to use my skiff as an ice breaker. This week on the tenth of January 2012, I recorded water temperatures in the river just two degrees under fifty degrees.
Actually we want our waters to cool off in the winter, because they offer some very welcome cooling usually until the middle of June or early July. With the water as natural air conditioning, late spring and early summer on the Crystal Coast is often a time when we sleep with the windows open while central North Carolina is running their air conditioning.
Winter is not really much of a challenge here on the coast. While we might get some cold weather, I rarely wear anything but Crocs for shoes even in the winter. I cannot ever remember wearing a heavy coat.
If you like an era where you get a taste of all four seasons but no real snow shovelling, NC's Southern Outer Banks are hard to beat. On top of the great weather, the scenic beauty of the area will stretch your imagination.