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Getting There

The 16-mile, four-lane Chesapeake Expressway linking Virginia and North Carolina makes it easier to reach the Outer Banks. The highway links I-64 in Chesapeake, Virginia, to North Carolina and the Outer Banks. The 5 1/4-mile-long Virginia Dare Memorial Bridge, the longest bridge in the state, opened in August 2002, providing a much-needed alternative transportation link between the mainland and the barrier islands. The other routes are from Raleigh, via U.S. 64; and from Wilmington, via the Cedar Island ferry. N.C. 12 (also called Virginia Dare Trail, or the Beach Rd. from Kitty Hawk to Whalebone Junction) runs the length of the Outer Banks, from Ocracoke to Corolla. The four-lane U.S. 158 Bypass runs from Kitty Hawk to Whalebone Junction.

The nearest airport is 80 miles northwest in Norfolk, Virginia. Norfolk International Airport (tel. 757/857-3351; www.norfolkairport.com) is served by American Airlines (tel. 800/433-7300; www.aa.com), Continental Airlines (tel. 800/525-0280; www.continental.com), Delta (tel. 800/221-1212; www.delta.com), US Airways (tel. 800/428-4322; www.usairways.com), United Airlines (tel. 800/864-8331; www.united.com), Northwest Airlines (tel. 800/225-2525; www.nwa.com), and Southwest Airlines (tel. 800/435-9792; www.southwest.com).

You can rent a car at Norfolk International Airport from national chains such as Alamo (tel. 800/462-5266; www.alamo.com) Avis (tel. 800/831-2847; www.avis.com) Budget (tel. 800/527-0700; www.budget.com Dollar (tel. 800/800-3665; www.dollar.com) Enterprise (tel. 800/736-8222; www.enterprise.com) Hertz (tel. 800/654-3131; www.hertz.com), National (tel. 800/227-7368; www.nationalcar.com), and Thrifty (tel. 800/367-2277; www.thrifty.com).

If you're not planning on renting a car for some reason, taking a shuttle or limo is a viable, though expensive, option. For example, The Connection (tel. 252/449-2777; www.calltheconnection.com) offers direct van service from the airport to the Outer Banks. Rates are $135-$345 per person, one way, and additional passengers are charged $50 each. Outer Banks Limousine (tel. 252/256-1343; www.outerbankslimousine.com) offers private limo service for $95 per hour, and the ride to Nags Head is approximately two hours.

Escaping the Hordes -- The traffic along the Outer Banks can be maddening in summer. Avoid gridlock by arriving or leaving on days other than Saturday and Sunday, when the weekly rentals begin and end, or by traveling at unusual hours. Most check-outs are at 11am, so the roads get packed around then.

Visitor Information

Contact the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, 704 S. Hwy. 64/264, Manteo, NC 27954 (tel. 877/OBX-4FUN [629-4386]; www.outerbanks.org), for information about accommodations and outdoor activities. The bureau is open Monday to Friday 9am to 5:30pm, and Saturday to Sunday 10am to 4pm.

Special Events

On Roanoke Island, where it all happened, Paul Green's moving drama The Lost Colony is presented in the Waterside Theatre from June to late August, Monday to Saturday at 8:30pm. It's no West End show, but it is the country's oldest outdoor drama, running since 1937. Contact the Waterside Theatre, 1409 National Park Dr., Manteo, NC 27954 (tel. 866/468-7630 or 252/473-3414; www.thelostcolony.org), for Visa or MasterCard bookings. Tickets to the play cost from $5 to $22.

In Kill Devil Hills, December 12 to December 17, 2003, the First Flight Centennial (tel. 252/491-5165; www.firstflightcentennial.org) held a celebration of the Wright brothers' 1903 aeronautical feat, featuring a re-creation of the original flight in what is being touted as the only accurate reproduction of the Wright Flyer. If you didn't make the celebration, you can browse the First Flight Centennial Photo Album or order the Official First Flight Centennial Video (check the website).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.