The first unwritten rule of summer is that the season kicks off on Memorial Day, not on the summer solstice in June. The second unwritten rule is that one of the best places to observe the first unwritten rule is the beach.
To be in compliance with both, we drove to Duck, situated along the northern beaches of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and spent a few days with friends at a rental house called The Drake at Founders Ridge.
It had been 20 years since we were in Duck, and it was time to see what had transpired during our absence. We remembered the place as being somewhat remote and low-key compared with more commercial destinations like Nags Head.
As expected, considering Duck’s ever-growing popularity with vacationers, there were more houses, shops, and restaurants, and a steady stream of traffic. Happily, though, the town planners decreed early on that development would happen slowly and purposefully to retain the upscale charm. Not a chain hotel, big box store, or large business was in sight. For the most part, small boutique shops and restaurants make up Duck’s commercial district, and they’re centrally located. While there are a few small inns, rental homes are pretty much the norm for visitors needing accommodations.
The standout feature that gives Duck its unique presence and character hadn’t changed – the picturesque, natural beauty. The ocean blue with its tumbling surf. The coarse-sand beach and how you sink down in it, forming two-inch-deep impressions of your feet. Rolling dunes capped with billowing sea oats. Gracefully draping and centuries-old live oaks. The calm waters of Currituck Sound and its marshy grasses. Dense maritime forests. Bounded by both the ocean and the sound, with much less than a mile separating the two at its narrowest point, Duck stretches out for a scenic seven miles along two-lane Highway 12.
You have to smile about a town named after the feathered fowl that inhabit the surrounding waters. The local merchants and eateries certainly leverage the whimsical connection, given the plentitude of duck-inspired monikers, including The Sweet Duck, Duck Pizza Company, The Duck Deli, and Duck Duck Art. Even some homeowners are caught up in the act, calling their abodes Seaducktion, Sitting Ducks, and All Ducked Out.
And then there’s The Drake.
Turn onto Settlers Lane and left at the sign sporting the male duck, and you’ve entered another world. With nearly 12,000 square feet of living space and 5,000 square feet of decking spread out among four levels, The Drake at Founders Ridge is the largest rental property with views of both the ocean and the sound in Duck. It boasts nine spacious bedrooms (six masters), seven full bathrooms, and four half-baths, all distributed among three floors and with ample separation. With 15 of us under roof (sleeping capacity is 20), we had loads of large common space as well as smaller, comfy sitting rooms where we could curl up peacefully with a book or take an afternoon snooze.
The Drake is designed for year-round events and celebrations – vacations, holidays, weddings (be it a rehearsal dinner, bridal shower, or the ceremony itself), anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, reunions, yoga retreats, small corporate retreats and workshops, client entertaining, and even cooking demonstrations. Multiple families can easily share The Drake, which is what we did, yet still maintain their privacy.
Among the amenities: event room with a wet bar, theater room with 15 leather reclining chairs, gourmet kitchen with three adjacent dining areas, game room with a pool table and a foosball table, fitness room, double sets of washers and dryers, and an elevator (accessible for a wheelchair). Outdoors are a private saltwater swimming pool, hot tub, volleyball court, and an outdoor kitchen with a lounge area.
The décor is tastefully beachy, done in soothing tones of earth, sea, and sky, which ensure a neutral backdrop for photos.
Now that’s what I call a beach house.
If you can tear yourself away from lolling on the beach, shelling, or catching a wave, what else is there to do in Duck? Plenty.
- Begin your day at Duck Donuts. It’s the town’s morning ritual, and a habit-forming indulgence. The lines can be long (sure sign of a good place), but they move fairly quickly. You order in one storefront of the little shopping mall, and then walk over to the pick-up room across the way. Settling on a coating or topping choice for your freshly made, served-hot donuts might be your hardest decision of the day. We favored the vanilla, maple, and lemon icings.
- Stroll along the mile-long wooden boardwalk hugging the sound and the paved multiple-use trail along Highway 12. We had multiple sightings of snakes, osprey, deer, geese, and, of course, ducks. Get your bearings using the landmark blue, silo-shaped water tower with the Duck logo.
- Go fly a kite. Peruse the fun and colorful varieties at Kitty Hawk Kites, and launch your purchase at the beach or in nearby Nags Head on the fabled dunes at Jockey’s Ridge, the tallest natural sand dune system in the eastern U.S.
- Get sporty. Water activities abound, among them boating, kayaking, canoeing, parasailing, and SUP (aka stand-up paddle).
- Drive to nearby Corolla and climb the 214 iron steps in the Currituck Beach Lighthouse for a 360-degree view of the Outer Banks.
- Savor the signature crab cakes, the outstanding wine list, and the brilliant sunsets (the evening ritual) at The Blue Point from either the indoor windowed seating or patio overlooking the sound.
We sure took to Duck like a duck takes to water. Summer’s on!