Today we are visiting one of the most famous landmarks on the Outer Banks that is a favorite of visitors and locals alike- Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Jockey’s Ridge is the tallest living sand dune on the Atlantic Coast and provides activities for the entire family to enjoy. It’s curious to call a pile of sand a “living object” but the park is just so- as the dunes move approximately 6 feet each year, the landscape is ever changing.
You can access the park through the main entrance where you will find a visitor center with a museum and restrooms inside and a wooded boardwalk. Take the time to explore the museum as there are fantastic photos showing the movement of the dunes over the years as well as a great wildlife exhibition. Guided tours and talks are available where a park ranger covers the park’s history, wildlife identification and recreational activities.
Besides the obvious climbing opportunities- the park offers a wide range of family friendly entertainment. Starting with the most popular in the under 12 set is sliding down the dunes and filling every crevice of their body, clothes and shoes with sand. While that may sound unenjoyable for most, I can’t tell you how many belly laughs and joyful faces appear after this simple pleasure. For even more fun, bring along a cardboard box and take the hills on your makeshift sled. This is the place where memories are made- kick off your shoes, release your inner child and join in the fun.
For adventure lovers, you can arrange to sandboard or hang-glide over the dunes. Kitty Hawk Kites offers weekly hang gliding lessons and there is no better viewpoint to see the scenery then while gliding above like a bird. I took a lesson years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it! If you are a bit timid – it is not high on the fear factor and definitely worth a shot.
There are multiple hiking trails that highlight the park’s fuzzy and scaly residents as well as provide a stroll along the marshy waterline and through the trees. Be sure to bring sun protection, a bottle of water to hydrate and shoes as the sand can be up to 30 degrees warmer than the air temperature.
Finally, the highlight of the location, and of your evening, should be watching the sunset from upon the largest dune. It’s one of the only spots on the Outer Banks where you can see both the sound and the sea and is a premiere seat for the nightly spectacular sunsets Mother Nature provides us. In fact, 9 times out of 10 you will be surrounded by applause as visitors celebrate her last kiss of light in the sky.