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Island flying adventures: Outer Banks to GeorgiaIsland flying adventures: Outer Banks to Georgia

For some pilots, the greatest pleasure in flying comes from being able to leave worldly troubles behind and focus on the moment: the challenges and joys of flight. For others, it’s the ability to quickly find yourself hundreds of miles from where you started: different scenery, different state, different climate. But sometimes pilots need to get away to a different kind of time—island time—to slow down and step off the continent. Need a little “island time”? Here’s a list of fun islands to visit from North Carolina’s Outer Banks south to Georgia.

Just another beautiful sunset, viewed from one of Georgia’s “Golden Isles.” Photo courtesy

Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina: First Flight Airport should be on every pilot’s bucket list. The barrier island is where the Wright Brothers achieved their first successful powered airplane flights on Dec. 17, 1903. Visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial and learn more from the enthusiastic rangers who serve there. Then continue to points south for accommodations, restaurants, and more island adventures.

Roanoke Island, North Carolina: Home to one of America’s greatest unsolved mysteries. Roanoke Colony was established by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1585. About 120 colonists arrived in 1587 and then Eleanor Dare, daughter of Governor John White, gave birth to Virginia Dare—the first white child born in America. Governor White soon left to bring more supplies from England but was unable to return until 1590. Every colonist had vanished without a trace, save for a single mark on a tree. Dare County Regional Airport offers 100LL and Jet-A, plus an onsite aviation museum. Drive to the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, where you’ll find a waterside theater and Elizabethan gardens. Across the bridge from Roanoke Island, the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge’s unique pocosin habitat is home to many bird species, black bear, alligators, and the ultra-rare red wolf.

Cape Hatteras Island, North Carolina: Continuing south over Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the Outer Banks take a sudden turn toward the west at Cape Hatteras, where you’ll find Billy Mitchell Airport. Walk to Frisco Sandwich Co. or the Frisco Native American Museum & Natural History Center, home to thousands of artifacts from Native cultures across the United States, with a gallery dedicated to local tribes. The gift shop carries Native-made artworks and jewelry. Nature trails wind through maritime forest, over a stream, and around a pond connected to Pamlico Sound.

An aerial view toward the northeast from Cape Lookout toward Ocracoke. Photo by Richard H. Verdier.

Ocracoke Island, North Carolina: Ocracoke Island Airport lies near the south end of Ocracoke Island. Walk into town or have your hotel pick you up. Unwind on 16 miles of beaches or rent a bike or golf cart and visit the lighthouse, pay your respects to British soldiers killed just offshore during World War II, say hello to the wild ponies, and take in the local Blackbeard Pirate lore. Don’t miss sundown over the harbor.

Hilton Head, South Carolina: Fly to the always-attended Hilton Head Airport to start your vacation in this Lowcountry resort town. Geared toward tourism, Hilton Head offers great restaurants and a plethora of diversions for active folks, from 24 golf courses and 350 tennis courts to biking, beachgoing, horseback riding, and luxury spa treatments. Cultural opportunities include plays at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, wine-tasting events, the 120-member Hilton Head Choral Society, Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, festivals, and a PGA tournament.

“Golden Isles,” Georgia: Land at McKinnon St. Simons Island Airport or Jekyll Island Airport to access two of Georgia’s “Golden Isles.” Pristine beaches, marshes, and Southern hospitality are yours at either of these islands. Both also offer outstanding recreational fun: fishing, diving, boating, casino cruises, kayaking, birding, photography, horseback riding, golf, tennis, shopping, spas, and even water parks. For history buffs, St. Simons Island has a museum, library, historic churches, a fort, and preserved battle sites and slave cabins. Or visit the famous Jekyll Island Club or the Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island.

  • Kids and adults can play around on the bronze sculpture garden at Wright Brothers National Memorial that captures the moment Orville Wright first flew. Photo courtesy NPS.
  • Take in a performance at the Fort Raleigh Outdoor Theater, near the north end of Roanoke Island. Photo by Smallbones, courtesy Wikimedia commons.
  • Baby loggerhead turtles leave their nest for the ocean at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Photo courtesy NPS
  • A wild pony on Ocracoke Island. Photo courtesy NPS.
  • The British Cemetery on Ocracoke Island is the final resting place for British soldiers killed offshore by a German submarine during World War II. Photo courtesy Wikimedia commons.
  • An aerial view of Cape Lookout, at the southern tip of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Photo by Richard H. Verdier.
  • A beautiful sunset on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Photo by Lee Coursey.
  • Play golf on Georgia’s “Golden Isles” of St. Simon and Jekyll Island. The Sidney Lanier Bridge connects the islands. Photo courtesy
  • Kayak around the marshes of St. Simon’s Island and Jekyll Island, Georgia. Photo courtesy
  • The Neptune Park Fun Zone Water Park is on St. Simons Island. Photo courtesy
  • A bikepath on Jekyll Island passes beneath huge trees covered in Spanish moss. Photo courtesy Georgia Department of Economic Development.
Crista Worthy

Crista V. Worthy

Crista V. Worthy has been flying around the United States with her pilot-husband Fred and their children since 1995, and writing about fun places to fly since 2006. She has single-engine land and sea ratings. Her favorite places to explore are the backcountry strips of Idaho and Utah's red rock country. She currently lives in Idaho and serves as editor of The Flyline, the monthly publication of the Idaho Aviation Association.
Topics: US Travel

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