“Kit and J.R. have been living in their VW Bus Sunshine for 5 years now. In the spirit of their endless adventure, we sent them on a mission to find summer vanlife fun in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Read more about their trip below.”
Tell us a little about the Outer Banks and your time there.
The Outer Banks is a stretch of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, a place near and dear to our hearts. J.R. and I last rambled the East Coast of America our second year on the road, and always sensed we would one day return. Three years had passed since we’d last cruised those salty shores, but because of the lapse in time, we were able to travel the corners of Ocracoke and Hatteras islands with both nostalgic familiarity and fresh wonder. We camped on the National Seashore each night, fell asleep to the sound of the waves, and ate soft-shell crab till our bellies were full and the night was perfectly studded with stars.
What makes coastal North Carolina perfect for van travel?
The way we see it, living in Sunshine—our bus— is a means to a more viscerally wild existence. We travel the states seeking places where we can find space, where wildness still reigns. The Outer Banks is one of the eastern shorelines that have preserved unblemished beaches teeming with memories of a slower, quieter past. Much of the islands, especially the remote southern sections, are comprised of National Seashore, meaning that these beaches are protected by federal law. There, wildlife is abundant, the sand dunes are pristine, and you can still play on miles of undeveloped beaches.
Was there anything that surprised you about this trip to the Outer Banks?
No matter how long we travel, or how many people we meet, the kindness of strangers never ever fails to surprise us. The OBX locals, or “Bankers,” as they call themselves, embody a certain sort of hospitality unique to isolated fishing villages on the east coast. One day we struck up a conversation with a 19-year-old fisherman at Ocracoke Seafood, the next we were invited to go clamming with a longtime Hatteras resident. Bankers embody a flavor of southern hospitality all their own.
So tell us a little about the film you made. How do you feel like it captures the spirit of the Outer Banks?
There is an easy, carefree vivacity to the Outer Banks that we wanted to visually capture through our video. Throughout the Banks, shoes and shirts are definitely NOT necessary, and the preferred method of locomotion is by foot or bike. No one takes themselves seriously on the island, because, honestly, how can you when the sun’s shining and you’ve got sand between your toes? We wanted to capture the childlike sensation of hot days on the beach, the silly joy of midsummer. We felt that the big band music we chose, along with plenty of smiles and high action, caught the irreverent mood of the islands perfectly.
Give us your top 5 essentials for Outer Banks Vanlife.
1. Binoculars for spectacular wildlife viewing, including dolphins, sea turtles, deer, and shorebirds so numerous you could never count them. I was in bird nerd heaven.
2. 4WD vehicle With a proper permit, you are able to drive out onto select beaches. Sunshine made it onto the sand, but to really get some space, you’ll need 4WD.
3. Swimsuit because we believe you should #alwaysgoswimming
4. Waterproof Disposable Camera because you’ll be constantly salty and wet, but you’ll still want to shoot.
5. Time Don’t come here in a rush…there is too much to see, and, no matter what you do, you can’t speed things up here. You’re on island time.