Amusement Parks
National Parks


There & Back


The Ferries
Peaks of Otter
Washington DC
With Hatteras, the trip down and back can really become a major part of the vacation. There are four outstanding routes between the Outer Banks and the Ohio Valley and each offers wonderful stops. But you should abandon the idea of making this a one day marathon. It was possible to do that for about two decades after the interstates were completed. But since 2000, traffic has been increasing on I-64, I-94 and the state routes between Norfolk and Kitty Hawk. Today, you're likely to get caught in bumper to bumper traffic at several points along the way. The only way to avoid this is to leave at dinnertime and travel all night, figuring on arriving at noon or early afternoon. But then you'll be travelling through spectacular scenery in the dark. What fun is that? Vacations are supposed to be enjoyable. So we suggest you pick one of the four major routes and make the most of the drives down and back. We also suggest you take a different route home than you did down. This doubles your experience. Plus, it winds up your vacation with a final punch, helping dispel that melancholy mood as you pack up to leave the beach. We know we're really stretching it to suggest you take two days down and another two back. But we're going to go a step further and suggest you stretch it even further and make at least one of the legs three days. Especially if you have kids along, this allows you to explore all the wonderful sites along the way.
The first option is to drive down the Southern, or Ferry, route. This will require two nights on the road but is well worth it. Whenever we take someone with us who has never been there before, this is the way we go in. You will encounter heavy traffic on I-40 coming through the Durham - Raleigh - Chapel Hill triangle, but they've widened the road to six lanes each way so it won't slow you down.
The second option is an overnight stop at Williamsburg. You could easily spend a week there, so staying over an extra night is not at all unreasonable. If you went to Hatteras every year, spending two nights and one day at Williamsburg would allow you to gradually, over several years, take in all the attractions. If you leave Lexington at 9 a.m., you will arrive in Williamsburg around 6-7 pm, just in time for dinner. You'll take I-64 the whole way, but expect heavy traffic coming through Richmond, Petersburg and the final stretch of I-64. Not only Hatteras, but also Virginia Beach and Eastern Shore traffic travels this same route and they have not widened the road to handle it. The next morning, expect a 4-5 hour drive to Hatteras and assume you'll be caught in at least two major backups, one around Moyock (NC) and the other approaching the Currituck Sound Bridge. We think this works better as a stop on the way down.
The third option is Peaks of Otter. This gives you a vacation of extremes --- one national park featuring the finest natural beaches in North America and one national park featuring one of the nation's finest high mountain wildernesses. This is a good option either way, but we think it works better on the way home. Like the others, two nights and a day here would be ideal.
This is also a great opportunity to include an annual visit to Washington D.C. This is definitely a better option for the way home, and, like Williamsburg, it begs for you to stay two nights and one day and over several years explore different attractions each time. Coming up from Hatteras, do not try to go up the western route and follow I-95 to Washington. Traffic there backs up to a standstill every single day. Instead, take I-64 around to the Chespeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and go up the Eastern Shore. Coming home, leave Washington heading West on I-xx and pick up I-81 at Front Royal. Take it down the Shenandoah Valley to I-64, and follow I-64 on home.