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The Outer Banks offers more than 100 miles of beach to vacationers looking to social distance

Some of America’s best coastal towns can be found along North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
Some of America’s best coastal towns can be found along North Carolina’s Outer Banks. (iStock.com/Carroll Creative Imagery)

The bridges are open; the barrier islands await. And with more than 100 miles of beach, it would be hard not to practice social distancing while visiting North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

The vacation spot of more than 5 million tourists a year, the seemingly endless stretch of sand has not escaped the pandemic.

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There are reminders of the coronavirus, from beachwear shops selling face masks to supermarket shortages of sanitizers. But the roadblocks that turned back non-residents in April are gone, hotels have reopened and folks are scouring the beaches for seashells again.

Business as usual, it is not. Hotel staff wear masks and pools operate at 50% capacity. At restaurants, you’ll likely wait in line — 6 feet apart — for a table. And favorite retail shops may or may not be shuttered; it’s up to the owners now.

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Even so, it’s back to beaches along the Outer Banks.

Here’s what to know before you go:

  • Beaches are open, but with social distancing restrictions. Stay 6 feet from anyone who’s not in your party. Limit your entourage to 25 people at most; lifeguards are watching.
  • Pack the staples (toilet paper, sanitizers, etc.) for your trip. Supplies of paper products and disinfectants are tight all over.
  • Public restrooms at outdoor recreation sites may be closed; likewise, public drinking fountains. If not, taking even a quick slurp isn’t recommended.
  • Some attractions and entertainment venues are likely closed, so it’s better to call first. Be aware that face masks are recommended in public areas and required inside some shops and businesses.
  • Restaurants offer indoor dining but at reduced capacity. They’ll seat as many as 10 to a party, more if all hail from one household.
  • While bars remain closed, breweries and wineries are open. Have a beer on the beach if you like, but not from a glass bottle.
  • Leashed pets are permitted on most beaches, but each town has its own regulations; some are more Fido-friendly than others. Check on the beach’s websites.
  • Treat yourself to a haircut (open), though you can’t show it off at a nightclub (closed).
  • BYOM (Bring Your Own Movies) for evening pleasure. Theaters are closed.
  • If you must work out, then do it on the beach. Indoor gyms and fitness centers are off-limits.
  • Child care facilities and overnight camps for kids are open, though with daily screenings to check for virus symptoms.
  • Driving on the sand is restricted to three beaches: Corolla, Carova and Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Just steer clear of the dunes and stay at least 50 feet from any wild horses (social distancing of a different sort). And if you park your vehicle, remember to do it above the high tide line.

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