Wild Horses and New Year's Kisses

The Outer Banks, NC was a romantic fantasy in my mind, a place where I had imagined myself the main character in a Nicholas Sparks novel, relaxing on tranquil beaches, entertained by the hoof beats of wild mustangs galloping gracefully through the surf. Reality, however, painted a picture far more profoundly beautiful than my mind had previously guessed!

The New Year's weekend began in celebration of mine and Andrew's first wedding anniversary, and wow, I can't believe how quickly time flies! On one hand it feels like moments ago I looked into his eyes and vowed to be only his for the rest of my life, and on the other hand so many changes and new adventures have been packed into one year, I hardly know how they all fit. All I can say is that God is so good! He has taught me how to deeply love another in all circumstances, made me a better person through being loved beyond reason by Andrew and showed me time and time again his unending faithfulness. This weekend in the Outer Banks (OBX), we shared love, thankfulness and the excitement of discovery, ringing in the New Year in one of our new favorite North Carolina destinations.

It was New Year's Eve morning. Before I was even fully awake, Andrew leaned in and whispered, "Happy anniversary." A smile crept across my lips as I repeated the words back, and I knew it was going to be a wonderful weekend.

We threw our little suitcase in the car and took off for the Outer Banks. When we arrived on the island in the city of Nags Head, we were greeted by colorfully whimsical beach shops, one-of-a-kind restaurants and every convenience one could want. There was even an outlet mall. As we meandered north along the skinny island the landscape became increasingly more quaint and residential. Weathered shake stilted beach homes nestled in cypress trees sat intertwined with the occasional restaurant or local retailer such as Kitty Hawk Kites or Nags Head Hammocks. There was a tastefulness and sense of class to the area which made me even more thrilled for our stay at the Sanderling Resort.

Eventually we came to the town of Duck and pulled into the Sanderling Resort. We walked up the dock-like steps to the beach house, which boasted southern charm with clean, nautical accents. A grand Christmas tree sat in the corner adorned with driftwood ornaments and a beach ball surrounded by lights hung from a rafter awaiting the stroke of midnight to welcome in 2016. 

The gal at the front desk was warm, hospitable and informative. After decided which of the many amazing restaurants to try for our New Year's anniversary dinner, we headed to our room to settle in. The smell of fresh cedar hung in the air. I ran and jumped onto the king size bed and sank into the quality linens and stack of down pillows. On a nearby side table there was a complimentary s'mores kit for the large fire pit out back. Behind our building the ocean waves swelled against the gray sky. A large pool and inviting hot tub sat surrounded by decks and gazebos, which added to the nautical feel of the expansive resort.

The Sanderling Resort is an ideal place to stay in the OBX. Not only is it great value for the money, but it is also classic, clean, sophisticated and romantic. The resort is a member of the Southern Living Hotel Collection and bosts a Four Diamond Award from AAA. 

For dinner we decided to try the Roadside Bar & Grill in Duck per a recommendation. The place was an eclectic mix of upscale yet approachable dining in a charmingly rustic and whimsically renovated house. While we waited for our table, we decided to venture out back to the New Year's party and oyster roast. It felt like a 70's beach bash complete with colorful plastic Adirondack chairs, disco balls and a huge Santa dancing on stage in a hula skirt. 

The dinner began with a warm loaf of pretzel bread smothered in honey butter followed by lobster mac and cheese, simple and balanced, alongside bright baby greens. The specialty of fresh, local fish drizzled with blueberry chili glaze and rich beurre blanc melted against my tongue, and the pepperjack spiked cheese grits were like a warm blanket of comfort in my mouth. Andrew's duck was also spot on, for I snagged a bite in between devouring my own meal.

The rest of the evening was rejuvenating and tender as we welcomed in the brand new 2016 with music, relaxation and the perfect blissful kiss.

The next morning we set out to find the wild mustangs we had heard roamed freely along the remote beaches. Not knowing exactly where to look and having brought our two wheel drive Kia, we opted to join a tour with Corolla Outback Adventures. Being guests at the Sanderling, we received a discount on our tickets, and being first timers to the Outer Banks, we were glad for the guide.

I hopped in the back of a pickup truck with camera in hand. The vehicle was outfitted like a large jeep with bench seating and heavy duty clear plastic to tame the cool wind blowing on this New Year's Day. Our guide appeared from around the corner and greeted the small group. He was down-to-earth and laid back with his well-worn t-shirt and short, red ponytail. He had enthusiasm in his voice as he spoke of his life in Corolla, the town's fascinating history and of course, the wild horses. I could hardly contain my excitement as we turned off the end of the paved road onto the cream sand. As we bumped along the dunes dotted with the occasional grand beach house, I kept my eyes peeled for the horses. There was something so beautiful about the tranquility of the roadless beach wilderness, and I found myself imagining what it must be like to live in isolation with the waves playing an endless sweet symphony. 

After winding through groves of small trees and sandy "roads" we came across a few horses grazing in someone's front yard. They were fluffy with their winter coats and didn't seem to mind our presence. As we drove further we saw more mustangs among the brush and even some taking a stroll along the surf! They were beautifully unbound and free. I soaked up every second like a sponge!

As we made our way back along the beach, we passed other jeeps and trucks on the makeshift road, people fishing and others strolling along the sand. I can honestly say that the ocean is one of my favorite places in the world to be. There is something so freeing, so grand about the expansiveness of the sea that puts life in perspective and makes me more thankful for everything.

This New Year's weekend in the Outer Banks was filled with joy, celebration and new discovery. We had one amazing year in 2015, but I think 2016 holds some pretty good promise!

Whether you are planning a weekend getaway or a two-week long extended family gathering, the Outer Banks is a one-of-a-kind jewel that will appeal to everyone and should not be missed!

For more info on these great places, visit the below links!

The Sanderling Resort                  The Roadside Bar & Grill              Outer Banks Brewing Station

Corolla Outback Adventures