Sanderling Resort sits on a slice of land in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. On one side: the tranquil Currituck Sound, with beautiful sunsets and waterfowl galore. On the other: an impressive expanse of Atlantic Ocean, with glorious sunrises and miles of sand and waves.
Wind-bent live oaks and scrub pine line NC 12, the winding, two-lane highway to Duck, the beach community that’s home to Sanderling Resort. Beach houses sprout here and there until you reach developments with ornithological names, such as Snow Geese Dunes, Sea Tern, Swan Beach and Osprey.
Three-story Sanderling, with its front-porch rockers and three beach-access walkways, exudes a casual but chic vibe. Stays are punctuated by barefoot treks over dunes to the ocean, incredible sunsets from a gazebo sound side, and s’mores by the firepit under a starry sky.
Returning to Sanderling Resort after the “Big Pause”
The Sanderling has undergone changes and major renovations since our first visit in 1999. Our late-April visit marked a milestone—our first overnight trip post-COVID restrictions. Our South building king room welcomed us with a crisp white and beige décor plus beachy touches. We did find the bed oddly slanted downward from foot to head, so we switched sleeping positions on night two.
Our small, oceanside balcony overlooked one of the resort’s two pools and the plant-laden dunes, which offer essential beach protection. Despite the added height of the two barstool-like chairs with hammock netting backs, we had to stand on the chair footrest and crane our necks to see a bit of ocean. The resort’s website outlines what views to expect, so we knew ours would be restricted.
We had the beach almost to ourselves, and on both nights of our stay, we found the supermoon’s rise over the ocean breathtaking.
Choice of accommodations
The 123-room beachside property spread over 13 acres has a variety of accommodations:
- The Beach House, the main resort building, has a two-level lobby/public area, a bar and large balcony with ocean views, and ocean-view king guest rooms.
- The North Inn overlooks the family pool; third-floor guest rooms have ocean or sound views, while those from ocean-side lower floors favor the dunes.
- South Inn, where we stayed, is adjacent to the Beach House and overlooks the adults-only pool. Middle floors, like ours, feature dune views; the top floor offers ocean views.
- Five large beach houses are also available for rent.
Pools, dining and other amenities
Sanderling Resort’s two pools stay busy in summer. So does its casual Sandbar, which allows kicking back in flip-flops and bathing suits.
The resort has two other dining options serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner: the AAA four-diamond Kimball’s Kitchen and the more casual Lifesaving Station. The latter, a restored 1898 U.S. lifesaving station decorated with nautical artifacts and historical memorabilia, shares the history along these shores known as “The Graveyard of the Atlantic.”
The sound-front spa (fully booked during our visit) features 10 treatment rooms and an adjacent indoor pool, all in a stand-alone building across the road. Guests access the spa via a marked pedestrian crossing with flashing lights to notify traffic.
Seasonal resort activities include jewelry design classes featuring beach glass, up-close sea life discussions led by N.C. Aquarium staffers and a 45-minute Junior Ranger program to local state park sites. An on-site kiosk makes it easy to book kayak tours, paddle-boarding, surfing and kiteboarding lessons.
The Great Outdoors: waterfowl, wild horses, lighthouses
The town of Duck takes its name from the abundance of waterfowl that were said to darken the sky here by their sheer numbers in a bygone era. These migratory birds drew sports enthusiasts, who frequented local hunt clubs in their turn-of-the-century heyday. The restored 1922 Whalehead Club welcomes visitors.
The area’s famed wild mustang horses descended from a 16th-century herd established by Spanish settlers. A small museum in Corolla Village, a group of volunteers and a wild horse fund are dedicated to their protection. But the most popular way to learn about the herd is with Corolla Wild Horse Tours, which brings visitors in open-air vehicles to see the horses on the beach north of Duck.
While in Corolla, climb the 214 steps to the top of the 162-foot, brick Currituck Beach Lighthouse for panoramic views over the 39-acre Currituck Heritage Park, the Whalehead Club, Corolla Village, the sound and the ocean. A new boat museum was under construction when we toured.
Far more awaits Outer Banks (www.outerbanks.org) visitors. To name just a few highlights that make excellent excursions from Sanderling Resort: Bodie Island Lighthouse; Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore; Wright Brothers National Monument, commemorating first fight; Jockeys Ridge State Park, home to the largest dune on the East Coast; the Nature Conservancy’s Nags Head Woods maritime forest; Fort Raleigh National Historic Site; and the Elizabethan Gardens on Roanoke Island.
What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?
- Sanderling Resort is located between the ocean and the sound along the North Carolina Outer Banks. The setting allows guests to enjoy both sunrises on the ocean and sunsets on Currituck Sound.
- Sanderling is one of only three AAA four-diamond properties on the N.C. coast; the two others are south in Wilmington.
- The area features plenty to see and do for nature lovers, the history-minded and adrenaline junkies.
- Sanderling is within driving distance of major east coast cities including Raleigh (215 miles), Washington D.C. (250 miles), Philadelphia (350 miles). and Charlotte (375 miles).
- The Outer Banks is a delightful get-away in the off-season, too.
- A daily resort fee of $32 is taxed at 5%.
- Kimball’s Kitchen is open May-October.
- Summer traffic can be a crawl on two-lane NC Highway 12, and there can be long waits summer evenings for dining in this area.
- The Outer Banks is more than 175 miles long. Plan outings accordingly, as some spots, like Manteo on Roanoke Island, can be up to a one-hour drive from Duck, depending on traffic.
- There’s no elevator access in the main resort building, the Beach House.
- Beach access to the ocean requires the use of stairs.
- Pack bug spray for nature outings. Windbreakers are a must. The Wright Brothers chose the area for a reason — the wind.
COVID restrictions and health and safety measures change frequently. Check with the resort for current protocols and updated information from the Outer Banks Tourism Authority.
Photos courtesy: Sanderling Resort, Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, Currituck Outer Banks Tourism and Fletcher Newbern
Disclosure: The authors’ stay was hosted by Sanderling Resort but any opinions expressed in this post are their own.
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