10 Oct 2021
There is much more to the Outer Banks than the beach…as spectacular as that may be. It is a remarkably diverse environment that includes marsh waters along the sound that are critical habitat fish, migrating wildfowl and more. Bordering our marshes are very often maritime forests that are like no other any place in the world.
Located on Hatteras Island at the widest part of the Outer Banks between Buxton and Frisco, Buxton Woods is somewhat different than other local maritime forests. At one time it did go to the banks of Pamlico Sound, but now NC12 is its western border and there is some development along the sound.
But Buxton Woods is truly unique, existing at the confluence of semitropical and temperate zones. This is as far north as dwarf palmetto grow and they are everywhere and it is quite common to see a palmetto growing at the base of a pine tree.
The preserve is a series of relict sand dunes and it is surprisingly rugged, with hills plunging to fresh water ponds and swamps. The ridges here are oriented east and west, unlike Nags Head Woods where they run north and south.
Hardwood trees dominate the ridges.
Buxton Woods borders about 1000 acres of Dare County Water Association land. combining the DCWA land and Buxton Woods Preserve, it is the largest protected maritime forest on the Outer Banks.
There are a few things to be aware of if visiting.
Parking can be a challenge. The reserve does have extensive dirt roads that are great for a 4WD vehicle, though.
The easiest access is at Old Doctor’s Road off NC 12. There is a small parking area with a map kiosk about 20 yards from the road. After that it’s 4WD access.
The Water Association Road also offers access. The road becomes a bumpy dirt road, but it can be navigated by any car. There is a small parking area at the end of the road that is the trailhead for the North Trail and West Trail. The North Trail in particular is surprisingly rugged.
Buxton Woods is a great day trip from the northern Outer Banks. For folks staying in Corolla, it may be a bit of a haul, but for almost anyone else, it’s certainly manageable.
So much to explore on the Outer Banks. Stay with us for a week or two in a Brindley Beach Vacations home and discover life on a sandbar.