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9 Coastal Wonders To See Now

Authors Heather Hansen and Kimberly Lisagor have traveled the world investigating coastal sites that are as stunning as they are endangered. Here, they share advice for planning an eco-sensitive trip―and how you can help.

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Outer Banks, North Carolina
Photo: Stephen Alvarez/National Geographic Stock

Outer Banks, North Carolina

Why go? The Outer Banks includes vast beaches, salt marshes, and maritime forests of loblolly pines and live oaks. Waves sculpt the shoreline, and huge dunes migrate in the wind. Over time, says East Carolina University geologist Stan Riggs, the Outer Banks land has formed and collapsed and formed again. Humans try to preserve the roads, bridges, homes, and businesses from the unstable environment, but “protecting” the barrier islands with sandbags and jetties has worsened erosion and starved the shores of sediment.

Why care? If the water level increases by 2 feet, which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts it could by 2100, the Outer Banks may disintegrate.

Plan your trip: Sea kayaking is a great way to experience the wild and remote areas of the Outer Banks: Try Barrier Island Kayaks (barrierislandkayaks.com) and Kitty Hawk Kayaks (khkss.com). Cape Hatteras National Seashore (nps.gov/caha) is open year-round; summer is peak time for swimming and surfing, and spring and fall offer excellent fishing and birding.

How to help: The North Carolina Coastal Federation (nccoast.org) advocates restoration and low-impact development, and offers summer tours of Cape Lookout National Seashore.

More Ways To Get Coastal Living

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