When one thinks of the Outer Banks as a potential vacation destination, the possibilities may seem endless. Between trips to the beach, landmarks like the Whalehead Club and the Currituck Lighthouse, and sightseeing for wild mustangs, one would expect a full itinerary. Yet, if the family is up for a bit of adventure, you may want to consider another activity that not only takes you to some of the most beautiful areas of the North Carolina shore, but is practically free. This summer, why not go “letterboxing”?

What is Letterboxing?

Letterboxing is an outdoor game of sorts – a treasure hunt that may involve deciphering clues and a bit of orienteering to reach the goal. The “treasure” in question is usually a box (most times plastic and water-tight) containing a rubber stamp, maybe some stickers or other small items for hunters to enjoy. The idea behind letterboxing is to find the box and enclosed stamp to imprint the design in a notebook. Hunters with personal rubber stamps acknowledge finding the “treasure” by stamping and signing a guestbook found in the box. The practice of letterboxing is similar to “geocaching” but does not necessarily require use of a GPS system to find boxes.

Who can go Letterboxing?

Letterboxing is a very family-friendly activity, a perfect way to spend a morning, especially when on vacation in the Outer Banks. You have the opportunity to come away with a unique souvenir of the area, and keeping a scrapbook of your stamps allows you to add pictures of the scenery to enhance the memories of your visit. Anybody with a yen for outdoor exploration and figuring out clues will enjoy this hobby.

Where to find Letterboxes

Enthusiasts may create and hide letterboxes in a variety of places: parks, attractions, beaches, and even urban areas. An Internet search for letterbox locations (Atlasquest and Letterboxing.org are two of the prime sites for collecting clues on whereabouts) will guide you to where you need to go.

In the Outer Banks area, for example, one may find special treasures on Knotts Island, in Coinjock near the famous Gravedigger attraction, and in Corolla, where several stamps celebrating the Wright Brothers’ flight and Outer Banks horses are waiting for new discoverers. If you want exact locations, however, you’ll have to try the aforementioned websites for clues.

The Rules of Letterboxing

Two things to know before you embark on a letterboxing adventure:

Be Discreet! Many boxes are hidden in high traffic area, especially in a region popular for tourists like the Outer Banks. It is advised when you find the box and collect your stamp, to return the box carefully and try not to attract too much attention. Boxes are sometimes at risk for being stolen and lost if not handled properly.

Secondly, have fun! Letterboxing provides a great opportunity to explore the beaches of Currituck and enjoy the companionship of fellow treasure hunters.

Okay, here’s a hint for you if you’re interested. Check out this list of available Outer Banks letterboxes. Happy hunting!

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on the Outer Banks.

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