by Christine Koubek
The Outer Banks is a family favorite beach destination known for its large vacation homes and one full-service resort: the Sanderling Resort in Duck. This lovely, laid-back property is located on a 300-yard wide stretch of land, offering spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean on one side, and sunset views of the Currituck Sound on the other.
Originally opened in 1985, the resort has undergone a multi-million-dollar renovation over the past four years that added two new pools, a spacious two-story lobby that has the feel of an elegant beach retreat, and extensively renovated restaurants and guestrooms, as well as 24 new guestrooms. From this coastal home base, families can surf, sail, swim, paddle-board, learn how to be a mermaid (you read that right!), relax on the beach, and explore the Outer Banks’s offerings-from Corolla’s wild horses to a day-trip to Hatteras National Seashore.
One of the nightly “Sweet Dreams” notes left at turn-down service has a quote that captures the Outer Banks’ and hotel’s spirit well: “Life is like the ocean. It can be calm or still, it can be rough or rigid but in the end, it is always beautiful.”
Our Editor Loves
- Surf, sand, and swim activities galore
- Roomy accommodations with patio or balcony
- Music and S'mores nights
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Free Wi-Fi
- Onsite Dining
Rooms & Rates
The 120-acre Sanderling property includes five vacation home rentals and 120 guest rooms and suites that are categorized based on building location and view (i.e. landscape, sound view, ocean view, and poolside). Inside each coastal chic room, there's a lounge chair or sleeper sofa; marble bathroom; in-room safe; mini-fridge; 48-inch flat-screen HDTV; an iPod/iPhone5, AM/FM radio; Serta Perfect Sleeper mattress; bathrobes; and feather or synthetic pillow options. In addition, each room's patio or balcony has Nags Head Hammock Chairs.
Rooms and suites are located in three different buildings: The North Inn, Beach House, and South Inn.
Best for families, the North Inn overlooks the resort's family pool and has an elevator, connecting rooms, and 336 guestrooms with a king or two queens. First-floor rooms have a patio; second and third a balcony. Some have sofa beds.
The Beach House, located in the center of the property (to the side of the resort pool) is another good choice for families, albeit there's no elevator in this building. Request a first-floor room if you have a stroller and lots of gear. The second-floor lobby living room has comfortable couches, built-in window seats overlooking the ocean, books and games, and larger guestrooms (468 square feet) that have a king bed and can comfortably fit a rollaway or crib. The 600-square-foot suite options have a sleeper sofa and oversized deck. The 1,000-square-foot Ocean to Sound Suite has, as the name implies, balconies that offer sunrise and sunset views, plus a king bed in the master, and a fireplace and pullout sofa in the parlor.
Overlooking the adults-only Tranquility pool, rooms have king beds only, and suites have king beds in the master and queen sleeper sofas in the living room, the latter a good choice when traveling with a teen. Rooms are 420 square feet, and suites, roughly 606 square feet.
There are three, three-bedroom homes, each sleeping eight; one four-bedroom home that sleeps 10; and a six-bedroom home that sleeps 16. All homes include a full kitchen, washer and dryer, pull-out sofa, flat screen TVs, outdoor shower, board games and sunset views over the sound (the six-bedroom has ocean and sound views). In addition, guests have access to the resort's amenities and housekeeping service every third day. Two-night minimum required.
My husband and I were quite disappointed to see the nose dive this resort has taken. The decor is still quite modern and beautiful but not well kept.. I instantly noticed that the carpets needed a deep steam cleaning and the furniture in our $550 per night room seemed slightly dirty and worn.
The bed was a total deal breaker. The mattress seemed shot, no support at all. Way to soft and lumpy. The front desk sent maintenance to our room the following day to place a board under our mattress which helped slightly. I have never had a problem with a mattress in a hotel before.
The windows in our room were covered in sand, salt and bugs. I don't expect an ocean front room to have perfectly clean windows because, nature, but trust me, it had been a while.
The restroom that served the outdoor bar/ restaurant was filthy and had no paper towels. There was trash on the floor and dirt and bugs everywhere. Next day, still no paper towels, same trash on floor. Clearly, no one had been in to clean and service the restroom. The men's bathroom apparently had the same problem plus a clogged toilet.
The beach was beautiful.
The staff was kind and friendly
The spa was fabulous.
Very overrated and overpriced and there service is very inconsistent. If you want a luxe experience on OBX I guess this is the place but I sorely regret the experience. It started out unpleasant because they are so thirsty to fill the vacancies that they require full payment before you even check in (a month before). Most of the staff were very nice especially in the lobby bar. The outside sand bar service was beyond horrible. The room was very clean and comfortable but super high priced compared to any other destination world wide I have traveled. Not a value. I don’t mind spending the money when I’m not being fleeced. Lots of kids EVERYWHERE so if you’re wanting a quiet couple’s experience go there off season / non peak times. The restaurants are great, but again I don’t want to drop that much on dinner with small children everywhere it ruins the ambience. I had some very stressful challenges before checking in and even the manager was not having it. I would have canceled if I could.
Located between the North Inn and the beach, this lagoon-style pool is designed for families with a wide zero-depth entry for wading toddlers on up to 5-foot deep swimming sections. There's also a kid-friendly hot tub and an adjacent swath of lawn for a friendly game of corn-hole or bocce.
Located adjacent to the Spa, this pool has lap lanes and is a good back-up in inclement weather. Pool depth is three to five feet.
ACTIVITIES AND CLASSES
Mermaid & Merman School
Sanderling, in partnership with Kitty Hawk Kites, created this interactive class for people age 7 and up to learn how to glide gracefully through the water like a mermaid. Classes are offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays, June to August, 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the indoor pool. They book fast, so reserve a spot around the time you make your resort reservation. Call: 877-Fly-This, or visit at www.kittyhawk.com; $59 per person. If you get hooked on the glide, Kitty Hawk Kites in Duck sells mermaid tails to take home.
Music and S'mores at the Fire Pit
Live evening entertainment at the Beach House Fire Pit ranges from country to jazz, soul, and steel drums. Almost nightly, Memorial Day to October.
On Mondays, Lou Francani, from Lou's Seaside Gifts in Nags Head, leads a class on crafting sea glass necklaces ($5 per person, materials provided). Ghost Crab Quests, a fun catch-and-release nighttime activity with colorful pails and nets is great for all ages. Offered Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8 to 9:30 p.m., $15 per person.
On Saturdays, families can learn about constellations and how sailors used the stars to navigate the seas at Starry Nights (8:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the beach; bring towels; free).
And for teens age 15 and over, there's Fishing Fun Fridays 8 to 10 a.m. Reserve in advance; $40 per person includes rental and bait.
Surf, SUP, and More
On-property Kitty Hawk Kites-housed in the Activity Hut behind the Beach House-is the place to rent equipment and book tours and lessons for kayaking, surfing, kiteboarding, paddleboarding, waterskiing, Jet Skis, boogie boards, bicycle rentals, fishing, and more. Group surf lessons are available for ages 7 and up at $69 per person. A private lesson for age 6 and up is available for $105.
Rentals are available through Nor'Banks Sailing. Private sailing lessons and US Sailing Certification Courses are also available. For rental and lesson pricing, visit https://www.norbanks.com/sailing/ or call 252-261-2900.
Spa at Sanderling
Sanderling's 6,000-square-foot, award-winning spa has 10 treatment rooms (including a couple's suite) and a eucalyptus steam room. Treatments include massage and skin care treatments with an indigenous twist -- think Sea of Life Facial -- plus treatments tailored to teens and men. Lunch is offered in the solarium or on the deck overlooking the Currituck Sound. Open daily, mid-May to mid-October; closed Sundays the remainder of the year.
Housed in a restored 1899 US Lifesaving Station, this casual maritime-themed restaurant has nautical artifacts and memorabilia throughout, including pendant lights over the bar repurposed from a 1940s cruise ship. Thanks to the recent renovation, there's a new outdoor deck for al fresco dining. The three-meal menu offers contemporary Carolina Coastal cuisine, fresh local seafood, and daily specials. Breakfast choices range from a variety of egg and omelet dishes to waffles with apple butter, or banana nut hotcakes. Lunch fare includes salads and sandwiches. The crab cake sandwich is a favorite. The part kids' menu, part coloring page offers a word search, too. Vegetarian and gluten-free options available. The year-round restaurant has a cozy fire to sit by in the winter months.
Breakfast:7 to 11:30 a.m. daily
Lunch: Noon to 2:30 p.m. daily
Dinner: 5 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday - Thursday and 5 - 10 p.m. Friday to Saturday
No.5 Bar (located inside the restaurant): 4 to 10 p.m. daily.
This beachside outdoor bar and grill serves classic seaside fare on its adjacent deck, at both dune side pools, and as a to-go picnic for families to take the beach. Small plates, salads, sandwiches, wraps, personal pizzas, burgers and hotdogs are on the menu. Smoothies, draft beers, frozen drinks and wine are also available.
12 to 5 p.m.; drinks through 8 p.m.
Open Memorial Day to Columbus Day
Beach House Lobby Bar
This is the place for a quick breakfast bite-baked goods, fruit cup, yogurt and gourmet coffee drinks-in the morning, and a cozy lobby bar at night, serving wines, cognacs, ports and the resort's new signature bourbon flights. Head to the second floor living room style seating areas to enjoy a book and board games.
7 to 11 a.m. for breakfast; lobby bar from 3 to 11 p.m.
Open daily May to October. October through May, breakfast is available on Saturday and Sundays; lobby bar on Friday and Saturday nights. Open Memorial Day to Columbus Day.
Kimball's, an AAA Four Diamond restaurant, specializes in steak and seafood, and offers an extensive oyster selection from an exhibition kitchen. Time your reservation to dine near the floor-to-ceiling windows when the sun dips behind the Currituck Sound and colors the sky pink and purple. A children's menu is not available, however, children can order half-size entree portions. Dress code is pants or shorts with a collared shirt for men and pants or a dress for ladies.
Tuesday to Saturday, 5:30 to 10 p.m.; Sunday Brunch, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Open May to October
In-room dining is available nightly through 10 p.m.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Complimentary Morning Coffee
Available from 7 to 11 a.m. in the North and South Inn lobbies, and upstairs in the Beach House lobby, which has comfortable sofas overlooking the sound or ocean and balconies with rocking chairs to enjoy your morning coffee.
Beach Bell Valet
Wouldn't it be great if you could pick up the phone and have beach chairs, towels and umbrellas set-up and waiting for you when you are ready to hit the beach? That service (as well as nightly turndown service) is available (and included in your resort fee) in season, May to October.
Located in the North Inn, the one-room fitness center has a few treadmills, bikes, free weights, and exercise balls. Available to guests age 21 and over.
Resort Fees and Policies
Check-in time is 4 p.m.; check-out is 11 a.m. A 50-percent deposit is taken at the time of reservation, all of which is refundable minus a $25 processing fee, if canceled 16 days or more in advance. Cancellations received within 15 days of arrival forfeit the deposit.
In addition, the nightly Resort Fee includes gratuity for housekeeping and all Guest Service staff including the bell, valet, concierge, front desk and beach; plus parking, newspapers, morning coffee and tea, and beach chairs and umbrellas. The fee is $30 per guestroom May 1 to October 31 and $15 per guestroom November to April 30.
Sanderling is a smoke-free resort and pets are not allowed in guestrooms or vacation home rentals.
The Art of Smart Timing
While the resort is open year-round, for optimal weather and outdoor activity choices, the pools are open May to October and the resort is in full swing. Lower rates can be found at either the beginning or end of summer when some school is in session.
The resort is approximately one hour and 45 minutes from Virginia's Norfolk International Airport and a 269-mile drive from Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. Given the high number of Outer Banks home rentals that follow a Saturday to Saturday or Sunday to Sunday pattern, arriving and departing on a weekday can save you time in traffic.
A car is best for exploring neighboring Corolla and day-tripping to Hatteras National Seashore, the latter roughly an hour away. Drive or bike 4 miles to the village of Duck for quaint restaurants, shops, and to watch the sunset from the beautiful sound-side boardwalk.
For Mom and Dad
Treat yourself to a couples' massage and reading time in the relaxation room at Sanderling's beautiful spa, then savor steaks and seafood with a sunset view at Kimball's Kitchen. Or, go off property for ice-cream and a stroll along Duck's waterside boardwalk at sunset. Other options:
Yoga takes place on the oceanside observation deck Monday to Friday, 7:30 to 8:45 a.m. Cost is $17 per person.
Located between the South Inn and the beach, this adults-only area for ages 21 and up has a 75-foot lap pool (5 feet deep), oversized hot tub, and cushioned lounge chairs beneath a lovely pergola.