To the Outer Banks and Back in the Toyota Highlander

A couple of weeks ago, I road-tripped to the Outer Banks in North Carolina with pH and his family to enjoy some summer fun beach-side. It's all part of a family reunion he's done every year since he was little, and I'm grateful to now be a part of the tradition. 

This was my second year going to the Outer Banks, and this year was extra special because Southeast Toyota Dealers lent us a 2018 Toyota Highlander to enjoy during the road trip, and it was most definitely an experience to remember.

I didn't realize how much I wanted the features in the Toyota Highlander until I made use of them. Being on the road for 14 hours straight, it sure was nice to have the blind spot indicators and Lane Departure Alert as an extra layer of safety. There were extra "nice-to-haves" that we discovered along the way to the Outer Banks, like the Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. Similar to typical cruise control options, you can set the speed you wish to maintain, but the added benefit is that it detects your distance from cars ahead of you, which ensures you're driving a safe speed and distance from the car in front of you.

One of Palmer's favorite features in the Highlander is what he calls the "anti-asshole high beams" - the Highlander's Automatic Highbeams make it easy to see at night on those low-lit windy roads, without disrupting other cars on the road. It automatically detects oncoming vehicles and the taillights of cars in front of you and reduces the intensity of light.

The motel that we stayed at, called Cavalier By the Sea, is a cozy, family-owned spot that encourages its community to come together, with a free barbecue every Tuesday evenings and a porch setting outside each room. Our room faces the beach, and the moment you step outside, you're already there - no driving or trekking necessary. It's pretty incredible to spend every morning with a cup of coffee on the porch, listening to the waves crash along the shore and watching beachgoers set up their umbrellas and chairs.

During last year's trip to the Outer Banks, we nommed on all the seafood at favorite spots of Palmer's family, including Awful Arthur's Oyster Bar, Miller's Waterfront Restaurant and Basnight's Lone Cedar Cafe. And of course, I couldn't leave without tasting one or two delectable creations from Duck Donuts.

But this year, we discovered a new seafood hot spot and we kept coming back for more - three more times, to be exact! I Got Your Crabs has the best, freshest seafood options we've had in OBX - from flavorful fried oysters and freshly-shucked oysters on the half shell, to plump peel and eat shrimp and steamed blue crab ranging from small to large sizes.

We also tried Booty Treats Ice Cream & Shave Ice (I mean, with that name, how do you not?), Island Snowball Company and Kill Devil's Frozen Custard & Beach Fries, 'cause your girl always needs her dessert fix. They're all great OBX staples that you've gotta try at least once!

Seven full days of nothing but fantastic eats and plenty of rest and relaxation - what a dream. It was just what I needed to break up a busy year, and we can't thank Southeast Toyota enough for getting us there and back safely.

*Disclosure: The vehicle featured in this post was lent to us by Southeast Toyota Dealers for editorial placement. Opinions expressed here are my own and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Toyota or Southeast Toyota Dealers.