Shannon Winakur takes a selfie in front of the sign for the Cape Hatteras Light Station. The black and white diagonally striped Cape Hatteras Lighthouse can be seen in the background.
Shannon Winakur visiting the Cape Hatteras Light Station. Photo: Shannon Winakur.

I grew up in Richmond, Virginia, and I now live in Baltimore, Maryland, with my husband and two teenage daughters. I am a cardiologist, so work for me is fulfilling and quite challenging at times. Our trips to the Outer Banks offer a welcome chance to relax and recharge from our busy lives back home. 

I have been going to Hatteras Island for vacations since I was young girl in the mid-1970s. My father went to Hatteras on a fishing trip, and from then on, we went there for summer vacations every year. It was his happy place, and it became mine too.  

Shannon Winakur and her father fishing on Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Photo: Shannon Winakur.

I vividly remember climbing the spiral staircase of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse when I was young, before it moved to its current location. The views on top were well worth the climb and were stunning. It was amazing to be able to see up to Avon, out to The Point, and down to Hatteras Village. The lighthouse itself is a very meaningful symbol to me because of how special Hatteras Island is in my life. My second favorite memory is of spending days out at The Point.  When I was young, we stayed at The Falcon Motel in Buxton, would drive out to The Point, and would spend all day out on the beach. I loved surf fishing with my dad, building sandcastles with my brother, and reading.   

After my dad’s death in 1993, I didn’t make it down to the Outer Banks for a number of years. In 2006, I was thrilled when my husband, who had never been to the Outer Banks, agreed to try it for a trip with our very young daughters. I was even more thrilled that my family came to love Hatteras as much as I do, and that I was able to share with them a place that had held such meaning and memories for me and for my father. We love sitting on the beach and watching the waves, or walking along the beach with our dog, Dune. Our time on the Outer Banks is so relaxing and so restorative. 

A large part of why the Outer Banks has remained so beautiful and so reasonably developed is because of Cape Hatteras National Seashore. I love how Outer Banks Forever works to preserve this special place, and how it offers Outer Banks lovers like me the opportunity to support that work. My family and I have enjoyed watching turtle nest excavations over the years, so the Adopt A Sea Turtle Nest program was a natural for us. I am also so excited for the multiuse pathway to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse; I know it will encourage even more visitors to, and promote enjoyment of, the lighthouse.