Many newcomers to the Outer Banks who are browsing the local restaurants, shops and area attractions online or in the local guide books notice an interesting addition to the standard address. Besides the typical business name, street name, street number and town, many local businesses also include a Milepost number. This may initially appear to be an odd notation to include, but on the Outer Banks, this is incredibly helpful to new visitors on the lookout for a specific restaurant or shop.

The milepost designation is generally used for businesses from Kill Devil Hills to South Nags Head. This 20 mile stretch of beach is fairly narrow, with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the sound located on the other, so many of the major attractions are located in plain view, somewhere along the main road or the beach road in Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, and Nags Head.

When the US 158 bypass was constructed parallel to the beach road, more attractions, restaurants and shops popped up, along with mile markers indicating where, along the bypass, a driver was located. The mile markers start at 1, located on the island just after the Wright Memorial Bridge, and technically extends all the way to the edge of Hatteras Village on Hatteras Island.

Meanwhile, these new businesses realized in advertisements, brochures, and even old fashioned phone book listings that new vacationers wouldn't necessarily recognize a street number or road name. After all, 1000 Virginia Dare Drive is not a very helpful address if you're a visitor who has never been to the Outer Banks before.

As a result, local businesses began to incorporate the mile markers into their advertisements and listings. Visitors might not know where to look for Ocean Drive or Beach Drive in Kill Devil Hills, but looking for Mile Marker 7 or Mile marker 10 is an easy task.

As more businesses adopted this method of location identification, the mile markers began to get even more specific - suddenly, businesses could say they were at mile marker 10.5, or 11.5, making it easier than ever to find them.

Currently, the mile marker designation is most prevalent in the Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk areas, as these are the towns that are most developed, and where the mile marker system comes in handy. The towns of Southern Shores, Duck and Corolla, which are located on NC Highway 12, an entirely different stretch of road altogether, does not generally use the mile marker system as the majority of their local businesses are located in small shopping centers and concentrated areas (like the Scarborough Lane Shoppes in Duck, or the Timbuck II Shopping Center in Corolla.) Carova, of course, located well off the beaten path with no commercial businesses whatsoever, does not need to make such a notation.

In recent years, several businesses on Hatteras Island that are located along the main road, (which us the southern end of NC Highway 12), have also begun to integrate the mile marker system into their advertisements. While the number of businesses on the island are significantly less that the busy central Outer Banks towns, many vacationers find this notation helpful in the more developed areas of Avon, Rodanthe, Waves, Buxton, Frisco, and even Hatteras Village. In addition, some GPS tracking systems have trouble locating small roads or drives on Hatteras Island, so knowing the mile marker can be a great help when the online maps and directions are slightly inaccurate.

Ocracoke, however, is another community that has no need for the mile marker system, as at 4 square miles with a series of twisting roads, and no long straight main drag, virtually any local business can be found with a leisurely stroll around town.

When planning your vacation to the Outer Banks, and scouting out those restaurants, shops, galleries and attractions that you simply have to visit, be sure and look for the "Mile Marker" designation next to the business's address. Using the mile markers as a guide, newcomers have an easy way to navigate the busy bypass and the quieter beach road, ensuring that all of their favorite and tempting new businesses or attractions are well within reach.