STORY AND PHOTOS BY NEEL KELLER
OUTER BANKS SENTINEL
What is being billed as “the Outer Banks’ wettest, coolest, wildest, splashiest and craziest new attraction” opened Thursday, June 22 to rave reviews from the visitors.
The much-anticipated H2OBX Waterpark attracted a “good size crowd” for its opening day, said Marketing Supervisor Leah Cribb, who said exact opening day numbers would be available soon.
Located on an 80-acre parcel on U.S. Highway 158 in Powells Point, not quite three miles north of the Wright Memorial Bridge, the $46 million waterpark covers about 26 acres of the site, leaving plenty of room for expansion, according to co-owners Ken Ellis and Art Berry III.
H2OBX features include, among many other things, three main multiple water slide complexes, a Million-Gallon Wave Pool, 90-foot tall Aqua Drop launch capsule free fall slide, a 500-foot long Boomerango family raft ride with drops, weightless wall and zero gravity hump and a 540-foot long family raft ride.
The nearly three-acre children’s adventure area, expected to open within the next few days, features a pirate-themed aqua play structure with more than 70 interactive features and seven slides.
The park also has four food concessions, including a Wright brothers-themed bar, along with 50 private, wait-serviced cabanas and the Wright Stuff retail store.
Outer Banks themes are reflected throughout the park, starting with the lighthouse next to the park entrance and continuing with Blackbeard, Wright brothers and wild Corolla Spanish Mustangs references — along with the Outer Banks’ legendary rip currents, pounding surf and powerful waves.
“It’s a scant eight months since our groundbreaking ceremony,” owner Ken Ellis told the Sentinel, “and we’ve done a lot in those eight months. We were going to do a ribbon cutting today, but we decided to tell folks, ‘Just come on in and enjoy the park!'”
The owners agreed that their actual “drop dead date” for opening was “always the second or third week in June.” The park was slated to open on June 21, but inclement weather pushed it back one day. June 22 was sunny, with a gentle breeze and temperatures reaching the low 90s. “Perfect,” the owners agreed.
Live music performed by the Norfolk-based One Love Caribbean Steel Drum Band added a nice touch to floating comfortably along the Teach’s Tides Adventure River as it flowed through the heart of the park. The band members said they were booked just to play on opening day, but were very open to coming back “whenever they want us.”
Noting that their son had been “counting down the days” for the park to open, the Hook family from Manteo said they were very pleased to see the park open. “We’ve seen a lot of smiles today. Everybody loves it.”
The O’Neill family from Avon agreed: “We were concerned about them having more delays, but we’re so glad it opened today. The staff is friendly and so helpful. And everything is lots of fun.”
The Strayer family from Kitty Hawk had high praise for the Paradise Plunge, featuring a nine-story free-fall slide.
“The door drops open and you fall straight down into the slide, screaming all the way,” said Mrs. Strayer. Searching for the exact word to describe it, she thanked her daughter for providing it: “Terrifying!”
Members of the O’Neill family praised the park for providing employment and a great new attraction to bring tourists to the area: “We really hope they do well. This is just so good for the Outer Banks!”