We take the "southern" route down 77 and across NC around Raleigh. If we have to start later during the day, like after school lets out for our kids, we stay at the midway point near Wyethville or Hillsville VA. There are a lot of hotels in those two areas, we find the one that fits our needs for that trip. If we start early morning and want to push farther, we stay near Raleigh, usually north of the city. The drive into the OBX from there is an easy drive that puts us on the island early and not feeling completely worn out. It's like an extra day. If you have the time, breaking it up into two days is the way to go. Sometimes we have even taken three days; two days at a hotel and take in some sights/attractions, visit with friends that live in the area, etc. near where have stayed in Raleigh on the "non-driving" day.
This is exactly what we do...though only one year did we stay at Wythville, but that is because we started later in the day. Typically, we leave around 8:30-9:00am on Friday and stay in Raleigh. Enjoy dinner, a nights rest and a good breakfast, then we head out to US 64