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Kill Devil Hills | Kitty Hawk | Nags Head

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Kill Devil Hills

  • General Information
  • Kill Devil Hills

At the geographic center of the Outer Banks, Kill Devil Hills (KDH as it’s known) is perfectly situated for those who want to see both the northern and southern ends of the Banks in one vacation. Kill Devil Hills is the largest town on the Outer Banks in terms of year-round population, and it offers a wealth of services, fast-food restaurants and necessity businesses. But don’t overlook Kill Devil Hills as a vacation destination in its own right. The town’s 6 miles of beachfront feature hotels, motels and rental accommodations to suit every taste and budget. The town is also full of shopping and dining opportunities. Beach access points with parking are plentiful in Kill Devil Hills. There’s also a library, recreational parks and soundside accesses.

At the heart of Kill Devil Hills is the National Park Service’s Wright Brothers National Memorial. This is the place where the Wright brothers conducted the first flight in 1903, and the monument to the brothers towers over the town atop Big Kill Devil Hill.

Colington Island, though not officially part of the Town of Kill Devil Hills, is accessed through the town and is a part of the Outer Banks that most vacationers never see. Down Colington Road, you’ll find a few restaurants and campgrounds, a few homes for rent and a peek into the lives of the local residents. There are several places along the way to go fishing and crabbing near the bridges.

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Kitty Hawk

  • General Information
  • Kitty Hawk
  • Town Hall (252) 261-3552

Kitty Hawk is known the world over for its association with the Wright brothers and flight. The Wright brothers didn’t actually fly their airplane here, but they did arrive and depart the Outer Banks at Kitty Hawk, and they found accommodations in the rural soundside community for some of their visits in the early 1900s.

More than a century later, Kitty Hawk has shifted its focus from the soundside to the ocean. The beach draws thousands upon thousands of vacationers every year to Kitty Hawk, where a variety of accommodations await. Kitty Hawk is known for its old-school beachfront cottages, along with mom-and-pop motels and one of the nicest hotels on the beach.

Kitty Hawk is small, but it offers plenty for a nice vacation, including shops, superstores, restaurants and a golf course.

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Nags Head

  • General Information
  • Nags Head

The first resort area on the Outer Banks beaches, Nags Head is still drawing vacationers more than 150 years later. Nags Head is one of the largest towns on the Outer Banks, and it’s filled with everything anyone needs to enjoy a great vacation by the sea.

Nags Head offers a mix of vacation accommodations, from small cottages to luxurious homes, from mom-and-pop cottage court efficiencies to upscale hotel rooms. For waterfront dining, Nags Head has more restaurants with a water view than any other Outer Banks town. For shopping, Nags Head offers a Tanger Outlet Center, the Outer Banks Mall, several strip shopping centers with a variety of stores and a wealth of souvenir/beach shops.

Outdoor recreation rules in Nags Head. The town is home to the northern Outer Banks’ largest concentration of watersports outfitters, miniature golf courses and go-cart tracks. It also has the greatest number of public beach accesses. The main recreational feature of Nags Head, besides the Atlantic Ocean, is Jockey’s Ridge State Park, the largest sand dune on the East Coast. The town is home to three fishing piers—the classic Nags Head Fishing Pier and Outer Banks Fishing Pier, as well as the North Carolina Aquariums’ impressive Jennette’s Pier, which opened in May 2011.

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Nags Head Walking Tour

  • Nags Head Beach Cottage Historic District, The Beach Road
  • Nags Head

Explore the history of Nags Head with the Nags Head Walking Tour and Guidebook. Pick up your own copy at a local book or specialty store or order online from this site, and then learn about Nags Head by following the Walking Tour. The tour guides you along approximately a mile and a half of the Beach Road in Nags Head that is commonly known as Cottage Row. It typically takes about an hour to complete the tour. Viewing the structures, you’ll get a feel for vacationing in Nags Head as it was in the 19th century. Seven of the original 13 cottages still stand and are some of the earliest examples of Nags Head architecture. You’ll see the style carried on in the accompanying structures that have been built beside them. Approximately 40 oceanfront cottages make up Cottage Row and are covered in the book. Enjoy getting to know the history behind the grand Nags Head Cottage Row with the Nags Head Walking Tour as your guide.

Aycock Brown Welcome Center

  • 5230 Croatan Highway, The Bypass, MP 1
  • Kitty Hawk
  • (877) 629-4386

The Aycock Brown Welcome Center in Kitty Hawk is an excellent stop for planning your Outer Banks vacation. If you’re arriving from the north by way of U.S. Highway 158, it will be a convenient stop about a mile on the right after you cross the Wright Brothers Memorial Bridge onto the island. There is information on everything to see and do on the Outer Banks, with displays and exhibits as well as local newspapers and pamphlets to take with you. There are plenty of restrooms, picnic tables and room for your pets to rest too. The center is operated by the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau and staffed with helpful, friendly locals who are happy to help with any questions. If you miss the Aycock Brown Welcome Center on your way in, there are three others located along the beach. You can also visit the Whalebone Welcome Center at the entrance to Cape Hatteras National Seashore just south of Whalebone District of Nags Head, the Outer Banks Welcome Center on Roanoke Island in Manteo and the Hatteras Welcome Center at the U.S. Weather Bureau Station in the village of Hatteras.

Bodie Island Lighthouse

  • 10005 S. Old Oregon Inlet Road, (N.C. Highway 12), in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore
  • Nags Head
  • (252) 441-5711

Pronounced “body,” this horizontally striped lighthouse is located on the soundside at the southern end of Bodie Island in Cape Hatteras National Seashore. It recently re-opened from a major renovation project, and visitors can climb to the top of the 156-foot-tall lighthouse for the first time ever! Bodie Island Lighthouse was first completed in 1872 and has an interesting history. The structure you see today is actually the third lighthouse to be built in this area. The first lighthouse was built in 1847, rebuilt in 1859 and destroyed in 1861 during the Civil War. The Bodie Island Visitor Center housed in the old Keepers’ Quarters is also open year-round and is where you can check out exhibits and browse through their Eastern National Bookstore. There is also a self-guided nature trail with a wildlife viewing platform adjacent to the lighthouse that meanders through the surrounding marshes. Bodie Island is a great place for photo opportunities, so be sure to bring your camera.

Fair at the Beach

  • 6504 S. Croatan Hwy. at Full Throttle Speedway, MP 15.5
  • Nags Head
  • (252) 441-4499

Remember when the fair was a festive summertime tradition as dependable as pick-up baseball games and fireworks on the Fourth of July? Bring the family and revisit those innocent and fun-filled days at Fair at the Beach, open nightly 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Located at Full Throttle Speedway in Nags Head, the fair features popular rides such as the Tilt-a-Whirl and Monkey Mayhem, mini helicopters, a train, adult go-karts, junior racer karts and more! Games include Fishy Fish, Lucky Duck and that challenging ol’ standby, Ring Toss. And what would a fair be without a Ferris Wheel? The brightly lit wheel at Fair at the Beach is perfect for capturing a birds-eye view of Nags Head and reveling in those spectacularly glowing soundside sunsets! Satisfy your appetite at the Pit Stop concession stand with fairground staples such as candied apples, cotton candy, ice cream or other favorites. Fair at the Beach has all the ingredients necessary for a night of family fun! Make sure to ask about the fair’s discounted family packs.

Jennette’s Pier

  • 7223 S. Virginia Dare Trail, Beach Road, MP 16.5
  • Nags Head
  • (252) 255-1501

Jennette’s Pier is a state-of-the-art educational center and fishing pier complete with a pier shop, classroom and banquet hall. The pier features wide, clean public beaches, free parking and a bath house with outdoor showers. With its mantra of Fishing, Family and Fun, Jennette’s offers something for everyone. There’s world-class fishing, unique educational programs and excellent opportunities for sightseeing from the 1,000-foot-long pier. Owned and operated by the N.C. Aquariums, Jennette’s Pier was awarded the coveted Platinum LEED Certification by the U. S. Green Building Council in 2012. In addition to its three iconic wind turbines towering over the pier, the green facility boosts a unique reclaimed water system and geothermal wells that provide heating and cooling. Anglers can find everything they need for a day of fishing inside the pier house. Various types of rod and reel combos can be purchased or rented by the day for $10 (photo ID required). There’s plenty of bait and tackle for sale as well as drinks, snacks and souvenirs items. The pier has a blanket license for all anglers, so you do not need a fishing license. A daily fishing pass is good all day and night until the pier closes; call for hours as they change with the seasons.
The pier staff offers educational classes for all ages, and the children’s programs are stellar. Call for more about the pier programs. Jennette’s is open year round.

Jockey’s Ridge State Park

  • 300 W. Carolista Drive and The Bypass, MP 12
  • Nags Head
  • (252) 441-7132

Nags Head is home to the tallest natural sand dune on the East Coast. Jockey’s Ridge, a series of five dunes, is a natural wonder that’s continually changing in shape and height. With the highest hill varying from 90 to 110 feet tall, this system of sand is a haven for adventure. Colorful kites waver over its majesty regularly, and hang gliders climb to its summit to swoop down a sandy incline. Hikers excite in its form and function, and nature buffs appreciate discovering the subtle dune life that exists here. Few can resist the climb to bear witness to renowned Outer Banks sunsets.

Included in the 426-acre park are several trails, picnic areas, a visitor center and a museum and gift shop supported by the non-profit Friends of Jockey’s Ridge. Natural history programs for adults and children are offered. A boardwalk provides a lookout for a terrific view of the dunes and also serves as a passage for the mobility impaired. Arrangements can be made for a four-wheel dune ride to the top (the park requests a 24-hour notice). In the summer, the sand on the dunes is usually 25 to 30 degrees hotter than the air, so shoes are a necessity.

The visitor center closes at 5 p.m. from November through February and 6 p.m. the rest of the year. Park ground hours run November through February, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; March through May, September and October, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; June, July and August, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. The Soundside Access Gate is open October through March, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and April through September, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. The Ridge closes 15 minutes before the park closes. Jockey’s Ridge State Park is open daily with the exception of Christmas Day.

Kitty Hawk Woods

  • West Kitty Hawk Road and Woods Road, off The Bypass
  • Kitty Hawk
  • (252) 261-8891

Kitty Hawk Woods is a unique environment: a maritime forest, shrub swamp and marsh. Totaling 1,877 acres, the Town of Kitty Hawk owns 461 acres with a conservation easement from the state. A diverse array of wildlife is at home in Kitty Hawk Woods. In some areas gray foxes, raccoons and white-tailed deer can be found. In marsh areas, a number of amphibians and reptiles thrive as well as river otter and muskrat. Birders will want to explore the woods for the hawks, wrens, herons and egrets that can be found in the woods and the marsh areas. Hiking trails with interpretive signs are available for day use only and are accessible from the main access points on Eckner Street, Amadas Avenue, Ridge Road and Birch Lane. The reserve office is located at 983 W. Kitty Hawk Road. Please respect this unique natural setting and stay on marked trails while exploring the woods.

Monument to a Century of Flight

  • 5230 N. Croatan Highway, The Bypass, MP 1, Behind the Aycock Brown Welcome Center
  • Kitty Hawk
  • No phone

The Monument to a Century of Flight was dedicated in November of 2003, just before the First Flight Centennial “in celebration of the soaring of the human spirit.” Fourteen steel wing-shaped structures reach from 10 to 20 feet, circling 120 feet, the distance of the Wright Brother’s first flight. The pillars have engraved granite panels that chronicle the 100 most significant events in the history of aviation. They begin with the first flight in Kitty Hawk by the Wright Brothers in 1903 and go on to list such achievements in flight as the first solo flight across the Atlantic, made by Charles Lindbergh in 1927, Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier in 1947 and Neil Armstrong walking on the moon in 1969. The monument ends the celebration by stating, “Humankind is a continuum of pioneers sharing timeless dreams and the boundless possibilities of vast unexplored world.” Standing among the wing-shaped pillars that reach for the sky as you stand high on a dune, looking out at the Atlantic, you can’t help but agree.

Nags Head Town Artwork Collection

  • 5401 Croatan Highway, Town Hall, The Bypass, MP 15
  • Nags Head
  • No phone

The public is welcome to browse through 100 works of fine art purchased by the town. The self-tour features creations by the area’s best artists. View paintings, drawings, sculpture, fiber and ceramic art, mixed media and hand-carved wood work and old and new photographs ranging from a painting of a giant lighthouse to a delicate floral watercolor. The tour is numbered, and a helpful catalog of works and biographies is available at the front desk on the second floor. There is a special emphasis on regional themes varying from the realistic to the abstract. Check out the figurative polymer sculpture by internationally famous illustrator/artist Bill Nelson. He has a gift for infusing lifelike character into his pieces, many of which appear in the collections of stars such as Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg.

Nags Head Woods

  • 701 W. Ocean Acres Drive
  • Kill Devil Hills
  • (252) 441-2525

A beautiful place for hiking, trail running and birding, The Nature Conservancy’s Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve is one of the best remaining examples of a mid-Atlantic maritime forest. Often referred to as a “best kept secret on the Outer Banks,” the 5-plus miles of hiking trails in the 1,400-acre preserve are open and free to the public every day from dawn until dusk. There is an extensive dune system, ponds, maritime swamps and upland forest complete with live oaks up to 500 years old. The woods are home to more than 550 species of plants and 50 species of birds, including herons, pileated woodpeckers and red-shouldered hawks. Other creatures can be found such as salamanders, turtles and white-tailed deer. You will find all of this amidst 19th-century cemeteries; evidence that human settlements once called these woods home. A new addition to the preserve is the handicap-accessible trail, which is a half-mile loop that boasts a wooden boardwalk, a small fishing dock and brackish marsh overlook. Before you begin your hike or ride, find maps and other information at the outdoor information counter located up the boardwalk at the parking area. While the entrance to the preserve is in Kill Devil Hills, its boundaries stretch well into Nags Head. Motorized vehicles and bikes are not allowed on the trails, but they are welcome on the gravel roadway. Leashed dogs are allowed on specific trails only; please see the outdoor information counter for information on which trails can accommodate dogs. This is a very fragile environment, so staying on the trails is necessary to preserve this exquisite forest.

NMP Beachcomber Museum — Miss Mattie Midgett’s Store

  • 4008 S. Virginia Dare Trail, The Beach Road, MP 13
  • Nags Head
  • No phone

Built in 1914 on the soundside before being rolled to the seaside, this unpretentious and once-thriving store houses the celebrated beachcomber collection of Nellie Myrtle Pridgen, Miss Mattie’s daughter who was a self-appointed protector of her beloved Nags Head beaches. In support of Mattie’s store, the Nags Head Board of Commissioners passed a resolution in June 2003. The resolution declared, “The site, the store and the artifacts are an irreplaceable part of Nags Head history.” In 2005 Pridgen was awarded the first annual Nags Header award by the town. The award recognizes a person who has helped shape the image and direction of Nags Head. In the museum, visitors will step back into time viewing artifacts discovered by Pridgen during her years of daily sound to sea jaunts. The collection is essentially the way Nellie left it. Rare shells, beach glass, war paraphernalia, buttons, barnacles, driftwood, messages in bottles and more chronicle her life’s time and its relationship with the sea. The unusual, must-see collection houses a huge fulgurite (crystallized sand caused by lightning) that took days for Pridgen to extract—with the help of a bicycle pump. At the time of this writing, the building had not yet become a full-time museum, but they do conduct several open houses at various times throughout the year. The best thing to do is just check by when you’re here to see if you’re lucky enough to coincide with one of the open times.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge Gateway Visitor Center

  • 100 Conservation Way, Roanoke Island
  • (252) 473-1131

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s LEED–certified visitor center on the north end of Roanoke Island near the entrance to Fort Raleigh National Historic Site is a stop you should make no matter where you’re staying on the Outer Banks. The National Wildlife Refuges Visitor Center provides information on the 11 National Wildlife Refuges and one National Fish Hatchery in northeastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia and helps visitors plan adventures to some of these wild places. The mission of the center is to show people about the regional National Wildlife Refuges so they’ll be comfortable visiting them. And once you’ve been here, you’ll be itching to get outdoors and explore not only the refuges on the Outer Banks but also those close by.

The facility includes numerous high-quality, interactive exhibits and dioramas that depict what goes on in the regional National Wildlife Refuge. Experience realistic dioramas of waterfowl, red wolves, black bears and other animals. Enjoy movies about the history of the National Wildlife Refuge system and local history. Discover natural history on touch screens and through hands-on exhibits. The most popular exhibit is an airplane that you can “fly” over each of the regional refuges. The aerial photography in that exhibit is astounding!

The National Wildlife Refuges Visitor Center has a 130-seat auditorium and educational classroom. Beginning in May, the Visitor Center will be hosting a series of four Wildlife and Wildlands of Eastern North Carolina art expos that will run back-to-back for the next 12 months. Programs will be coming in the future, so ask about those. The gift shop is well-stocked with nature-themed gifts, toys, books, posters, artwork, jewelry and educational materials. Admission is free. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays. The site is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

USS Huron Shipwreck

  • Bladen Street Beach Access, The Beach Road, MP 11.5
  • Nags Head
  • No phone

Designated in 1991 as North Carolina’s first Historic Shipwreck Preserve, the USS Huron lies 250 yards from the beach. During the summer, buoys may mark her bow and stern. A myriad of sea life and remaining portions of the wreck including boilers, propeller, rudder and cannonball storage racks make this an interesting destination for divers and snorkelers. Erosion has taken its toll and marine growth covers the site, but the lower hull is well preserved with parts of the bow intact up to the main deck. It is illegal to collect artifacts or disturb this site. If you notice anything unusual, record its location and report it to the local authorities or the N. C. Underwater Archaeology Branch (call 910-458-9042). Follow safe scuba-diving practices and check on conditions with a lifeguard before swimming out to the wreck. Don’t swim or dive alone. There is an informational kiosk about the wreck under a gazebo on the wooden walkway at this public beach access with parking.

Whalebone Welcome Center

  • 2 N.C. Highway 12, MP 17
  • Nags Head
  • (877) 629-4386

The Whalebone Welcome Center is right at the northern entrance to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore in Nags Head. There you will find information on all there is to see and do on the Outer Banks, with plenty of local newspapers and pamphlets to take with you. It is an excellent stop for planning your vacation activities, particularly as you head toward the southern villages. The center is operated by the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau in partnership with the National Park Service and staffed with helpful, friendly locals. There are other welcome centers located elsewhere along the beach including the Aycock Brown Welcome Center on the Bypass at MP 1, the Outer Banks Welcome Center on Roanoke Island in Manteo and the Hatteras Welcome Center at the U.S. Weather Bureau Station in the village of Hatteras.

Wright Brothers National Memorial

  • 800 Colington Road and The Bypass, MP 8
  • Kill Devil Hills
  • (252) 441-7430

Wright Brothers National Memorial commemorates two ingenious brothers from Dayton, Ohio, who, in 1900, chose the sparsely populated area known as the Outer Banks to conduct a series of experiments that three years later resulted in the world’s first powered, sustained and controlled flight. Orville and Wilbur Wright traveled to the Outer Banks for their flight experiments because of the wind, slopes without trees or shrubs and sandy soil for soft landings. On December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers were successful with four powered flights. The first lasted 12 seconds and carried Orville 120 feet, and the last, longest flight lasted 59 seconds and carried Wilbur 852 feet. The story of these brothers embodies the American ideal of hard work overcoming obstacles.

The Memorial includes a visitor center with a bookstore, exhibits on the Wright brothers and full-scale replicas of both the 1902 Wright Glider and the 1903 Wright Flyer. On the grounds a six-ton granite boulder marks the take-off spot and the smaller markers of all four flights that took place on December 17. There are replica buildings of the Wright brothers’ living quarters and hangar. The Centennial Pavilion includes exhibits on the Wright Flyer, the 100 Years of Powered Flight, NASA and the future of flight and the Outer Banks at the turn of the century. A 30-minute film is shown daily in the pavilion auditorium on the Wright brothers. There is a gift shop filled with Wright brothers’ memorabilia such as T-shirts, hats, outerwear, kites, glassware, die-cast plane replicas and models.

On top of the 90-foot dune known as Big Kill Devil Hill is a 63-foot granite monument. Climb the hill for a striking view of Kill Devil Hills, the ocean and the sound.

Wright Brothers National Memorial is open seven days a week, year round, with the exception of Christmas Day. The visitor center and centennial pavilion are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The admission fee is $4 per person and is good for seven days. Children and teens15 and younger are free, and seniors 62 and older are free with a Senior Pass. An annual admission pass is $20.

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