The Outer Banks, North Carolina
Kitty Hawk (more accurately Kill Devil Hills) is the spot where the Wright brothers took their perfected flyer to and conducted the first succesful flight on December 17th , 1903. The site has a large monument, markers of the landing points of the first days flights and a museum dedicated to commerating the event.
This large park encloses 50 miles of the North Carolina barrier islands, known commonly as the Outer Banks. It has beaches, lighthouses, tidal marshes and some of Americas most famous historical sights such as Kitty Hawk and Roanoke Island Colony.
This is probably the most famous lighthouse in North America, if not the world. It was constructed in 1870. It recently had to be moved 2900 feet inland to prevent it from being engulfed in the ocean due to an eroding beachline. You can climb to the top of the lighthouse during the summer months.
The Outer Banks of North Carolina is a chain of barrier islands midway on the Atlantic Seaboard surrounded by 900 square miles of water.
'You can stand on Cape Point at Hatteras on a stormy day and watch two oceans come together in an awesome display of savage fury; for there at the Point the northbound Gulf Stream and the cold currents coming down from the Arctic run head-on into each other, tossing their spumy spray a hundred feet or better into the air and dropping sand and shells and sea life at the point of impact. Thus is formed the dreaded Diamond Shoals, its fang-like shifting sand bars pushing seaward to snare the unwary mariner. Seafaring men call it the Graveyard of the Atlantic.'' - David Stick, Graveyard of the Atlantic, Shipwrecks of the North Carolina Coast
The Outer Banks includes the third largest estuary system in the world, wildlife refuges, maritime forests, the first national seashore in the US at Cape Hatteras National Seashore and the highest sand dunes on the East Coast at Jockey's Ridge State Park. And because of the shipwrecks - LOTS of lighthouses (photo 5)
This is where England first attempted to colonize the Americas, with disastrous results (photo 2) and where the Wright Brothers defied gravity from a sandy dune (photo 4) and brought mankind into the aviation age.
But it is primarily a beach vacation destination.
Ocracoke was our favourite spot on the Outer Banks. It’s at the southernmost end of the island chain and reachable only by ferry from either Hatteras Island to the north or directly from the mainland (Swan Quarter or Cedar Island). We chose to arrive from Hatteras and leave via Swan Quarter.
The main attraction of Ocracoke is the opportunity it offers for relaxation and unwinding from daily stresses, but there are a few things to see, such as the 1823 Ocracoke Lighthouse, the British Cemetery and the Banker Ponies.
The island is 16 miles long, and only about 2 miles across, narrowing in some sections to only half a mile, where sound and sea are both visible from the two-lane road. The pretty village of Ocracoke is on the island's southern soundside, clustered around the attractive Silver Lake Harbour. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990 and has several good places to eat and stay, some nice little shops, and a friendly laid-back vibe. We spent several days here, staying at Edwards of Ocrakoke. I’ve created a separate page about the village and this lovely relaxing island.
This is the site of the very first powered flight and our visit here gave us a really good sense of the achievements of the Wright Brothers and left us wondering at the pace of change since that flight only a century ago.
There are a number of attractions here worth a visit. The Visitor Centre tells the story of the Wright Brothers through exhibits and full scaled reproductions of the 1902 glider and the 1903 flying machine – seeing these you can appreciate how “home-made” these machines were and also get an understanding of how the brothers’ experiences as bicycle mechanics helped in their development.
Outside you can see a large granite boulder which marks the spot where the first airplane left the ground, and a series of numbered markers indicating the distance of each of the four flights made on December 17, 1903. There are also a couple of buildings. One duplicates the one used by the brothers as a hangar for the 1903 Flyer. The other is similar to the one used as a workshop and living quarters in 1903, and is furnished with items much like those the Wrights used when they were there.
On Big Kill Devil Hill, a 90-foot dune of once-shifting sand that has been stabilized with grass, is a 60-foot granite monument which honours the Wright Brothers and marks the site of the hundreds of glider flights that preceded the first powered flight. Climb up here for a good overview of the site and the distances between those markers.
The memorial is open seven days a week, all year round. The visitor centre is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily during summer and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily September-May (closed Christmas). Admission (current price) is $4.
We took the ferry from Hatteras to Ocracoke Island, where, as soon as we got there and set up camp , we had a huge storm. We were hiding out at a large restaurant/pub until it was over , but when we got back to the campground , the mosquitos were awfull, and our tent had blown over.... we only spent 1 night there, instead of the 2 or 3 we had planned and named it " Mosquito Island" . NOT camping there ever again!!
The wild horses on the island were cute.
We visited the Wright Brothers Memorial in Kill Devil Hills.
Near there is the large sand dune . It looks a lot smaller in the photo than it actually is! It took us some time to get up there.
From that area, with drove south to Hatteras, where we looked at the light house. It was not open when we were there.
This is the site of the first attempt by the English at colonising America. This area was settled by colonist in 1585 under the sponsorship of Sir Walter Raleigh. The colony mysteriously disappeared and the fate of the colonist is not known. All that remains today are the earthen walls of a fort built by the settlers.
Located on the outer banks, just south of Bodie Island, this NWR is a birder's paradise. It contains 13 miles of coastline along with numerous saltwater marshes wich are home to over 365 species of Birds. The refuge also has hiking trails.
The Cape Hatteras lighthouse has been moved from it's original location. It was in danger of being washed into the sea, until all native North Carolinians came to the rescue by raising money to pay for the lighthouse to be moved to it's present location.
North Carolina is proud of the fact that the first flight took place here. In fact, "First in Flight" is the slogan seen on the state's license plates. Jockey's Ridge in North Carolina's Outer Banks is where the Wright Brother first flew their aircraft. Boy, do we travelers owe them big time!
You must see the Outer Banks from a view like this to really understand, in a hot tub on the deck of an ocean front house with a Mamosa or a Corana in hand at 10:00AM. (It's 12:00 some where!) Then you know heaven! Well that's how we love to see it!
We would gather each year to N Carolina... Nags Head / Kill Devils Hill and rent LARGE beach side homes. Some years there would be 10 - 12 of us. One year there were 18 of us. We always found homes large enough. We ate well, drank lots, and relaxed a bunch!!
Visitors who want to emulate the Wright Brothers have two choices on the Outer Banks of North Carolina: one hour ground school plus five short flights from a 15-foot high sand dune, or being dragged up to 2000 feet in a tandem hang glider by an ultralight airplane.
If you choose the latter, be sure to book a flight early in the day. As the sun warms the ground, the air starts creating "thermals" and an enormous amount of turbulence. It may seem perfectly calm at sea level, but at 2000 feet, with nothing to hold onto but two handles, it's like riding on an invisible highway full of potholes.
Nevertheless, the opportunity to soar like an eagle is an unforgettable experience. You'll never look at a bird the same way again!