Is Historic Kitty Hawk Worth Visiting? Here’s what you’ll see
Located in northeastern North Carolina on the states Outer Banks, Kitty Hawk boasts one of America’s historic moments, the first flight. This event happened in the nearby Kill Devil Hills of the city, which made it famous throughout the country.
Over time, Kitty Hawk has become a tourist town, attracting local and international travelers. Its tourist importance has been further enhanced by the creation of attractions and the rise of beach chalets. One of these major attractions is a vast untouched maritime forest.
Along with its various lodging options and attractions, Kitty Hawk is close to all of the major Outer Banks sights. Attractions are also a short drive from the town’s vacation homes, making Kitty Hawk the perfect place to vacation in the Outer Banks.
Why is Kitty Hawk historic?
Kitty Hawk might have gained national fame with the arrival of the Wright Brothers. However, the existence of the area dates back centuries, when Native American communities inhabited the area. Archaeologists estimate that indigenous tribes inhabited the place for more than half a millennium before the first European explorers arrived in the area in the late 1500s.
The Algonquin-speaking communities of present-day Southern Shores and around the Wright Memorial Bridge also portray the existence of the area’s earliest inhabitants. Other signs that the area is home to Native Americans have been found at Kitty Hawk Woods. Apart from that, one of the legends of the city associates the name of the region with these native tribes.
It is believed that the the natives named the place Chickahauk; as recorded on 18th century maps, the name implies “a goose-hunting area”. Another tale traces the roots of the name to the mosquito hawks prevalent in the region. Over time, land deeds referred to town properties as “Kitty Huk”, “Kitty Hark”, and “Kittyhawk”, which eventually morphed into Kitty Hawk.
Kitty Hawk has further marked her prominence in popular culture by having several historical objects named after her. These marvelous machines include a B-2 stealth bomber, the Apollo 14 command module and an aircraft carrier.
Unlike its counterpart, Roanoke Island, Kitty Hawk has never experienced massive settler immigration. However, a significant number of immigrants bravely settled in the area, as evidenced by the few private residences and plantations noted on 18th and 19th century maps. The low population has given the town a laid-back reputation compared to its neighbors.
The early 1900s saw the town’s obscure reputation fade as the Wright Brothers arrived in the area to perfect their flight experiments. After the success of the first flight, the inventors sent a telegraph informing the country of their eureka moment; the telegraph address read Kitty Hawk, bringing the city to greater national attention. Once the hype that accompanied the innovation waned, the city’s relevance waned, causing it to retreat into its quiet existence.
However, from the 1910s through the 1920s, industrialization reached its peak in the area, with the establishment of logging companies to harvest trees in the Kitty Hawk Woods area. These activities fostered the growth of infrastructure, laying the groundwork for a tourism boom that followed. The infrastructure connected the northern Outer Banks to mainland Currituck County, making the region’s shores accessible to tourists.
In addition, beach houses have been built along Beach Road, providing vacationers with perfect accommodation. Many beach cottages are still in good condition, making them popular with travelers. Today the town constitutes new settlements with most of the area still carefully preserved, providing visitors with a serene setting for a relaxing holiday.
What to explore and do in Kitty Hawk
There are plenty of activities to do and places to explore in this Outer Banks gem. One example is the Kitty Hawk Pier, a structure that provides tourists with the perfect vantage point to enjoy great ocean views. Travelers come to this region to observe and experience the beautiful sunrise on the horizon.
Another unique attraction in town is Sandy Run Park, a 16-acre park. As its name suggests, the region offers vacationers an ideal setting for outdoor activities. The site includes a scenic trail filled with wildlife, creeks, and monuments commemorating the city’s history.
Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve guarantees exactly that for hikers who prefer a serene environment. The reserve includes an expanse of land in the Soundside area that is ideal for exploring, hiking, biking, and birdwatching.
Kitty Hawk also offers tourists land perfect for aquatic adventures. Kayakers enjoy kayaking in famous creeks like High Bridge Creek, Ginguite Creek, and Jean Guite Creek, which run through the area. Other activities that cater to water lovers include boating, paddleboarding, surfing, surf fishing, fishing, and swimming in the ocean, which is often warm from Memorial Day through September.
Kitty Hawk is also home to several institutions ideal for families vacationing in the area. Kids at Play is one such landmark that provides an educational experience for children age ten and under. Another prominent institution, the Wright Brothers Memorial, details the historic first flight and the history of the area.
Being synonymous with first flight, Kitty Hawk also offers ideal grounds for windsurfing and kitesurfing. Travelers interested in these sports rent equipment and take lessons at Kitty Hawk Kites in Nags Head.
Kitty Hawk also has a thrilling nightlife that extends into the late hours. Entertainment is available at the beach bars across town. Some of the area’s top nightspots include Hurricane Mo’s, Goombay’s Grille & Raw Bar, Barefoot Bernie’s Tropical Grill & Bar, and Ocean Boulevard.
The only way to get to Kitty Hawk is by car. Tourists should take the following directions depending on their location.
- Travelers visiting western North Carolina can take Highway 64 through Williamston and Manteo, eventually entering Kitty Hawk from the south. Alternatively, tourists can also use Highway 17 through Elizabeth City and Currituck County to Highway 158, entering the city from the north.
- Visitors coming from City should take Highway 168 south to Chesapeake. The route joins Highway 158 in Currituck County, eventually entering Kitty Hawk.
Kitty Hawk’s location and many features make it an ideal getaway for exploring North Carolina’s Outer Banks. In addition, the various attractions make the area an ideal place for a family vacation. Therefore, tourists exploring North Carolina should add this city to their travel bucket list.