Located in northeastern North Carolina on the Outer Banks of the states, Kitty Hawk boasts of one of America's historical moments, the First Flight. This event happened in the town's neighboring Kill Devil Hills, making it famous across the country.

With time Kitty Hawk grew into a tourist town, attracting local and international travelers. Its touristic prominence was further boosted by the establishment of attractions and the rise of beach cottages. One of these major attractions is a vast, untouched maritime forest.


Besides its various accommodation options and attractions, Kitty Hawk is close to all the top Outer Banks tourist sites. The attractions are also a short drive away from the vacation cottages in the town, making Kitty Hawk the perfect spot for embarking on an Outer Banks holiday.

Why Is Kitty Hawk Historic?

Kitty Hawk might have risen to national fame with the arrival of the Wright Brothers. However, the region's existence dates centuries ago, when Native American communities inhabited the area. Archeologists estimate that indigenous tribes over half a millennium inhabited the place before the first European explorers arrived in the area in the late 1500s.

Related: 10 Adorable North Carolina Mountain Towns You Should Visit

Algonquin-speaking communities in present-day Southern Shores and around the edges of the Wright Memorial Bridge also portray the existence of early inhabitants in the region. Other hinting signs of the area being home to Native Americans have been found in Kitty Hawk Woods. Apart from that, one of the town's legends links the area's name to these indigenous tribes.

It's believed that the indigenous people named the place Chickahauk; as recorded on 18th-century maps, the name implies "an area for geese hunting." Another tale tracks the name's roots to the mosquito hawks prevalent in the region. As time went by, land deeds referred to properties in the town as "Kitty Huk," "Kitty Hark," and "Kittyhawk," which ultimately morphed into Kitty Hawk.

Kitty Hawk has further stamped its significance in popular culture by having several historical objects named after it. These marvelous machines include a B-2 stealth bomber, the Apollo 14 command module, and an aircraft carrier.

Related: How To Hike North Carolina's Largest Waterfall (With Tips)

Unlike its counterpart, Roanoke Island, Kitty Hawk never experienced mass immigration of settlers. However, a sizable number of immigrants were brave enough to settle in the region, evident from the handfuls of residences and privately-owned plantations noted on maps from the 18th and 19th centuries. The low population gave the town a laid-back reputation compared to its neighbors.

The early 1900s witnessed the town's obscure reputation fading when the Wright Brothers arrived in the region to perfect their flight experiments. After the First Flight succeeded, the inventors sent a telegraph notifying the country of their eureka moment; the telegraph's address indicated Kitty Hawk, further prompting the nation's attention to the town. Once the fad that came with the innovation faded, the town's relevance waned, leading to it retreating to its quiet existence.

However, from the 1910s to 1920s, industrialism peaked in the area, with lumbering businesses being set up to harvest the trees in Kitty Hawk Woods region. These activities promoted infrastructure growth, laying the foundation for an ensuing tourism boom. The infrastructure linked the northern Outer Banks with mainland Currituck County making the area's shores accessible to tourists.

Additionally, beach houses were built along Beach Road, offering vacationers perfect accommodation. Many beach cottages are still in good shape, making them popular with travelers. Today the town constitutes new settlements with most of the region still carefully preserved, offering visitors serene surroundings for a relaxing vacation.

What To Explore And Do In Kitty Hawk

There are numerous activities to do and places to explore in this Outer Banks gem. An instance is the Kitty Hawk Pier, a structure that offers tourists a perfect overlook for enjoying stunning ocean vistas. Travelers come to this area to watch and experience the beautiful sunrise over the horizon.

Another unique attraction in the town is Sandy Run Park, a 16-acre park. As the name insinuates, the area offers vacationers an ideal backdrop for outdoor activities. The site features a scenic path full of wildlife, creeks, and monuments commemorating the town's history.

Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve guarantees just that for hikers who prefer serene surroundings. The reserve features a stretch of terrain in the Soundside region, ideal for exploring, hiking, biking, and birding.

Kitty Hawk also offers tourists perfect grounds for water adventures. Kayakers enjoy kayaking in famous creeks like High Bridge Creek, Ginguite Creek, and Jean Guite Creek, which lie across the region. Other activities that cater to water enthusiasts 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 perfect for families vacationing in the area. The Children at Play is one of these landmarks which offers an educational experience to kids from ten years and below. Another top institution, the Wright Brothers Memorial, details the historic First Flight and the area's history.

Being synonymous with the First Flight, Kitty Hawk also grants ideal grounds for windsurfing and kiteboarding. Travelers interested in these sports rent equipment and take lessons at Kitty Hawk Kites in Nags Head.

Kitty Hawk also boasts a throbbing nightlife that extends to the after-hours. Entertainment is available in the beach bars lying across the town. Some top night spots in the area 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 driving. Tourists should take the following directions depending on their location.

  • Travelers visiting western North Carolina can take Highway 64 through Williamston and Manteo, finally entering Kitty Hawk from the south. Alternatively, tourists can also use Highway 17 through Elizabeth City and Currituck County to Highway 158, entering the town from the north.
  • Visitors visiting from City ought to take Highway 168 south from Chesapeake. The route links with Highway 158 in Currituck County, ultimately entering Kitty Hawk.

Kitty Hawk's location and numerous features make it a perfect getaway for exploring North Carolina's Outer Banks. Additionally, the diverse attractions make the area an ideal place for family-friendly vacations. Therefore, tourists exploring North Carolina should add this town to their travel bucket list.