The Outer Banks is rich in history! From the first English colonists to settle the Americas and the first successful flight by two brothers from Ohio to the first national seashore of its kind and being the favorite roaming grounds of the most infamous pirate to ever exist, these barrier islands so deeply rooted in both local and national history that a true history buff busy could easily find something new to explore every day of their vacation. Below, we've provided a daily itinerary of some of the best spots for a history buff to visit:
DAY 1: VISIT THE BIRTHPLACE OF FLIGHT
What better way for a history buff to start his or her Outer Banks vacation than at the sight of the world’s first successful powered flight? Visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills and learn about the two brothers from Ohio who changed the world forever.
The park includes a full-scale reproduction of the 1902 glider and 1903 flying machine, an engine block from the original 1903 Flyer, a reproduction of the Wright's first wind tunnel and "Big Kill Devil Hill" -- the 60ft tall site where the first flight took place. Recently updated, this national landmark and museum is sure to entertain anyone who lives history or aviation.
Wright Brothers National Memorial
1000 N Croatan Hwy.
Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948
DAY 2: LEARN ABOUT ENGLISH COLONIZATION OF THE AREA
The Elizabethan Gardens on Roanoke Island are a living memorial to the time when Sir Walter Raleigh’s lost colonists lived in the area over 400 years ago. Inside the Gardens brick-walled gate, you will find a collection of Renaissance statues, a sound-front Elizabethan-gazebo, a sunken Elizabethan knot garden and an ever-changing array of native and exotic plants. The Elizabethan Gardens serve as a beautiful testatment to early colonization and teach about English influence on everything from plant life to architecture.
The Elizabethan Gardens
1411 National Park Drive
Manteo, NC 27954
While you’re on Roanoke Island, head over to England's first home in the New World. Fort Raleigh National Historic Site protects and preserves known portions of England's first New World settlements from 1584 to 1590. This site also preserves the cultural heritage of the Native Americans, European Americans and African Americans who have lived on Roanoke Island.
Fort Raleigh National Historic Site
1401 National Park Dr.
Manteo, NC 27954
DAY 3: VISIT NORTH CAROLINA'S FIRST LIFE-SAVING STATION
Chicamacomico Life Saving Station was built in 1874 and was one of many stations funded by the government as a response to the frequent shipwrecks in the seas along the coast. It was operated as a U.S. Lifesaving Service station and later served as an active US Coast Guard facility from 1915 until 1954 and after it’s decommissioning, the facility was transformed into a museum. The CLSS is most well-known for the 1918 rescue of the British tanker SS Mirlo and the ships forty-two crew members.
Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station
23645 N.C. Hwy 12
Rodanthe, NC 27968
DAY 4: VISIT A LIGHTHOUSE AND A GRAVEYARD
The tallest brick lighthouse in North America, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse stands 208 feet tall and its light can be seen up to 24 nautical miles away. Being one of the most iconic structures on the Outer Banks, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is a “must visit” for out-of-state guests. You can climb the spiral staircase April through Columbus Day but the Visitor's Center Museum and grounds are open year-round.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
46368 Old Lighthouse Rd.
Buxton, NC 27920
Located in in the Village of Hatteras, The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum is dedicated to the preservation, advancement and presentation of maritime history of shipwrecks along the coast of the Outer Banks. There have been more than 1,500 known shipwrecks off the coast of North Carolina earning these waters the title "Graveyard of the Atlantic. The museum itself houses artifacts dating back to 1524. Some of the museum’s notable relics include the “lost lens” from Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, a portion of the Enigma machine from the German U-85 and artifacts from the ghost ship Carroll A. Deering.
Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum
59200 Museum Drive
Hatteras, NC 27943
DAY 5: TOUR THE HISTORIC WHALEHEAD CLUB
Northern Industrialist Edward Collings Knight, Jr and his bride Marie Louise LeBel took up winter residency in their newly acquired Lighthouse Club and began construction of a 21,000 sq.ft. private residence. Its location on Currituck Sound and the Atlantic Flyway was perfect to satisfy the Knight's passion for waterfowl hunting. Three years and $385,000 later, Edward and Marie Louise moved into their "cottage" on the sound. It was unlike any structure that local folks had ever seen. After the Knights’ deaths, the building was sold and used for a variety of purposes and was eventually abandoned before being restored in the 90s for Outer Banks visitors.
Today, the Whalehead Club is part of Currituck Heritage Park. Situated on 39 acres of sound front property, the public is invited to tour this newly restored "jewel by the sea."
1100 Club Road
Corolla, NC 27927
DAY 6: VISIT ROANOKE ISLAND FESTIVAL PARK
What's a better way to learn history than to visit an interactive family attraction that celebrates the first English settlement in America? The centerpiece of the 25-acre island park in Manteo is the Elizabeth II, a representation of one of the seven English ships from the Roanoke Voyage of 1585. Costumed Elizabethan sailors greet visitors and help them experience sixteenth century seafaring life. Also visit the settlement site, Roanoke Adventure Museum and see "The Legend of Two-Path" film. The American Indian Town and Cultural Education Center offers a wide vareity of activities, including building a dug-out canoe, working a fish trap, planting and harvesting crops and more! The on-site art gallery, fossil pit, museum store, and marsh-side boardwalks are free and open to all.
Roanoke Island Festival Park
1 Festival Park
Manteo, NC 27954
DAY 7: VIEW A SHIPWRECK
There are several visible shipwrecks located along the Outer Bank’s coast. The list below locates some remains that are easiest to find and usually visible. Remember that daily changes in the sand and tides can expose or obscure shipwrecks.*
Laura A. Barnes (1921): 4.7 miles south of Whalebone Junction, or 3.3 miles north of Oregon Inlet campground. Turn into Coquina Beach parking area. Walk over to the beach.
Oriental (1862): Seven miles south of Oregon Inlet campground, or 30 miles north of Buxton. Park at turnout for Pea Island Comfort Station. Board walk leads to wooden remains are sometimes exposed on the beach nearby. A wooden bow lies on the beach against the dune one mile north.
Margaret A. Spencer: Located fourteen miles south of Oregon Inlet Campground and 25-miles north of Buxton. Park on abandoned road strip one mile north of Rodanthe, walk 1.8 miles north on the beach. The wooden wreck is exposed, bottom up, at the surf line.
LST at Rodanthe (1948): Drive to the Rodanthe Fishing Pier, 15 miles south of Oregon Inlet campground, or 25 miles north of Buxton. Look north from Ramp 10 near the pier for the steel wreck in the water.
George A. Kohler (1933): Park at the turn out for Ramp 14 and walk directly to the beach. The wooden remains are almost buried near the surf. Other parts of the same vessel are exposed 0.3 miles north on the beach.
Altoona (1878): Drive to the parking lot near Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. From the parking lot drive to the first stop sign and straight across the intersection. Follow the road 1.7 miles to its end in the gravel parking lot. Walk over the ramp to the beach, then south along the beach 1/2 miles and west 1/4 mile to the bow of the Altoona. Wrecked in 1878, it was uncovered in 1963. Broken by the surf in November of that year, it washed to its present location.
On Ocracoke Island: Unidentified wooden remains near the first parking turnout. For other remains, inquire at the National Park Service Visitor Center on the Ocracoke waterfront on the Harbor at Silver Lake.
*List of visible shipwrecks content originally provided by the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce.