Did You Know the Outer Banks has a Pirate Festival?


by Jessie S.

obx pirate festival

Avast ye Mateys! Did you know that the Outer Banks has a Pirate Festival? In an area that is rich with pirate lore, it’s no surprise that the Outer Banks is a great place to visit for the aspiring buccaneer. But when it comes to properly celebrating local history, no event is quite as fun as the Outer Banks Pirate Festival hosted by Kitty Hawk Kites. If you’re ready to get in touch with your “scalawag spirit” while learning about Atlantic pirates of the 17th and 18th centuries, get all hands on deck and head down to Kitty Hawk Kites/Jockey’s Ridge Crossing!

What is the Pirate Festival?

Hosted by Kitty Hawk Kites, the Outer Banks Pirate Festival is a 2-day event designed to engage families in the intriguing history of pirates in the Atlantic. This year’s festival will occur on Wednesday, August 14, 2019 and Thursday, August 15, 2019 from 10 AM – 4 PM. The festival takes place outside of the Kitty Hawk Kites location in Nags Head at the Jockey’s Ridge Crossing shopping center and is the perfect family-friendly event. If you need a place to stay to attend this awesome event, check out one of our vacation homes in Nags Head.

obx pirate festival flag kitty hawk kites nags head

Pirate Festival Events

Scallywag School: Wednesday at 11 AM, 12 PM, 1 PM and 3 PM or Thursday at 11 AM, 12 PM, and 2:30 PM. (Registration is highly recommended for this event as space is limited!)

Kids will love learning all about what it takes to be a pirate in Blackbeard’s Crew! Learn about Blackbeard himself, practice musket and sword drills, and pick up some pirate lingo.

Pictures with Mermaids: Each day from noon – 3 PM.

Have you ever wanted to meet a mermaid or get your photo taken with the acclaimed maidens of the sea? Stop by the Pirate festival in the afternoon for a chance of a lifetime!

Living History Pirate Encampment: Wednesday from 2 PM – 4 PM and Thursday from 10 AM to 4 PM.

Batten down the hatches as you discover what life was like on the open seas! This living exhibit lets visitors interact with pirate reenactors to learn about everything from 18th century medical practices to swashbuckling weaponry!

Cannon Fire: Wednesday and Thursday at 4 PM.

Fire the cannons! Need we say more? The kids will love the full seeing the cannon being fired at the end of each festival day. In addition, a cannon demonstration will occur Thursday at 1:30 PM for those who want to learn about more about the use of cannons by Atlantic pirates.

cannon fire at the obx pirate festival

Who Was Blackbeard?

Perhaps the most notorious pirate in history, Blackbeard the Pirate was known as a terrifying nuisance of the sea. Born around 1680 in England, Edward Teach may have been a sailor during the Queen Anne’s War but very little information is known about his early life. By 1716, he was working under Captain Benjamin Hornigold, another well-known pirate who looted merchant vessels around the Bahamas Island of New Providence. During these years, Blackbeard began to gain recognition as a fierce pirate as written accounts of his looting emerged.

By 1718, Blackbeard had his own crew and sailed around the waters of the new English colonies on a formerly captured French ship which he had renamed Queen Anne’s Revenge (QAR). He plundered dozens of vessels using the QAR but it was eventually run around in May 1718 around Beaufort Inlet. While some historians believe Blackbeard did this intentionally to downsize his crew, which had grown to over 300 men, it wasn’t uncommon for ships to run around off the shoals of North Carolina. In November 1996, a cluster of cannons and anchors were found by a private research firm marking the discovery of the site of the QAR shipwreck.

ocracoke island is where blackbeard was killed - obx pirate festival

When Blackbeard wasn’t at sea, he would reside in the North Carolina towns of Bath and Ocracoke enjoying his riches and engaging in parties. During this time, he was also infamously preying upon ships in the Ocracoke Inlet since it was a major thoroughfare for maritime travel. Although North Carolina’s governor generally seemed to turn a blind eye, Virginia’s governor decided to take action and eventually ordered a fleet of ships to bring Blackbeard’s terrifying reign to a halt. On November 22, 1718, Lieutenant Robert Maynard of the Royal Navy led the attack in which Blackbeard was killed.

People all across the country are fascinated by the seafaring tales of pirates but Blackbeard’s legacy definitely lives on all across the Outer Banks. Off Ocracoke Island, “Teach’s Hole,” is the name of the channel where he was killed and the legend goes that he still haunts those waters. To learn more about Blackbeard, the Teach’s Hole Blackbeard Exhibit museum in Ocracoke and the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras both feature informational exhibits and artifacts from the QAR. The NC Maritime Museum in Beaufort and the NC Museum of History in Raleigh also include exhibits about pirates and Blackbeard himself. Today, a conservation lab in Greenville, NC is the primary site of artifact cultivation from the ship. Known as the “QAR Project,” a skilled team of individuals managed by the Division of Archives and History’s Office of State Archaeology work on conserving, documenting and investigating artifacts identified from the shipwreck. From tools and weapons to pieces of the ship and his personal possessions, further study on these 300-year-old artifacts will hopefully help us discover more about his mysterious life.

Pirate Festival Video

If you're interested in attending this event, check out the following video from Kitty Hawk Kites for a recap on the 2016 Pirate Festival.


Jessie has been coming to the Outer Banks since she was just 5 years old. She loved it here so much that she finally relocated in 2018. Now her mission is to show the world that the Outer Banks is an incredible place that everyone should experience. When she isn't working, you can find Jessie hanging out with her friends, chilling at home with her awesome cat, Yoji, or discovering a new Outer Banks adventure. 

Return to Seaside Vacations Blogs

Seaside Showcase

It all starts with a luxurious Seaside vacation home or condo in one of the world’s most beautiful beachside communities.