Outer Banks Islands
Stringing along the North Carolina coast like a necklace, the Outer Banks holds a special place in North Carolina’s history and geography. As barrier islands, they protect the mainland from the brunt of storms and tides. They were the site of the first attempt at a permanent English colony. They’re the home to the oldest cultivated grapevine in the U.S. and the place where the first English child was born in the New World. The Wright Brothers took flight here; generations of visitors caught their first fish, saw the ocean for the first time, and made countless memories on the Outer Banks. It’s a beautiful place, the kind of place you fall in love with and the kind of place you’ll come back to as often as you can.
You can think of the Outer Banks in three parts, which happen to be its three islands for ease. You have what we call locally the Northern Beaches – everything from Oregon Inlet north, from Nags Head to Duck. South of Oregon Inlet, you have Hatteras Island where the Outer Banks is made up of Cape Hatteras National Seashore and a collection of seven villages. It’s a place more wild than any other on the Outer Banks, and it gives you a look at what it was like here centuries ago. To round out the trio of islands, you have Roanoke Island and the small but bustling town of Manteo, where the Outer Banks relationship with the Western world began more than four centuries ago.
The beach towns hold a lot of history. Wooden fishing piers remind us of the roots of leisure travel to the Banks and the concrete reimagining of Jennette’s Pier – a landmark since 1936 – shows us how things can grow more modern but keep strong ties to the past. The Wright Brothers National Memorial shows us where a bit of world-changing history happened, and at nearby Jockey’s Ridge State Park you can follow in their footsteps and try hang gliding.
Over on Roanoke Island we find the seed of the story that is the Outer Banks. At the north end of the island, the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site commemorates the efforts of English colonists to establish a permanent settlement here. Displays detailing their dealings with local Native Tribes and pointing out the nuances of life then begin to tell their story; the rest is told as you walk the ground there and see the rebuilt earthwork walls of a long-gone fort and gaze out at the water where they dropped anchor and set to starting a new life. Their fate has become a mystery – they disappeared between 1587 and 1590 – as no evidence of their whereabouts has ever been found. Next door to the Fort and the grounds where they established their own existence here, an outdoor drama called The Lost Colony tells their story.
Just beyond Roanoke Island you’ll reach mainland Dare County, a largely wild place where the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge keeps thousands of acres in its natural and pristine state. There, red wolves, black bears, white-tailed deer, and hundreds of thousands of migratory birds – including waterfowl like ducks and geese – can live or visit without the hindrance of human development. Kayak there or drive the wildlife viewing route and you’ll be amazed by what you see.
Fishing is a way of life on the Outer Banks and our restaurants show the fresh catch the utmost respect as they serve plate upon plate of just-out-of-the-water seafood to hungry tables. Fish markets and roadside pop-ups give you the chance to pick up some fresh shrimp or clams, a tuna or grouper or whatever was biting this morning, and some fresh produce to go with it. The Outer Banks is a wild place, a romantic place, a place to discover something about nature and about yourself, and a place where you can come and just be. We’re glad you’re here and we want to make sure your time with us is memorable for all the right reasons.