Outer Banks Spotlight on the Town of Kitty Hawk


OBX Spotlight on the Town of Kitty Hawk

We're hitting the road again and our next stop is the town of Kitty Hawk. We're enjoying the scenery along the way, and hope you are too. Each of our Outer Banks towns has its own unique style and coastal ambiance, so you really can't go wrong no matter where you choose to visit!

Let's explore Kitty Hawk and see what maritime treasures can be found here. Ready? Let's go!

The History of Kitty Hawk

Often known in association with the Wright Brothers, the town of Kitty Hawk has a few other claims to fame. Said to be occupied well before the Europeans arrived in the late 1500s, Kitty Hawk is known to have ties to the Algonquin speaking native tribes of the area. In fact, the name "Kitty Hawk" itself was said to be originally penned as Chickenhauk on a New World map as early as 1738, well before the region was fully explored; reinforcing its Algonquin origins and influence... but that depends on who you ask.

The origin of Kitty Hawk's name is still a matter of local debate. Many believe the name is derived from a Native American name "Chickeawk" or "Chickahawk", a time or place to hunt geese. Others believe it is derived from early English pronunciation of "mosquito hawk" or "skeeter hawk", a name commonly used for the dragonfly. Whatever the origin, the name Kitty Hawk was spelled as it is today on old land deeds dating back to the eighteenth century.

A handful of New World explorers settled in Kitty Hawk, though it didn't receive the same numbers as Roanoke Island and the mainland of North Carolina did during this time period. Maps from the 1700s and 1800s indicate the existence of a small number of privately owned plantations, residences, a school house, and other small local businesses in the area.

The Kitty Hawk Lifesaving Station was built in 1874. It has since been moved and remodeled, while also being added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. The original station can be spotted at Milepost 4, and now doubles as a vacation rental home. Meanwhile, parts of the original boathouse have been repurposed as integral parts of the acclaimed Black Pelican restaurant in Kitty Hawk.

The arrival of the Wright Brothers in the early 1900s changed things a bit. While the historic December 17, 1903 First Flight was actually launched in the sand dunes of neighboring Kill Devil Hills (that's our next stop, stay tuned), Kitty Hawk nevertheless became famous as the birthplace of flight and gained notoriety and popularity because of it.

After the excitement from the Wright Brothers flight, Kitty Hawk resumed its peaceful and quiet existence on the Outer Banks for a spell. The 1910s and 1920s were marked by the arrival of lumber businesses who harvested the Kitty Hawk Woods area, followed by the construction of the first Wright Memorial Bridge that linked the off-shore island with the mainland.

The rest is tourism history.

Today's Kitty Hawk, incorporated as a town on April 13, 1981, consists of a traditional village, a beach community of residential cottages and hotels, and a 461-acre maritime forest reserve called Kitty Hawk Woods. The Woods feature a wide variety of plant and animal life, and the town is characterized by low to medium density, single-family residential developments, mainly served by small businesses.

You can read more about the fascinating history of the town of Kitty Hawk here.

OBX Kitty Hawk beach

Kitty Hawk's Beaches

Just like all of the other beaches on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, you'll find abundant sun, sand, sea and salt air for your enjoyment. The coastal Carolina views are unmatched and our barrier island shorelines offer the quintessential beach experience without all of the commercialization and crowds found on other popular East Coast beaches.

Kitty Hawk's beaches are pet-friendly, just be sure to read up on the town of Kitty Hawk's pet rules and regulations. Kitty Hawk is also home to the Dare County Dog Park, so bring your four-legged friend there for a visit while you're in town.

ATVs, camping, driving on the beach, fires, 4x4s, fireworks, glass bottles, and motorized watercraft launched from the beach are all prohibited on Kitty Hawk's beaches. You can read the full list of Kitty Hawk beach regulations here.

There is an abundance of beach accesses and lifeguards are on duty in some Kitty Hawk beach locations seasonally from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Kitty Hawk has a handicap-accessible public sound beach access at Windgrass Circle, which also has public parking and is open from sunrise until thirty minutes past sunset.

Surfing is allowed all year long in Kitty Hawk, just remember that you must be leashed to your board at all times while in the water.

Coastal reserve and estuarine areas of the Outer Banks

Things To Do in Kitty Hawk

There is a nice mix of options when it comes to your time spent in Kitty Hawk. There's a little something for everyone of every age and interest.

Here are a few of our recommendations for things to do in Kitty Hawk:

  • Biking
  • Birding
  • Boating
  • Crabbing
  • Fishing
  • Going out on the town
  • Golfing
  • Hiking and walking trails
  • Kayaking
  • Shelling
  • Stand-Up Paddleboarding
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Watching the wildlife

Interested in learning more? Read more about things to do in Kitty Hawk during your OBX beach vacation.

Kitty Haw Pier on the OBX

Kitty Hawk Annual Events & Popular Attractions

Kitty Hawk plays a big part in Outer Banks Bike Week each year, as it does in the annual Outer Banks Marathon and Half Marathon. It's also associated with the well-known Wright Brothers National Monument in nearby Kill Devil Hills and the aviation history made there.

Popular attractions in Kitty Hawk include:

Where To Stay in Kitty Hawk

Élan Vacations offers a nice selection of Kitty Hawk vacation rentals for your comfort and enjoyment. Customize your stay by choosing the amenities, location, size and style that are important to you. Then sit back, relax, and immerse yourself in an OBX beach vacation of your very own.

There's no time like the present to start planning your next Outer Banks beach vacation!

In Case You Missed It

Have you been following Élan Vacations blog? You should! Just in case you missed any installments of our OBX Spotlight series, here's the rundown of where we've traveled thus far on our tour of the Carolina coastline.

Outer Banks Spotlight Posts:

Happy OBX travels!


Have you spent any time in the Outer Banks town of Kitty Hawk? What was your favorite thing about your time there?