Escape To Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
The town that was first in flight is also a first-rate beach vacation destination.
While Kitty Hawk, North Carolina might be a quiet beachfront town along the Outer Banks of less than 4,000 people, there’s a reason it sounds familiar to you. When the Wright Brothers were looking for a location to test their latest flying crafts (the ancestor of the modern airplane), a Kitty Hawk citizen named Bill Tate told the two “"If you decide to try your machine here...I will take pleasure in doing all I can for your convenience, success, and pleasure, and I assure you, you will find a hospitable people when you come among us."
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With sandy beaches for a soft landing and might sea breezes from its perch on the North Carolina coast, the Wright Brothers decided to launch their plane at Kitty Hawk and history was made. But not only do this history and tradition of this area live on, so does the hospitality that Tate spoke of. With an array of beachside accommodations from hotels to resorts and rentals (when you want to bring the whole family), new restaurants, a brewery, and nature reserve, Kitty Hawk is an underrated destination for relaxed, oceanside getaways.
Your Kitty Hawk Game Plan
Whether you’re going for a long weekend or wanting to stay a week, there’s plenty of options for lodging. Kitty Hawk proper is situated in the middle of the long barrier island that makes up North Carolina’s Outer Banks (OBX) region, but you’ll also want to take advantage of the areas to the north and south too; unless you plan on only taking in the view and reading that novel you’ve been dying to finish, you might want to consider bringing or renting a car. For shorter trips try staying at a beachside hotel along Highway 12, but if you plan on taking some serious vacation days off, book a rental where you’ll have all the trappings of home, just with an ocean view.
Things to Do in Kitty Hawk
- Kitty Hawk Woods: While many people come to see the beachside vistas, Kitty Hawk is also in the middle of a nature preserve filled with 1,824 acres of maritime deciduous swamp, forest, and marsh. Bird watchers and those who enjoy an early morning walk should put the preserve’s Sandy Run Park on their list.
- Monument to a Century of Flight: Placed in Kitty Hawk in 2003, this marker commemorates the 100th anniversary of sustained flight by the Wright brothers.
- Rent a Boat: For experienced boaters and paddlers, rent a pontoon boat, jet ski, a stand-up paddleboard, or a kayak at Kitty Hawk Kites or at Kitty Hawk Watersports.
- Beach Yoga: Looking to really take some R and R this vacation? Head to the Outer Banks Yoga Studio for a yoga session on the beach.
- Fishing: The Kitty Hawk Pier not only offers fantastic views of the beach, but a perfect place to cast a line for fish like spot and drum.
Where to Eat and Drink
- Eastside Restaurant: In the nearby town of Duck, this Southeast Asian and Japanese-influenced spot is beloved by both locals and visitors. Order the Spiced Macadamia Nuts with Pork Belly Cracklins and their fresh fish specials.
- Kill Devil Grill: This retro-style diner serves fresh catches and big burgers alike.
- The Blue Point: Looking to splurge on seafood? The Blue Point is one of the Outer Bank’s more high-end options with locally sourced scallops, fish, and oysters.
- Coastal Provisions Market: For fresh oysters right out of the water and a curated wine selection, Coastal Provisions has the best of both.
- The Shack Coffee and Beer Garden: Use this laid-back coffee shop and beer garden as an excuse to enjoy the scenery along Highway 12 up to Corolla.
- Outer Banks Brewing Station: Tour this brewery and sample their selection of seasonal brews. Tours start at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and last about 45 minutes.
Where to Stay
Sanderling Resort: For truly luxe accommodations with unmatched scenery, treat yourself to a stay at Sanderling Resort complete with a beachside pool, spa, and a hidden gem known as “The Life Saving Station,” known for reviving cocktails and one of the island’s best breakfasts.
Hampton Inn Outer Banks: Although you’ve likely stayed at a Hampton Inn before, this outpost is embedded along seaside marshes with patios that overlook the ocean and an hour-glass shaped lazy river.
Cypress Moon Inn: For more personalized attention, this bed and breakfast can help you rent bikes to ride along the beach, provide you with directions through the nature preserve, and maybe even talk you into a surfing lesson.
Where to Rent
An elevated, renovated number on the beach: With a screened in porch and modern amenities, you might forget to go home when you’re stay is up.
A place in the middle of everything: This elevated house with fantastic coral shutters is within walking distance to shopping, the beach, and the nature preserve.
A beach cottage with a two level deck: This VRBO listing has plenty of porch space and three bedrooms for a beachside family reunion or an overly belated girlfriend getaway. Bonus: it’s just two blocks from the beach.