The Outer Banks of North Carolina consists of extreme beauty, weather and adventure. Wind blown sand dunes, wild life, and the Atlantic Ocean define the chain of barrier islands, which make up the Outer Banks. The Outer Banks are a 200-mile string of barrier islands and spits off the coast of North Carolina and southeastern Virginia. They line most of the North Carolina coastline, separating Currituck Sound, Albemarle Sound, and Pamlico Sound from the Atlantic Ocean. The location jutting out into the Atlantic makes them the most hurricane-prone area north of Florida, for both landfalling storms and brushing storms offshore. North Carolina’s Outer Banks are home to some of the world’s largest colonies of wild horses, descended from Spanish mustangs that washed ashore centuries ago in shipwrecks. The horses can be found on Ocracoke Island, Shackleford Banks, Currituck Banks, and in the Rachel Carson Estuarine Sanctuary.
A major tourist destination, the Outer Banks are known for their wide expanse of open beachfront and the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The Outer Banks were sites of early settlement in the United States and remain important economic and cultural sites. Most notably the English Roanoke Colony vanished from Roanoke Island in 1587 and was the first location where an English person was born in the Americas, Virginia Dare was born. The hundreds of shipwrecks along the Outer Banks have given the surrounding seas the nickname Graveyard of the Atlantic. The Wright brothers’ first flight in a controlled, powered, heavier-than-air vehicle took place on the Outer Banks on December 17, 1903, at Kill Devil Hills near the seafront town of Kitty Hawk.
A Deep History
The Outer Banks were inhabited before the arrival of Europeans. Native Americans would use the barrier islands for fishing in the summer, and reside on Roanoke Island or the North Carolina mainland in the winter. Ocracoke was the last refuge of pirate Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. It is also where the infamous pirate was killed November 22, 1718 in a fierce battle with troops from Virginia.
- Currituck Beach Lighthouse, located in Corolla, North Carolina
- Roanoake Marshes Lighthouse, located in Manteo, North Carolina
- Bodie Island Lighthouse, located south of Nags Head, North Carolina
- Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, located in Buxton, North Carolina
- Ocracoke Island Lighthouse, located in Ocracoke, North Carolina
- Cape Lookout Lighthouse, located in Carteret County, North Carolina
The Roanoke Colony was an attempt by Sir Walter Raleigh to found the first permanent English settlement in North America. The first colony was founded by governor Ralph Lane in 1585 on what is now Dare County, North Carolina, United States. A second colony, led by John White, landed on the same island in 1587, and set up another settlement that became known as the Lost Colony. The fate of the approximately 112–121 colonists remains unknown. Speculation that they had assimilated with nearby Native American communities appears in writings as early as 1605.
The Outer Banks is geared toward experiencing the area as an ecological attraction. Jockey’s’ Ridge State Park is the tallest living sand dune on the Atlantic coast and is a premier location for kites, sightseeing and sunsets. The waters off The Outer Banks is home to some of the world’s best fishing, including charter boats, surf casting, sound fishing and pier fishing. The Outer Banks is close enough to drive to, but with a sense of being far away.