1497-1662Amerigo Vespucci anchors in the Bight of Hatteras as he first touches the continent subsequently named for him. Between 1524-1588, French and Spanish explorers came ashore in search of gold. England's Queen Elizabeth I issued a charter to Sir Walter Raleigh to establish a colony in North Carolina in 1584. Two attempts to settle on Roanoke Island were unsuccessful, with settlers disappearing without a trace. Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the New World was born on Roanoke Island and became part of the history and lore surrounding the lost colony. In 1607, settlers at Jamestown, Virginia tried in vain to find the lost colony.
The Lords Proprietors, eight powerful noblemen were rewarded for their support of Charles II which a charter for land in North American between the thirty-first to the thirty-sixth parallels from the Atlantic to the South Seas. Another Carolina colony struggled into existence. The Albemarle Rebellion (1673-1689), The Quaker Epoch (1691-1706), and the Cary Rebellion (1704-1711) were each waged over political and religious issues. The period of 1710-1718 was ruled by pirates, including the feared Blackbeard, and scrimmages with the Indians. In 1729, the English Crown resumed direct rule of the colony from the Lords Proprietors.
1730-1800North Carolina, still under Royal control, prospered but began to chafe at certain British policies and quickly joined other colonies in resistance to those policies. By this time, land inland and westward was also being settled. North Carolinians contributed to the defeat of British military power in the War for Independence (1776-1783) and continued to progress as the federal system was formed in the new nation (1784-1800).
1800-1900The early part of this century was generally a quiet one for coastal North Carolina except for numerous vessels lost at sea in what was to become known as the ''Graveyard of the Atlantic.'' David Stick's book of the same name lists page after page of vessels totally lost and thousands of lives along with them. During the Civil War and War in North Carolina (1861-1865) northern forces invaded the coast, easily capturing Fort Hatteras and Fort Clark on the Outer Banks. In February 1862 The Burnside Expedition captured Roanoke Island, the key to the North Carolina's eastern river system. December 30, 1862, a gale off Cape Hatteras sunk the USS Monitor, a Union ironclad. Earlier, the Monitor had engaged the Confederate ship, Virginia, to a draw. This was the first battle between ironclad ships.
On December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright made the first successful power-driven airplane flight from Kill Devil Hill near Kitty Hawk on the Outer Banks.
Coastal North Carolina saw and felt the effects of World War I (1916-1919), as the waters of the Outer Banks filled with German submarines and yards at Wilmington, Morehead City and Elizabeth City were converted to building vessels for the war effort. The Diamond Shoals Lightship was sunk by a German sub in August 1918. The same month, a British tanker, The Mirlo was sunk off Rodanthe by another German sub. The crew was rescued by members of the Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station
In 1937 the first production of the Lost Colony was performed at Fort Raleigh, and the Cape Hatteras National Seashore was established. Fort Raleigh on Roanoke Island was designated as a National Historic Site, both helping to make this area an important tourist attraction.
World War II was deja vu for Outer Bankers as German submarines again patrolled the coastal North Carolina waters. The British ship San Delfino was sunk north of Diamond Shoals. Bodies from this and other British ships are interred at The British Cemetery on Ocracoke Island
Since WWII, development of the ''Banks'' has been fueled by tourism with many areas becoming international destinations. The early years set the character, though, as it was a ''family'' or ''cottage'' beach. Tourism as an industry replaced fishing and hunting. No doubt much of the still pristine coastline would have been developed long ago if it were not for the National Park System's ownership and administration of these great resources.