Kitty Hawk Guide Sections
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Many visitors remark on the unusual town names to be found on the Outer Banks, and one of the names that causes the most head-scratching is Kitty Hawk. A small but popular vacation town in the busy central Outer Banks, Kitty Hawk was originally deemed "Chickahawk" by its original Native American residents, meaning a "place to hunt geese." Over the generations, the name changed slightly, the area became more developed, and the town became the popular tourist destination it is today.
Outer Banks vacationers find that Kitty Hawk has a little something for everyone, including fantastic beaches, plenty of shops and restaurants, and even a large section of maritime forest where visitors can enjoy quiet nature trails, and spot all those geese that the original Native Americans were referring to.
Where to stay in Kitty Hawk
Vacation Rental Companies
Attractions and Activities
Kitty Hawk offers a sample of everything that makes the Outer Banks a great vacation destination. Visitors will find nature preserves, great shopping and restaurants all located centrally.
Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve - The Kitty Hawk Coastal Reserve - Offers visitors over 1800 acres of forests and marshes to explore. As a result, nature lovers can explore virtually desolate trails and enjoy an afternoon of bird watching, and critter watching. Kitty Hawk Woods is an ideal locale to spot dozens if not hundreds of native Outer Banks species, including white-tailed deer, gray foxes, and even occasional otters, thriving in their natural habitat.
The Beach - The beach in Kitty Hawk is still the #1 attraction for visitors. Here are some things to know about Kitty Hawk beach policies:
- Dogs are allowed on the beach year-round. From the Friday before Memorial Day until the day after Labor Day, they must be on a (maximum) 6ft leash between 10am and 6pm. All other times of the year, dogs must be on a (maximum) 12ft leash. Dogs may be taken off the leash during the off-season only if they are controlled by their owners and do not disturb others. Owners must be within 30feet of an unleashed dog, and have a leash with them at all times.
- Fireworks and beach bonfires are not permitted in Kitty Hawk.
- Beer is allowed on the beach. Wine and liquor are not officially permitted. Please drink responsibly.
- Metal detecting is allowed.
- Red flags = no swimming. When you see red flags flying, dangerous conditions are present and swimming is prohibited.
- It is illegal to walk on dunes, and it is also illegal to pick live sea oats growing on the beaches.
- Fill in any holes you dig. Holes in the sand can be a hazard.
- Be mindful of Noise. Most communities consider a violation of the noise ordinance to be any sound that can be heard from inside a nearby residence, and any load noise after approximately 11:00 p.m.
- No glass on the beach. Be mindful of glass bottles. Stick to cans and plastic to save future beach-goers from any bare foot injuries.
- Surf fishing is allowed. A fishing license is required in North Carolina and can be obtained before your vacation via the NC Marine Fisheries and Wildlife website, or a fishing license can be purchased at most any tackle shop on the Outer Banks.
- 4x4 Driving on the Beach is not permitted in Kitty Hawk
Shopping - In addition to boutique shopping, Kitty Hawk boasts more big-box retail and grocery stores than any other town in the Outer Banks.
Dining - Options include all-you-can-eat fresh, local seafood buffets, steaks, outstanding BBQ, local donuts and ice cream. And the atmospheres range from flip-flop casual to upscale relaxed. There truly is something for every appetite in Kitty Hawk.
To the North
To the South
Upcoming Kitty Hawk Events
OBX Arts & Craft Festival
- September 7th, 2022 - September 8th, 2022 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
This annual show features a superb variety of creations from 25 Outer Banks artists whose specialties include painting, pottery, jewelry, photography, glass, fiber arts, collage, wood and...more
History of Kitty Hawk
Kitty Hawk has been attractive to visitors for a long time. Two brothers from Ohio chose the area as an ideal spot to launch a series of glider tests from 1900-1903. The first flight took off from Kill Devil Hills, but the Wright Brothers selected Kitty Hawk as their place to reside and test, and even to announce their final success. After the triumphant launch of the first powered flight in December 1903, the Wrights walked to the Weather Bureau office in neighboring Kitty Hawk where they sent out a telegram announcing the news. (As expected with an accomplishment of this magnitude, the first person they telegrammed was their father, who was reportedly and understandably very proud.)
The Current Landscape
Today, Kitty Hawk is a mixture of accommodations including a luxury resort and hotel, a collection of small motels, and a number of both oceanside and soundside vacation rental homes and unimposing condos. Vacationers can opt to stay near the action on the beach, where the beach road features a small number of shops, restaurants and night spots, or closer to the Currituck Sound, bordering the Kitty Hawk Woods and miles of open sound waters.
On the oceanside, vacationers will find 7 public beach accesses, including three that are lifeguarded from Memorial Day to Labor Day, along with a roving lifeguard ATV patrol that covers the town in the busy summer season. Visitors are free to explore the miles of open beaches, but are advised to follow the local town beach ordinances, including no glass on the beach, no beach bonfires, and no swimming when the red "Dangerous Conditions" flags are waving. All of these rules are in place for visitors' safety, and to ensure everyone on the shore enjoys a great time.
Take a stroll up the beach to check out the Kitty Hawk Pier. Damaged by Hurricane Isabel in 2003, the pier has since been remodeled and revitalized and serves as a venue for special events and lunching guests of the nearby resort. Kitty Hawk is also home to the Aycock Brown Visitors' Center, the main visitors' center for vacationers entering the Outer Banks from the north, and a fantastic resource for newcomers to the OBX with plenty of publications, pamphlets, and local experts on hand to answer questions.
On the outskirts of town, a couple miles from the beach, visitors will even find several large chain stores, including grocery stores, shopping centers, and a soundside watersports center for waterfront adventures of all mediums, such as kayaking, parasailing, sailing, and even kiteboarding. Mariners will also find a handful of public boat ramps on the soundside of town, as well as a collection of every-day services, including banks, a post office, and even an Urgent Care medical center.
In short, for vacationers and residents alike, Kitty Hawk has a sample of everything Outer Banks. From charming shops to large shopping plazas, beach-side dives to more formal restaurants, and water in all directions, Kitty Hawk can easily accommodate all tastes. The first beach town that northern vacationers encounter after the Wright Memorial Bridge is also, clearly, a perfect sample of what the Outer Banks is all about: Fun, sun, and plenty of nature and history.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where is Kitty Hawk, NC?
Kitty Hawk is located in the heart of the Outer Banks, and is the closest community to the Wright Memorial Bridge. It’s bordered by Southern Shores and Duck to the north, and Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head to the south.
How do you get to Kitty Hawk, NC?
The easiest way to get to Kitty Hawk it to take US 158 and cross the Wright Memorial Bridge, which directly connects with the town. Visitors staying in the southern and northern Outer Banks can also reach Kitty Hawk via NC Highway 12.
What is there to do in Kitty Hawk, NC?
Kitty Hawk is most popular for its beaches, however the town also has a collection of shopping plazas, stores and restaurants. In addition, Kitty Hawk is home to the 1,822 acre Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve, which is a popular destination for kayaking, hiking, birding, and other outdoor activities off the oceanfront. Other attractions include the Wright Brothers Memorial and Avalon Fishing Pier. Kitty Hawk also features two golf courses – Sea Scape Golf Links, and Duck Woods Country Club in adjacent Southern Shores.
Where did the name Kitty Hawk come from?
The town was originally known as "Chickehauk" or "Chickahawk” in the 1700s. Though it’s not certain how this name morphed into the current “Kitty Hawk,” many local historians believe that it ties into a Native American name for the region that indicated exceptional geese hunting, such as "Killy honker" or "Killy honk."
What are the special events in Kitty Hawk?
Many restaurants and nightlife venues in Kitty Hawk offer live music and special events throughout the summer season. The area’s Kitty Hawk Woods is also the host of a suite of birdwatching and kayaking events that coincide with the annual Wings Over Water Festival, which is held in October and December.
Where are the beach accesses in Kitty Hawk, NC?
There are a number of public beach accesses within the town of Kitty Hawk. Beach accesses with public parking are located at the following spots:
- Balchen Street
- Bennett Street
- Bleriot Street
- Fonck Street
- Hawks Street
- Lillian Street
- Maynard Street
- Wilkins Street
In addition, beach accesses with public parking and restrooms are found at the following sites:
- Byrd Street
- Lillian Street
- Kitty Hawk Bath House
There is also a handicap accessible public sound access which is located at Windgrass Circle.
Are there lifeguards in Kitty Hawk?
There are three fixed lifeguard stands between Memorial Day and Labor Day in Kitty Hawk, which are located at the Byrd Street beach access, the Eckner Street beach access, and the Kitty Hawk Bath House. In addition, the town has seasonal ocean rescue patrols which monitor the beaches on ATVs.
What are the attractions in Kitty Hawk, NC?
Kitty Hawk’s biggest attraction – literally – is the Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve. Located along the soundside, this 1,822 acre site features maritime woods, soundfront beaches and access points for watersports, and a network of hiking and paddling trails. The town is also close to a number of central Outer Banks attractions including area fishing piers, the Wright Brothers Memorial, and Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head.
Are there shops and restaurants in Kitty Hawk, NC?
Kitty Hawk is home to a number of shops and restaurants, which are found along the Beach Road or adjacent to the entrance to the Wright Memorial Bridge. The town is also home to several shopping plazas, as well as several large chain stores.
Where do you stay in Kitty Hawk, NC?
There are a lot of accommodation options in Kitty Hawk, NC which include vacation rental homes and condos, hotels and motels, and campgrounds that can accommodate tent campers and / or RVs. Kitty Hawk is also home to one of the Outer Banks’ largest hotels, the Hilton Garden Inn.
What can you do on a rainy day in Kitty Hawk, NC?
The area has a variety of shops and restaurants, which include art galleries, craft or beading stores, boutiques, and surf shops. Visitors can also easily reach the charming shops of Duck, or head to other central Outer Banks attractions like the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island. There are also several amusement centers found nearby in the central OBX, such as a laser tag arena and a bowling alley.
Are pets allowed on the beach in Kitty Hawk, NC?
Dogs are permitted on Kitty Hawk’s public beaches, but must be on a leash at all times. Owners must also itty Hawk Road for residents and / or property owners and their guests.
Can I drive on the beach in Kitty Hawk, NC?
Driving on the beach is prohibited in the town of Kitty Hawk.
Are there shells in Kitty Hawk, NC?
Beachcombers may find a collection of shells in Kitty Hawk, especially after an offshore storm or hurricane. Popular shelling destinations include the area near the Kitty Hawk Pier and the Kitty Hawk Bath House.
Are beach bonfires allowed in Kitty Hawk?
Beach bonfires are not allowed in the town of Kitty Hawk.
When is the best time to visit Kitty Hawk?
The most popular time to visit Kitty Hawk is in the summer months, when water temperatures are at their warmest, and all seasonal businesses are open for visitors. With that being said, many shops and restaurants – especially chain stores – remain open all year long.
What are the air temperatures each month in Kitty Hawk?
January - high: 52°, low: 36°F
February - high: 54°, low: 38°F
March - high: 60°, low: 43°F
April - high: 69°, low: 52°F
May - high: 77°, low: 59°F
June - high: 84°, low: 69°F
July - high: 88°, low: 73°F
August - high: 86°, low: 72°F
September - high: 81°, low: 68°F
October - high: 72°, low: 58°F
November - high: 64°, low: 49°F
December - high: 56°, low: 40°F
Photos of Kitty Hawk