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The Wright Brothers Memorial is an unmistakable landmark on the Outer Banks scene, and can be easily spotted during the day or nighttime as a monolith granite structure which towers over the local landscape. The 60' foot tall monument was first opened to the public in 1932, (with Orville Wright himself as a guest of honor), and has attracted millions of visitors even since to admire this testament to mankind's first flight. The past guests to the Wright Brothers Memorial is veritably a lofty roster which includes past presidents, movie stars, and celebrities from all walks of life. Open daily from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., visitors to the site can make the deceivingly tough trek to the base of the monument, and explore the multiple museums that are located on site, including the "Century of Flight" museum which was opened to national acclaim in 2003, on the Wright Brother's 100 year anniversary of successfully making their historic and world-changing first flight. A must see for aviation lovers and history buffs of all varieties, this attraction is easily the loftiest, and most visited, landmark in the Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills region.
Despite Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hill's mutual reputations as two of the most developed communities on the Outer Banks, there's a wide world of quiet landscapes and natural paradises to explore in this region, beginning with the Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve. This expansive stretch of namely Albemarle Soundside terrain is cluttered with one of the largest samples of natural, undeveloped maritime forest along the Outer Banks, and features fantastic recreational opportunities for anyone with a love of the great outdoors. Paddlers and boaters will want to hit the open waters of the Albemarle Sound to explore the rugged soundside shoreline, while nature lovers will have a field day winding through the miles of hiking trails that veer from the dense woods to the sound and back. Several local tour companies use the Kitty Hawk Coastal Reserve as their "home base" for kayaking eco tours which wind through brackish canals located deep with the reserve, while virtually anyone travelling through the Kitty Hawk soundside can locate an access point or a trailhead for a quick but illuminating look at this wholly unique Outer Banks landscape.
3. The Beach
Of course, the beach is the main reason why the majority of summertime visitors flock to the Outer Banks, and Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills do not disappoint their visitors, with miles of shorelines to choose from. The two towns combined feature dozens of public beach access points, many of which with oceanfront parking areas and seasonal summer lifeguards. In fact, the two towns offer more lifeguard stands and roving lifeguard patrols than virtually anywhere else on the Outer Banks, making the region a family-friendly, and generally safe, destination for jumping into the ocean. Surf fishing and shelling are both decent along these beaches, and oceanfront vacationers will literally find themselves yards away from the beach, as the region features plenty of beachfront homes that are as close to the shoreline as it gets on the Outer Banks. The dune line is also relatively small in Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills, making a trip to the beach a relatively easy jaunt for anyone staying on or off shore. Overall, the conveniences and amenities of these two towns make the beach a stellar attraction that simply makes any seashore outing a breeze.
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The Avalon Fishing Pier in Kill Devil Hills is a local landmark that pre-dates many icons along the Outer Banks, and still maintains its popularity as one of the best fishing piers along the East Coast. The modest 700' foot long pier was first constructed in 1958, (with plenty of hurricane-based repairs and renovations along the way), and today greets visitors with an exceptional bait and tackle shop, a snack bar, and all the little amenities a devoted angler requires for a great day of fishing. When the fishing is good at the pier, anglers can expect to reel in a veritable bounty of great catches, including pompano, mackerel, mullet, sea trout, croaker, flounder, bluefish, and even cobia. The day's catches are always well documented at the pier, with local fishing experts manning the tackle shop, and locals attest that the fall and spring months are the best time to hit it big, as the seasonal drum runs produce dozens of 20 lb., 30 lb., and even 40 lb. catches on a near-daily basis. Folks who are simply on the hunt for a great view can also take a lazy evening stroll along the pier as well, to see what's biting, and enjoy incredible oceanfront views that span miles of Kill Devil Hills' and Kitty Hawk's shorelines.
5. Outer Banks Arboretum and Teaching Garden
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A must-see for garden lovers, the Outer Banks Arboretum and Teaching Garden is a quietly secluded location that serves as a perfect venue for newcomers to discover all the flora and fauna that makes this region of the Eastern Seaboard completely distinctive. Comprising of a small brick pathway that winds through a number of different "gardens" that showcase different components of the varied Outer Banks ecosystems, this landmark is relatively deserted and unexplored, but nonetheless impressive for its varied collection of trees, flowers, and local critters that adorn the vast and gorgeous landscape. Late spring is an ideal time to visit this spot, as the garden is often cluttered with local butterflies which take advantage of the warm weather blooms. Open to the public daily and year-round, a visit to the Outer Banks Arboretum and Teaching Garden is a great way for nature lovers to get their feet wet in the natural Outer Banks scene, which is found just yards away from the big name beach attractions.
Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk have one of the largest concentrations of local restaurants in the Outer Banks, making these neighboring destinations a food lover's paradise. With many of the local eateries locally and even nationally famous landmarks, (including a handful of local establishments which were recently featured in Food Network's "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" in 2013), visitors to this stretch of the Outer Banks will definitely want to bring along a big appetite to take it all in. Some local restaurants like The Black Pelican in Kitty Hawk combine history with great grub, as this oceanfront restaurant is located within a historic, and re-purposed Coast Guard Station, while others, like the Ocean Boulevard Bistro or the Kill Devil Grill, are simply known for incredible food in a tasteful but altogether beachy atmosphere. There are plenty of BBQ joints and seafood shacks for a quick bite that's a little more casual, as well as a high concentration of nationally familiar chain and fast food restaurants. Essentially, for a great meal that can easily range from salty hot dogs and fries to fine coastal cuisine, the twin towns of Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills are hard to top on the Outer Banks.
For many central Outer Banks vacationers, Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills are the places to go for great bargain buys and all the beach necessities an active family needs for a great vacation on the seashore. The region is home to several large national chains, including the Outer Banks' only Wal-Mart, Belk's, Home Depot and Lowes, as well as a bevy of shoreside shops that specialize in cheap but plentiful beach gear for a full day on the sand. Avid shoppers on the hunt for something a little more unique will want to check out the small shopping plazas as well, which can be found close to the Wright Memorial Brighe and along the beach road, for an abundance of surf shops, art galleries, and gift shops that specialize in all things uniquely Outer Banks. With a boatload of shopping options that are both convenient and varied, Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills visitors will have no trouble finding some great bargains, and some unique little treasures, to take back home.
The quiet soundside regions of Kitty Hawk serve as a golfer's paradise, with plenty of shade, natural landscaping, and distant soundside landscapes that can be enjoyed from the greens. There are, in fact, two unique courses to choose from in Kitty Hawk, including the esteemed Duck Woods County Club, with 18 holes and more than 6589 yards of play, and the Sea Scape Golf Links, also with 18 holes and more than 6131 yards of play. Both courses take full advantage of the natural setting, with challenging yet serene courses that are a far cry from the busy beachfront hot spots that are almost literally a golf-balls throw away. Recent retirees with a love of golf and seclusion would do well to check out the golf course surrounding communities in Kitty Hawk, as the combination of wooded, peaceful surroundings and lazy days on the links is almost irresistible.
For Outer Banks night owls, Kitty Hawk and especially Kill Devil Hills are the beach towns to head to. The two communities feature dozens of restaurants that are open after hours, plenty of live entertainment, and some of the best brews and mixed drinks on the beach. Late night explorers will just want to make sure they ask the bartender for a cab number, (and there are plenty to choose from), to ensure a safe and an altogether fun night out. Low-key evenings can be enjoyed at local favorite spots like Tortugas Lie Restaurant on the Beach Road, while folks who like a bigger crowd can head to the Port O'Call, which resembles a two-story classic New Orleans nightclub. Wine lovers will want to relax and enjoy the evening at specialty joints like Trio, (which signifies the all-important trinity of beer, wine and cheese), while beer lovers will feel right at home at the Outer Banks Brewery, a local brewery that features fantastic flights of local brews in addition to regular live music and concerts. Essentially, whether a vacationer is looking for a low key evening or a fast-paced night on the town, Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk both deliver with a world of options to choose from.
10. Soundside Watersports
Visitors may initially come to the OBX for the beach, but they often linger and come back for the neighboring Outer Banks' sounds. Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills both border the expansive Albemarle Sound, which stretches all the way to North Carolina's mainland, and provides miles of open, but relatively gentle, waters to explore. Stand-up paddle boarding, jet skiing, and even parasailing are all popular in this region, but nature lovers who want to delve into the local terrain will want to hit the water via kayak, as the soundside features endless mazes of brackish canals and winding wooded water trails to explore. There are also a number of local water sports companies that specialize in eco tours and sunset tours, as well as large soundside "complexes" where virtually every type of waterfront vessel can be found and enjoyed. Newcomers who want to explore their options should stop by the large watersports center that's adjacent to the Wright Memorial Bridge entrance in Kitty Hawk, (a complex which is clearly visible from the bridge itself), to get their feet wet in every watersport imaginable from paddle boats to parasails.