Outer Banks Communities: Duck

Outer Banks sunrise
Outer Banks sunrise

The town of Duck on the northern portion of the Outer Banks is a charming seaside vacation spot, perfect for families. With seven miles of clean, Atlantic Ocean beaches, miles of bike paths and a charming village perfect for strolling, Duck has quickly become a popular beach destination.

Named for the sheer numbers of waterfowl that once flocked there during migratory seasons, Duck grew in popularity only in the last few years. Like many of the towns in the Outer Banks, Duck began life as a fishing village. The town began on a narrow strip of sand in Currituck County, so narrow that residents could see the both the ocean and the sound from one house. This closeness to both bodies of water, however, led to flooding. As a result, families lived in rough-hewn wooden houses set atop 2-foot blocks to keep their floors above the water.

Mail service came to Duck in 1909. It was at that time that the town got its name. Postmaster Lloyd Toler christened the town in honor of the abundant local waterfowl.

Unlike the flatter areas of the Outer Banks, the topography around Duck consists of gentle hills with trees and thick underbrush. The residents utilized these woods to raise, cows, chickens, and hogs. They also farmed small gardens. Meanwhile, the men spent the day on the water, netting fish, setting pound nets and trapping crabs in wooden crates. Men, women and children worked together to mend the heavy fishing nets, earning around 25 cents an hour.

During the Great Depression, children caught "peelers," blue crabs that had shed their shells, and sold them. Harvesting these soft-shell crabs, which began in Duck, is still a major fishing industry in the Outer Banks. In addition to the soft shell crabs, the residents also fished for eel. By placing eel pots along the shallow shores and shoals, local fisherman caught these creatures and transported them via trucks to the markets in Hampton Roads, where eel was quite popular.

In 1950, the post office closed. Duck is still without mail service. Residents have to go to Kitty Hawk for their mail.

Conditions in Duck remained pretty much the same until the 1970s. Only a few homes were nestled in the woods, and a few small wooden boats were moored along the shore. Tourism began to build around 1980. People built larger houses on the beach and a few small shops sprung up along the road through town. By 1990, a few restaurants had been added between Kitty Hawk to the south and Corolla to the north.

After that, development skyrocketed, resulting in a town with a wealth of restaurants, shops, boutiques, and galleries. Water sports and other recreational activities grew in popularity, and the beauty of the area's seven miles of clean, fine sand beaches was made known to the world. In 2000, and every year since, the beaches of Duck have been ranked by the Travel Channel among the best beaches in the United States. This small fishing village became a quaint, upscale town of luxurious new homes and charming, older cottages, and a perfect vacation spot for families.

The Travel Channel made the following statement, "Duck's relative solitude and its vast array of neatly constructed rental homes makes it ideal for families. That is, unless your family likes to go bar hopping until the wee hours, in which case you may be out of luck. Still, while we admit Duck would never make the list for top spring break party spots, boredom is hardly a threat here."

The beaches are beautiful and less crowded than other beaches on the Outer Banks. This is due to the fact that there is no public access to Duck's beaches. Vacationers staying in Duck's rental homes, bed and breakfasts, and inns all have access to Duck's seven miles of beaches, but only those visitors staying in Duck.

Water sports such as fishing, sea kayaking, swimming, and surfing are understandably a big part of Duck's recreational appeal. On the west side, Currituck Sound offers fishing, kayaking, windsurfing, and sailing. Duck also offers several great places to eat. Seafood is obviously, the "catch of the day," with many restaurants providing outdoor dining and spectacular views of the water.

Duck is also home to the Army Research Pier. Established by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, the facility sits on a former Navy bombing range, where crews recovered thousands of unexploded shells. Located on the north side of town, the facility is now used to study the dynamics of the barrier islands. The 1,800 foot-long pier allows scientists to track subsurface currents, jetties and the movements of strips of sand. The results of this research have supplied builders and planners with a better understanding of the effects of water, wind, and sand on coastal construction.

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