Outer Banks Communities

The Outer Banks is a major tourist attraction along the coast of North Carolina, and consists of a string of narrow barrier islands: Bodie Island, Roanoke Island, Hatteras Island, and Ocracoke Island. Scattered among these islands are several towns and villages that are each unique in style, amenities, and attractions.

From north to south, these Outer Banks communities include Corolla, Sanderling, Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head, Manteo, Wanchese, Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Hatteras, Frisco, Ocracoke, and Portsmouth Village.

The first four communities lie on the northern end of the Outer Banks, or the Northern Beaches, and are a part of Bodie Island. Home of the famous wild horses, the Northern Beaches are the last of the communities to open to development. As a result some upscale, affluent and secluded homes can be found on these beaches.

The town of Corolla (pronounced cuh-RAW-luh) is the farthest north and offers small shops, a lighthouse, and beach houses. Sanderling boasts upper income homes and a huge beach. Duck is the largest town, with boutique shops, shopping centers and a mixture of style known as "modern quaint." Southern Shores is a planned community surrounded by forest.

Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills (famous for the Wright Brothers' first flight), and Nags Head make up the rest of Bodie Island, and are the center of where Outer Banks development first began. Along with the oldest resorts on the Outer Banks, visitors will find hotels, shopping malls, chain restaurants, and many different types of amusements. Though these are the most developed of the Outer Banks communities, they are by no means as highly developed as Ocean City or Virginia Beach.

The history of the Outer Banks has Roanoke Island at its center. Manteo and Wanchese are the main communities on this soundside island, and are home to several historical sites, including Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. In the late 1500s, Sir Walter Raleigh attempted to establish the first English settlement in the New World. A group of colonists landed on Roanoke Island, but could not sustain the settlement and returned to England. Soon afterward, a second group of colonists landed on Roanoke, established a settlement and saw the birth of Virginia Dare, the first English child born in America. When the next ship arrived, however, the settlement was abandoned, and the colonists gone, apparently having disappeared into the woods. No one knows what happened, thus the title the "Lost Colony."

Hatteras Island contains seven villages and the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, which occupies most of the island. Here, the Outer Banks communities are classic beach destinations. Three villages on the northern part of the island are Rodanthe, Waves, and Salvo, which offer several vacation homes and a handful of "just the basics" shops.

The villages of Buxton and Avon lie just north of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Buxton is farther from the beach, and Avon offers many vacation homes on stilts. The fishing village of Hatteras and the village of Frisco offer a few vacation houses, but consist mostly of more permanent homes.

Ocracoke Island is the southernmost island of the Outer Banks, and is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Accessible only by water or by air (visitors can enter with their cars from Hatteras Island via a ferry), Ocracoke Island is the most isolated of all the barrier islands. Consisting of only one village at the southernmost tip, Ocracoke, this island was once the favorite haunt of Blackbeard The Pirate. Home to the historic Ocracoke Lighthouse and to hundreds of Outer Banks permanent residents, the island offers a "step back in time" type of destination for visitors who just want to get away from it all.

Portsmouth Village is on Portsmouth Island, separated from Ocracoke by Ocracoke Inlet. The town of Portsmouth was established as a lightering port to help reduce the draft of heavier vessels attempting to traverse the shallow waters of the sound. Situated on the inlet at the northeast end of the island, Portsmouth was founded in 1753 and grew to a peak population of 685 in 1860. A hurricane in 1846 deepened Hatteras Inlet, making Ocracoke Inlet a less desirable shipping lane by comparison. Once the shipping traffic declined and eventually ceased entirely, the island's population continued to dwindle until its last permanent residents left in 1971. The island is now part of Cape Lookout National Seashore.

Corolla Manteo Avon
Duck Wanchese Buxton
Kitty Hawk Rodanthe Frisco
Kill Devil Hills Waves Hatteras
Nags Head Salvo Ocracoke

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