Outer Banks Museums

Wright Brothers MemorialIn addition to fun in the sun and surf, the Outer Banks offers many cultural attractions, including several museums.

Dayton, Ohio natives Wilbur and Orville Wright managed the first successful airplane flights in 1903. Commemorating and conveying their achievements is the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills. Participate in park programs like "Fun in Flight". Visit the Wright Brothers Visitor Center, where the Wright brothers’ story is told through exhibits. On display in the visitor center is, among others, a full-scale reproduction of the 1902 glider and a full-scale reproduction of the 1903 flying machine. Additional exhibits, movies and educational programs are available in the Centennial Pavilion.

Climb Big Kill Devil Hill for a breath taking view of the area from sound to sea. Atop the Hill, stands the 60ft. Pylon - the site where Wilbur and Orville conducted their glider experiments. You can even stand on the same spot where the brothers made their first flights. A large granite boulder marks the spot where the first plane left the ground.

One of the most spectacular Outer Banks museums is the Whalehead Club in Corolla on Currituck Sound. Built in the 1920s by industrialist Edward Collings Knight, the 21,000 square foot residence is an elegant example of Art Nouveau architecture. The Whalehead Club is also an elegant example of strength, having survived hurricanes, hundreds of guests, housing the U. S. Coast Guard during World War II, and being an integral part of developing rocket fuel for the race to space. Renovated in 1992 by Currituck County, the Whalehead Club stands as a National Historic building on the 39 acres of Currituck Heritage Park. Tours, both self-guided and docent-guided are offered year round from 9 am to 5 pm. Holiday hours may vary.

Maritime history is available at the North Carolina Maritime Museum on Roanoke Island. Established in Manteo in 1998, this Outer Banks museum is a branch of the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort, NC. Consisting of a working boathouse, the public can view boatbuilding and repair firsthand. The museum is currently constructing a 25 foot shad boat. The boats are used for education and for display on the water adjacent to the museum. A Junior Sailing program is available through the Friends of the Museum and offers children ages 8 to 15 lessons on small boat sailing and rules of the road. Hours vary according to the season.

For over 400 years of Outer Banks history, visit the Roanoke Adventure Museum located within the 25 acre Roanoke Island Festival Park. This 8,500 square foot Outer Banks museum boasts many interactive exhibits, including navigating a 16th century ship--in costume--stepping into a Civil war tent, seeing the Freedmen’s Colony which housed 3,500 freed slaves and learning how to be a “surfman” in the early 1900s to rescue people from the “Graveyard of the Atlantic”. Hours for the Roanoke Island Festival Park vary by season, and the park is closed between January 1st and February 18th for maintenance.

Also located within the Roanoke Island Festival Park is the North Carolina Aquarium at Roanoke Island. Among the exhibits, are a one-third scale replica of the U.S.S. Monitor and a 285,000 gallon “Graveyard of the Atlantic” tank. Visitors can also step inside “Storms” to experience Outer Banks nor’easters and hurricanes. The Aquarium is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.

The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, located in Hatteras Village on the southern end of Hatteras Island, is dedicated to preserving and interpreting the Outer Banks maritime history and the 1,000 known shipwrecks that rest off its coast. Galleries include exhibits about seafaring history from 1524 up to 1945. The famous Civil War ironclad warship, the U.S.S. Monitor was recovered over 15 years ago and is an ongoing archeological project. The museum is free to the public and open Tuesday through Saturday 10 am to 4 pm. Donations are appreciated. The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum is a public, non-profit, educational institution.

Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station On Hatteras Island in the Village of Rodanthe stands the Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station. Originally built in 1874, the lifesaving station was dedicated to rescuing people from the sea. Evolving into the U. S. Coast Guard in 1915, this station served until 1954 and is home to one of the greatest rescues in early Coast Guard history. In 1918, six U.S. Life Savers rescued forty-two crew members from the British tanker, Mirlo. These six rescuers received several awards of valor, including the Grand Cross of the American Cross of Honor. Only eleven of these awards have been given out in the entire history of the United States. Chicamacomico maintained a 99.2 % success rate, a record that’s never been topped. During the 80 year history of the station, not one Life Saver was lost, and nearly 180,000 lives were saved. Chicamacomico is open to the public from mid-April through November.

The Frisco Native American Museum and Natural History Center is an Outer Banks museum which preserves the history of the Hatteras Island natives. Galleries display artifacts from Hatteras Island and from across the nation, including tools, instruments, crafts and a dugout. In addition, visitors can explore the nature trails that wind through the forest. Museum hours are 11 am - 5 pm Tuesday through Sunday, and Mondays by appointment. Winter hours may vary.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Museum is located within the Cape Hatteras National Seashore on the grounds of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the tallest lighthouse in the United States. The two story museum, along with the Hatteras Island Visitor Center, is housed in the restored 1854 assistant keeper’s house and exhibits the maritime history of the Outer Banks. The museum is open every day from 9 am to 5 pm, except for Christmas. Visitors wishing to experience a spectacular view of the seashore can climb the 268 steps of the lighthouse from early April through mid-October.

The Airport Museum at the Dare County Airport offers several exhibits on Outer Banks aviation history. The Airport Museum is open year around, operating from 8 am to 7 pm, 7 days a week.

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