Idyllic, charming, and beautiful—the windswept town of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina is an unassuming jewel sitting adjacent to the Atlantic.
It’s part of the state’s Outer Banks, known for the scenic beaches, savory seafood, and welcoming communities.
But most people might have already heard of Kitty Hawk during history classes, as it once was the site of the first powered airplane flight by the Wright Brothers.
The town had that title until Kill Devil Hills, the actual location of the brother’s test flights, was finally incorporated into a town.
But that hasn’t diminished Kitty Hawk’s claim to fame, as the town is still steeped in history, natural attractions, and exhilarating activities.
So for your next vacation to the East Coast, make this place your top destination.
Here are the15 best things to do in Kitty Hawk, NC:
Stay Awhile at Kitty Hawk Pier
Also called Avalon Fishing Pier, the Kitty Hawk Pier is a panoramic and historic site sitting on the northernmost end of the town.
The majestic wooden structure juts out into the Atlantic, giving visitors a great view of the gleaming sea, the long beaches of the Outer Banks, and the quiet town of Kitty Hawk itself.
You’re welcome to stay for a while and fish on the pier, so bring a hook and line and try to catch the coastal species swimming under the pier.
Or you can just walk the path to the Pier House, especially during sunset when the colors of the sky play on the water’s surface.
The Pier House itself is a favorite destination of locals, as it serves as a venue for public events and special private occasions like weddings.
Trek the Trails of Sandy Run Park
One of the best-kept secrets of the Outer Banks is Sandy Run Park, a 16-acre park right at the heart of Kitty Hawk.
With its creekside trails, patches of coastal forests, and endemic flora and fauna, there is something waiting for you in every corner.
The grounds and wooden paths here are also well-maintained, making your stay a convenient and hassle-free experience.
At certain times of the year, you can see slider turtles climbing exposed branches of submerged trees.
There are a lot of them here, and what’s great is that you’re allowed to come closer and feed them.
So bring turtle food!
The park is also one of the ways you can access the gorgeous Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve, a maritime forest that’s waiting for explorers and curious minds alike.
Explore the Hidden Wonders of Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve
The geography of the Outer Banks and its location next to the unpredictable Atlantic Ocean create unique ecosystems found nowhere else in the US.
One of the best places to see this type of habitat is the Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve.
It’s a maritime forest consisting mostly of crooked trees that grow shorter to adapt to harsh winds and low-nutrient soils.
But deeper in the preserve, standing next to the creeks crisscrossing the area, are taller and more elegant woods such as water oaks, beech trees, and loblolly pines.
These blend together to create an unusual ecosystem that serves as an important habitat to hundreds of wildlife.
You can explore the interiors of the park by joining a horseback riding tour or trekking the trails snaking the preserve.
There are also relaxing kayak tours where you can cruise along the many unnamed creeks within the preserve.
Ace a Hole in One at Sea Scape Golf Links
For a unique golfing experience, why not play a few rounds at Sea Scape Golf Links.
It’s a windswept 18-hole course with challenging terrain, well-maintained fields, and coastal forests surrounding most of the park.
This unique setup makes it a premier golf course here in the Outer Banks—something that beginners and professionals alike will definitely enjoy.
It’s open to the public all year round, and the pro shop has all that you need for a great game, such as clubs and balls.
After your game, you can stop by at the Sandtrap Tavern, the clubhouse that offers breakfast and lunch consisting of local Kitty Hawk cuisine and other American staples.
Make a Stopover at the Monument to a Century of Flight
Since Kitty Hawk served as headquarters for the Wright Brothers, the town will definitely ring a bell for those who listened well during history classes.
To celebrate this human achievement, local governments and private companies partnered to install the Monument to a Century of Flight.
It was unveiled in 2003, and it has a number of wing-shaped pylons in silvery metal protruding from the grounds.
On these pillars are inscriptions of notable events in aviation history, creating an enduring legacy that will stand the test of time.
Flight and aerospace enthusiasts will have a thrilling time exploring the monuments, as it highlights the prowess of human skill and determination that allowed us to conquer the skies.
Try Watersports at Kitty Hawk Bay
Facing away from the treacherous swells of the Atlantic is Kitty Hawk Bay.
It lies within the Albemarle Sound, shielded by the islands from strong currents and large waves that regularly plague the coastal waters on the other side of Kitty Hawk.
This makes the bay a safer spot for water-related adventures.
So if you’re looking to get wet without worrying about drifting away to the middle of the ocean, then make a stop here.
There are many activities to try, such as kayaking or paddle boarding along the banks of the coast.
Jet skiing and scenic boating trips are also a favorite among locals and visitors.
You might even spot some wildlife like dolphins, turtles, and waterfowl frolicking in sheltered marshlands and shallow inlets.
Relax With Your Family at David Paul Pruitt Park
If you need a break from exploring the natural and historical wonders of Kitty Hawk, then make a stopover at David Paul Pruitt Park.
It was built to honor the eponymous mayor of the town, who also served during the Second World War and later as a Master Sergeant of the US Air Force.
The park itself is a multi-use facility, with a prominent area full of play structures for kids and picnic benches for small meals with your family.
Stay here for a while and enjoy the laughs of the kids as they try the slides, swings, and spinners.
Within the park, there are also trails that lead into pockets of maritime forests.
These are open for biking and nature walks, allowing you to easily reach some hidden wonders and spot wildlife scurrying in the undergrowth.
Have Fun Under the Sun at Kity Hawk Beach
No trip to the Outer Banks would be complete without a visit to the beaches of these small, interconnected islands.
Kitty Hawk Beach lies adjacent to the Atlantic, being so lengthy that it covers all of the town’s borders with the ocean.
This means that there are long stretches of white, fine sand that are ideal for beachside activities.
Bring a towel, an umbrella, and your favorite book to a nice spot and sunbathe for as long as you want.
There are also plenty of areas with lifeguards for swimming, allowing you to enjoy the beautiful and cool waters of the Atlantic.
And since it’s seldom crowded, the beach guarantees a peaceful and relaxing time for all visitors.
If you get hungry, many establishments within walking distance serve delicious snacks and refreshing drinks.
Go Fishing in the Atlantic
Since the gorgeous waters of the Atlantic is already within throwing distance, why not venture out into the open ocean and try your hand at fishing?
There are many businesses within the town that offer charters, most of them lasting for half a day or a whole day.
The nautical culture in the town is strong, so you and your family will be safe in the hands of seasoned fishermen.
Weather permitting, boating trips to the open seas are available any time of the year, whatever the season.
But the game varies: you might catch more tunas and marlin during summer and more mahi-mahi and red drums during fall.
Whatever the case, you’re still guaranteed a great time with your loved ones and a catch you’d be proud to bring home.
Cruise the Calm Waters of Jean Guite Creek
Jean Guite Creek is a 3.6-mile body of water that passes through portions of Southern Shores and Kitty Hawk.
It’s a scenic destination with low traffic, making for a relaxing kayaking adventure with your friends.
The calm waters surrounded by coastal forests on either bank create a shaded and breathtaking path that leads to many beautiful spots.
Some parts are straight and long, while sections are curved and challenging, so prepare for an arm workout.
But the strenuous moments are worth it, as the creek is brimming with curious wildlife that sometimes interacts with visitors.
You’ll see dragonflies, snakes, turtles, egrets, and other coastal species calling this place home.
Dine in the Beachside Restaurants Along N Croatan Highway
It’s no surprise that a coastal town such as Kitty Hawk would have a mouthwatering selection of delicious seafood dishes.
What’s great is that all the ingredients are freshly caught, making every dish taste absolutely divine.
So when you’re in town, visit the various beachside restaurants and try some of the favorite local foods.
Black Pelican Oceanfront Restaurant is a beloved institution in Kitty Hawk, serving fried mahi-mahi, oysters, seafood salads, and other delicious treats in a facility that has been around since 1874.
At Rundown Cafe, you’ll enjoy a Caribbean-themed ambiance and fusion dishes such as chowders, Szechuan hotpots with grilled shrimp, and Poke tuna bowls.
Another must-visit restaurant is Barefoot Bernie's Tropical Grill & Bar, which serves seafood delights as well as alcoholic beverages that you most definitely deserve while you’re on vacation.
Other Things to Do Nearby
After touring the beautiful sites of Kitty Hawk, why not make a stop at these other Outer Banks destinations nearby?
Learn the History of Flight at Wright Brothers National Memorial
The neighboring Kill Devil Hills is the site where the Wright Brothers made the first breakthroughs that led to today’s aviation industry.
The Wright Brothers National Memorial celebrates this achievement, located right on the field where the two men first flew their airplanes.
Within the complex are many attractions, most notable of which is the replica of the hangar where the brothers parked their inventions.
The Kill Devil Hill Monument is another sight to behold, a granite sculpture designed after the wings of a bird and with a light beacon on top similar to that of a light house.
You’re also welcome to tour the exhibits in the Visitor’s Center to learn more about how the brothers perfect their machines.
Take Stunning Photos at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge
Less than thirty minutes away from Kitty Hawk is an important coastal habitat that remains undisturbed by human development.
The relative isolation of Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge makes it an important habitat for the local flora and fauna of the Outer Banks as well as the migratory birds that make a stop here annually.
It’s also one of the reasons why the Outer Banks has become a playground for photographers.
The huge number of waterfowl, turtles, and manatees make for great photography subjects with the serene vistas of the island in the background.
When you visit, make sure that you’re cameras are ready so you can take once-in-a-lifetime shots of birds in flight or dolphins swimming by.
Hike the Dunes at Jockey's Ridge State Park
Farther south of Kill Devil Hills is Jockey's Ridge State Park, which is less than 20 minutes away from Kitty Hawk.
It’s the site of the tallest living sand dune in the eastern US, an attraction that is comparable to the deserts of the Sahara.
But of course, the temperatures are way more manageable, so you’ll have a comfortable experience exploring these humungous natural wonders.
Because of the unique environment here, there are precautions that visitors must follow to remain safe.
Camping is not allowed, and only day trips are permitted.
You also need to bring water during your visit as there are no amenities or structures for modern conveniences.
But the alien and stunning panoramas, rare wildlife, and unique experience more than make up for these little inconveniences.
Join the Outer Banks Kite Festivals
Not everyone can fly a plane like the Wright Brothers, but everyone can try their hand at a simpler hobby that harnesses the power of the winds.
Kite flying is a favorite activity around the world, but it’s taken to another level here in the Outer Banks.
The region’s annual kite festivals bring throngs of people to witness and join the kite enthusiasts as they maneuver colorful kites high above the windy shores.
It’s a spectacular event that you shouldn’t miss, so head over to Kitty Devil Hills and other nearby towns to join in the fun!
Let the winds of the Atlantic sweep you to the attractions of Kitty Hawk.
Whether you’re looking for natural wonders, water-related activities, and historical monuments that celebrate human ingenuity, the town has something in store.
Check out this list when planning your itinerary to see the best spots of this charming oceanside location.