With the exception of local family stories and legends, Kill Devil Hills' history is hard to trace prior to the Wright Brothers' historic First Flight in 1903. In fact, even the origin of the town's fascinating name is not certain, and the many theories that surround the moniker involve pirates, shipwrecked buccaneers, and barrels of rum strong enough to "kill the devil."

What historians do know is that the community was first populated by Native Americans, and then by a rugged band of settlers who set up a small fishing and sustainable farming community where they were isolated, but lived peacefully.

The population swelled with the establishment of the Kill Devil Hills Life Saving Station in 1878, and by the time the Wrights arrived, there were small but habitable lodgings and camp sites, a couple stores, and enough amenities to keep them accommodated during their long winter months of testing.

After the Wright Brothers' headline-grabbing achievement, however, Kill Devil Hills developed a national reputation first as a historic site, then as a tourist destination, and finally as the booming beach town it is today. After the town was incorporated in the 1950s, and motels and a pier were constructed in the 1950s and 1960s, the town was no longer a quiet community of salty locals - it was a viable beach destination that attracted vacationers from all across the East Coast

The following is timeline of the events that allowed Kill Devil Hills to grow into the 6,000 year-round resident community that it is today.

  • 1700s and 1800s - Kill Devil Hills is inhabited by a small group of local farmers and fishermen.
  • 1809 - The first mention of Kill Devil Hills appears on area maps.
  • 1878 - The Kill Devil Hills Life Saving Station, one of 11 lifesaving stations along the Outer Banks coastline, is established across from the current Wright Brothers monument.
  • 1900 - The Ohio-based Wright Brothers, Orville and Wilbur, choose Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills as the location to test their new flying machines, and fly their first manned glider from the tall soundside dunes. The first flight is unsuccessful.
  • 1901-1902 - The Wrights test two more gliders in Kill Devil Hills / Kitty Hawk, with mixed but subsequently better results.
  • December 17th, 1903 - The Wright Brothers make the first controlled and sustained power flight. A now iconic photo of the airplane hovering above the ground is broadcasted across the world.
  • 1911 - Orville Wright returns to Kill Devil Hills and sets a new world glider record, with a total airtime of 9 minutes and 45 seconds. The flight and the glider earn the quotable title of "The last Flying Machine at Kitty Hawk."
  • 1927 - Calvin Coolidge signs a bill granting $50,000 for the construction of the Wright Brothers Memorial
  • 1930 - The design is chosen for the Wright Brothers Memorial, and an additional $150,000 is granted to the construction of the granite monument.
  • 1932- The Wright Brothers Memorial opens to the public and is dedicated with Orville in attendance. Orville becomes the first person to see a national memorial dedicated to him while still alive.
  • 1933 - The Kill Devil Hills Life Saving Station is closed. It is later purchased by the Twiddy family in 1986 and moved to Corolla to serve as an office.
  • 1953 - The town of Kill Devil Hills is officially incorporated, adopting the longstanding "Kill Devil Hills" moniker
  • 1953 - The National Park Service celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' flight by constructing two replica gliders to display at a new Visitors Center. The Memorial is soon transitioned into a National Park.
  • 1958 - The Avalon Fishing Pier is constructed, becoming one of the first piers along the Outer Banks.
  • 1960s - A series of motels and restaurants are built to accommodate the new "beach traffic" of fishermen and families.
  • 2003 - Kill Devil Hills celebrates the Centennial of Flight - a week-long celebration with acclaimed visitors including Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and President George W. Bush.

Historic Sites

The most notable site in Kill Devil Hills is the Wright Brothers Monument - an impressive granite structure complete with an accompanying Visitors Center and museum.

The monument and the adjacent Visitors Center are open daily from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. 7 days a week, except for Christmas Day. The cost to access the park is around $4.00 for adults 16 years and older.

Other Historic Sites in the central Outer Banks region which are within a 30 minute drive include the following:

 

Harris Teeter

Harris Teeter

Harris Teeter is a large supermarket with all the groceries you’ll need for your stay in the Outer Banks. Harris Teeter has meat, seafood, produce, deli and bakery, beer and wine, pharmacy, baby care, pet care and gift center departments. Harris Teeter is a popular spot for locals to pick up made-to-order sub sandwiches. If you need a lunch to pack for the beach, the sandwiches and sushi available at the deli/bakery section are the perfect choice.

(More Locations)
Paradise Fun Park

Paradise Fun Park

Off the beach, one of the best activities for groups to enjoy in the Outer Banks is mini golf, bumper cars or Go-Karts. Thankfully, Paradise Fun Park offers all three activities! Paradise Fun Park offers exciting outdoor activities that kids and adults of all ages can enjoy together. Families flock to Paradise Fun Park for a fun-filled day of putting competition. Grab a scorecard, select a ball and putter and get to the green! Paradise Fun Park offers a challenging variety of putting greens for hours of entertainment. Be sure to keep score and crown your group champion. 

Outer Banks Brewing Station

Outer Banks Brewing Station

The Outer Banks Brewing Station, established in 2001, is the first wind powered brewpub in the U.S. and an icon on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Look for the 92 foot wind turbine in the backyard beer garden. A pub by the classic European style of a ‘public house’, the Brewing Station considers itself an important member of the community and is family friendly during lunch and dinner hours. Families can enjoy live music, beer and food inside and out, while the little ones play on the pirate ship and the older ones play a friendly game of corn hole. It’s also a great place to wait for your table during the busy summer season.

Super Wings

Super Wings

Best Store on the beach! Everything you need for your vacation. The newest ladies' and girls swimsuits, 20% off every day! Largest selection of beach supplies and the best deals on T-shirts, sweatshirts and mens, ladies, and kids, apparel, swimwear and resort wear. Get all your souvenirs, suntan lotions, beach towels, floats, kites, and more. The only 1 stop shop on the beach.

(More Locations)