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15 Top Things To Do in Kill Devil Hills: Take Time to Appreciate North Carolina’s Great Outdoors

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Question: what do you get when you combine a premier oceanfront hotel with the fun and excitement of Kill Devil Hills? Answer: the time of your life, of course!

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably binge-watched “Outer Banks” because you have teens who have forced you to watch every episode of Outer Banks.

Well, guess what? I recently got the chance to explore the real-life Outer Banks, specifically Kill Devil Hills, and let me tell you, it’s every bit as exciting as it seems on TV.

Just off the North Carolina coast, there’s a trio of sliver-thin barrier islands known as the Outer Banks. These islands offer beaches, adventure, and history, including the North Carolina African American Heritage Trail.

Nags Head, Kitty Hawk, and Kill Devil Hills are perched together, along with Cape Hatteras National Seashore, offers a 70-mile stretch of protected shoreline.

Kill Devil Hills is home to fewer than 3,000 full-time residents and makes an ideal base camp for Outer Banks visitors, as it’s a 20-minute drive from historic Roanoke Island (home to the infamous—and mysterious—”Lost Colony”) and midway of the northern Outer Banks towns to the freewheeling, laid-back Hatteras Island just south.

With its easy access, gorgeous beaches, the largest natural dunes on the eastern shore, and teen-friendly attractions, it’s no wonder that the Outer Banks has long been a go-to destination for family beach vacations.

The Outer Banks are also one of the more affordable vacation destinations in the South. Many families enjoy visiting during summer vacation, but late spring and early fall are good times to go for less expensive lodging and fewer crowds.

You’ll find perfect weather for beach outings, water sports, and outdoor fun from April to August. Plus, you’ll avoid the crowds that flock during peak vacation season, allowing you to enjoy everything from hang gliding to kayaking or simply chillin’ on the beach.

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Stress melts away when we spend time around the people we love. I don’t know about you, but my best memories are usually the ones where I am totally in the moment, with the sky, the stars, and the beach as my backdrop.

Now, before we get into the best things to do in Kill Devil Hills, let’s tackle a question you might have: when’s the best time to visit the Outer Banks?

Picture this: clear blue skies, gentle sea breezes, and warm sunshine kissing your skin. That’s right, the ideal time to experience the magic of Outer Banks is during the spring and summer months.

Okay, now that we’ve sorted out our timing, let’s discuss what to do and see in and around the Outer Banks.

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My favorite way to spend summertime outdoors is relaxing on the beach. Outer Banks is brimming with excellent private and public access beaches.

While the charms of Kill Devil Hills are enough to fill any vacation itinerary, first-timers to the Outer Banks simply have to venture out and sample the other barrier islands in the chain.

Each one has its own distinct vibe and attractions waiting to be discovered.

Just a short drive away lies the quaint seaside village of Manteo on Roanoke Island. Stroll the waterfront Shallowbag Bay and check out the eclectic locally-owned shops, galleries, and eateries clustered around the Downtown Waterfront area.

Best Things to do in Kill Devil Hills, NC

1. Explore the Wright Brothers National Memorial

First off, if you’re a history buff like me, you can’t miss the Wright Brothers National Memorial.

The Wright Brothers National Memorial Site allows visitors to stand in the very spot where Wilbur and Orville Wright launched their first successful airplane in 1903.

Stroll to the top of the hill from where they took to the air and see the memorial erected in their honor. Examine the impressive sculpture that serves as a historically accurate reproduction of the plane.

Explore the coastline and let the soft sands and refreshing ocean breezes invigorate your spirit.

Because my husband is an aviation junkie, this was a definite bucket list item for him.

After getting your dose of history, it’s time for some real fun!

2. Kitty Hawk

One of the highlights was our hang gliding adventure at Jockey’s Ridge State Park.

What a day for our family! No one knew what to expect, and everyone loved it! Oliver, our instructor, was so patient and helpful.

I don’t have enough words to describe how wonderful Oliver was with our family. He was so patient with us (including our oldest Camille, who is 18 but deathly afraid of heights) and made it so much fun.

Camille’s nervousness melted into peals of joyful laughter as she and her sister Madison coasted and carved like pros.

My other daughter, Maddie, and my husband, James, jumped right in and glided through the wind in no time.

Me, on the other hand, was one big epic fail!

It took me a couple of tries to fully get the ‘hang’ of the glider, but not before I crashed head-first into the ground. It didn’t hurt, and thank God I had on my helmet. THANK YOU to the team, and we can not wait to come back!

“Straighten your legs and lean back!” Oliver hollered as each one of us pushed off and…whoosh! I was soaring like a bird for maybe 5 seconds before I took the not-so-graceful tumbles, bouncing and somersaulting into the sand like a beach ball.

But it was all worth it for that feeling of human flight!

Hiking back up the hill was actually harder than the hang gliding itself!

I will say hang gliding was by far one the best things to do in Kill Devils Hills so you must sign your family up.

3. Relaxing on the Beach

Of course, no trip to Outer Banks, specifically Kill Devil Hills, would be complete without hitting the beach. And let me tell you, the beaches here are nothing short of spectacular.

Pristine stretches of sand, crystal-clear waters, and rolling waves are perfect for surfing or boogie boarding.

If you want to up the beachy bliss factor in Kill Devil Hills, do yourself a favor and splurge on a stay at one of the private beach clubs.

These havens of laid-back luxury line the ocean road, each with its stretch of pristine private access beaches and amenities.

During our stay, courtesy of the Outer Banks Tourism Board, we stayed at Shutters on the Beach, which offered direct access to the beach.

While my husband and I chilled with cocktails in hand, the girls went full-throttle – playing in the ocean, creating tiktoks, and simply enjoying the beach.

We enjoyed the sun, made sandcastles, and enjoyed the waves!

If ultimate family fun is what you crave, Outer Banks can’t be topped and relaxing on the beach is definitely one of the best things to do in Kill Devil Hills! Just prepare to extend your stay…indefinitely!

4. Jockey’s Ridge State Park

Now, let’s talk about something a little off the beaten path: Jockey’s Ridge State Park. As the tallest natural dune system in the Eastern United States, this place is a playground for adventure seekers.

This sprawling 426-acre wonderland of dunes feels plucked straight from the Sahara Desert.

Home to the tallest natural sand dune system in the eastern United States, Jockey’s Ridge State Park is a veritable playground and one of Nags Head regulars’ favorite points of interest.

We built sand castles, flew kites, and climbed to the top of the dunes for a stunning sunset show.

Jockey’s Ridge was the perfect mix of excitement and tranquility – like finding a desert oasis in the heart of coastal Carolina.

Jockey’s Ridge was an alchemy of adrenaline and serenity – a desert oasis in the heart of coastal Carolina. Copy

Strap up your sneakers and hike to the summit for panoramic views that will take your breath away. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, why not try hang gliding?

It’s an experience unlike any other and one that’s sure to get your adrenaline pumping.

ncparks.gov, 300 W. Carolista Drive, Nags Head, NC 27959

5. Booty Treats Ice Cream

When those salty ocean breezes and blazing Outer Banks rays have you craving something cold, there’s no better oasis than Booty Treats Ice Cream in Kill Devil Hills.

This whimsical little shop, punned up to the nines with beach and pirate themes, is a treasure trove of icy indulgence. As you approach, quirky slogans like “Get Your Booty on the Beach” and “Life is Butter with Sprinkles” are decorated on the exterior of the building.

Inside, rows of premium ice creams, sorbets, milkshakes, and sundaes await behind a glass counter.

We bellied up and prepared for brain freeze nirvana. Would it be the Salty Wench praline crunch, the Blackbeard’s Delight rum raisin, or maybe a Shipwrecked loaded with every topping imaginable?

The hardest decision was narrowing it down! My favorite pick was the Salty Praline Crunch! I am not just saying this; it was the best ice cream ever!

I’m unsure what was more of a treat – the ice cream or the friendly crew scooping our deliciousness.

One thing’s for sure; no Outer Banks adventure is complete without getting your sweet tooth fix at this quirky, crave-able ice creamery.

Booty Ice Cream Outer Banks


After an exciting day, it’s time to refuel with some delicious Outer Banks cuisine. Whether you’re craving fresh seafood, southern comfort food, or something in between, you’ll find plenty of options to satisfy your taste buds.

I can’t get enough of the seafood boils and hush puppies – they’re the perfect way to end a day of adventure.

7. Visit Freedman’s Colony

Recognized as a historic National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Site. A marker was erected in 2001 to designate the site of a permanent colony on Roanoke Island between 1862 and 1867.

Roanoke Island was a place of community for thousands of freedom seekers during the Civil War. Following the island’s occupation by Union forces in 1862, it became a haven for African American families from throughout the region.

Their presence prompted the Union army to establish a Freedmen’s Colony on the northern end of Roanoke Island.

At the end of the war, a government order restored all lands confiscated by the Union army to their original owners.

The black residents on Roanoke Island failed to receive the rights and privileges to their homesteads promised by the government when they established the colony.

The colony’s population declined by half from 1865 to 1866 as residents left to seek a new life elsewhere. In November of 1866, Maj. Gen. John C. Robinson, Assistant Commissioner for Freedmen’s Affairs in North Carolina, feared that a “great destitution” would befall the colony’s occupants due to the poor quality of the soil.

Robinson “made arrangements for the transportation of these people from the island,” as he believed that many freedmen would be forced to leave.

By late 1866, the freedmen’s population had dwindled to a few families, and by 1867, the colony was officially decommissioned.

While most freedmen returned to the mainland, many descendants still live, work, and raise their families on Roanoke Island today.

Things to do in Kill Devil Hills | Freedman's Colony

8. Explore Pea Island & Collins Park

Explore the history of America’s only all-African-American U.S. Coast Guard station, the Pea Island Lifesaving Station.

See the commemorative statue of Richard Etheridge, the nation’s first black officer in charge of a Lifesaving Station.

Starting in 1880 and until it was decommissioned by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1947, the crew risked their lives to save victims and cargo along the Outer Banks.

The boathouse was opened and dedicated in October 2010 in honor of former Lieutenant Herbert Collins.   

Born in 1921 on Roanoke Island, Lieutenant Collins is often called the last Keeper of the Pea Island Lifesaving Station. 

His career at the station spanned from 1940 – 1947, but he remained in the U.S. Coast Guard for 34 years, serving at numerous sea and shore assignments after leaving that station. 

The boathouse contains a Monomoy-type Surfboat on loan to the Pea Island Cookhouse Museum by the National Park Service.

It represents the same type of Surfboat that would have been used by Lieutenant Collins and the many other African American men who bravely and honorably served at the Pea Island Lifesaving Station for over sixty years.

9. Visit Bodie Island Lighthouse

You can spot the distinctive black and white candy-striped pattern from miles away, beckoning you to visit the stately Bodie Island Lighthouse.

For centuries, this impressive 19th-century beacon has been a sentry over the treacherous Cape Hatteras waters. As we pulled into the maritime forest setting, the 156-foot tower appeared to pierce the crystalline Carolina sky.

After snapping some pics beside the light keeper’s verdant gardens, we entered the meticulous museum.

Elaborate dioramas and artifacts brought the lighthouse’s rich history to life – from its original construction to firsthand accounts of daring rescues performed by its keepers.

The star attraction, however, was the opportunity to climb the 214 iron steps spiraling up to the coveted glass lens chamber.

I must admit, my legs were jelly about halfway up the claustrophobically narrow stairwell. But it was all worth it once we emerged into the open-air lantern room.

The panoramic views stretching across the Outer Banks were unparalleled – from the undulating dunes to the roiling Atlantic.

We experienced the same breathtaking vantage point as countless lighthouse keepers before us for a few moments, making the strenuous climb all the more rewarding.

10. Outer Banks Wine University

Located on Mile Post 6 and right by Glaze and Go Nuts, you can leave the kids to pottery or paint at the museum and enjoy adult time off the beach at Outer Banks Wine University! 😉

This unique environment offers a place for all wine connoisseurs, from beginner to advanced, to enjoy tasting wine without the snobbery!

 Laura, the professor of wine, focuses on “Edutainment,” combining education, entertainment, and making learning about wine a fun experience.

11. Go Horse Back Riding On The Beach

One of the quintessential Outer Banks experiences has to be saddling up for a beachfront horseback ride. Book an early morning tour with Outer Banks Horseplay and arrive just as sunrise sets.

Equine Adventures in Frisco on Hatteras Island is the go-to spot for horseback riding on the beach and the maritime forest.  

Then, nothing but a vast stretch of pristine shore unfolded before our hooves.

A few bolder riders broke into a canter, their mounts’ manes whipping in the ocean breeze. Even at a leisurely walk, just being astride such magnificent creatures in that extraordinary setting was pure magic.

We’d periodically pause for photos, the horses obediently posing against the backdrop of the Outer Banks’ iconic lighthouses and piers.

As the morning sky morphed from tangerine to azure blue, I couldn’t help but feel like I was living inside one of those classic beach novel covers.

A horseback ride on the Outer Banks is as storybook as coastal adventures get.

12. Book A Kayak Tour

Our kayaking adventure in the Outer Banks got a shaky start when our two daughters nearly tipped right into the waters of Shallowbag Bay in Manteo. “I can’t do this!” Camille cried as her kayak wobbled from side to side.

Madison looked panic-stricken as well. Within 20 minutes, their nerves had gotten the best of them, and they defiantly beached the kayaks.

Thankfully, James and I had been waiting to go kayaking because we had so much fun the last time we went in Hawaii.

We pushed off into the bay, leaving the girls on the dock and listening to the hypnotic sounds of our paddles dipping and the cry of an osprey coasting overhead.

Winding our way through the secluded seaside marshy inlets, we spotted herons, egrets, and people fishing in the shallow waters.

Although the girls missed out, that tranquil water trail allowed James and me to slip into a zen-like appreciation of the Outer Banks’ natural serenity.

If you crave up-close encounters with coastal Carolina’s wildlife, kayaking here is an absolute must.

Beginners can opt for guided tours to build confidence, while experienced paddlers have a labyrinth of isolated waterways to explore. Just trust me – the scenery is well worth brushing off those fears!

13. Snorkel Around A Shipwreck

The USS Huron ran aground 250 yards off the beach in 1877, tragically killing 98 people. There the steamer has remained and become a home for marine life. 

Snorkelers and divers can check out the wreck (usually marked with buoys in summer), though taking artifacts from this historic site is forbidden.

Bladen Street Beach Access, The Beach Road, MP 11.5, Nags Head, NC 27959

14. Catch The Sunset At Miller’s Waterfront

Miller’s Waterfront Restaurant lies on the Roanoke Sound, where you can catch the beautiful sunsets. You can also enjoy today’s fresh catch on the extensive seafood menu. The second-story Waterfront Sunset Bar & Grill offers steamers, delicious snacks, tacos, and sandwiches.

millerswaterfront.com, MP 16, 6916 S. Croatan Hwy, Nags Head, NC 27959

15. Outer Banks Kite Festival

The Outer Banks is proud to host a regional kite festival that attracts some of the nation’s most talented stunt kite artists and pilots. For two adrenaline-fueled days (Friday and Saturday), the entire family can immerse themselves in the high-flying spectacle.

We enjoy massive display kites flying high, including a 100-foot octopus, an 80-foot panda, and a 50-foot fish.

The best part? You don’t have to be a mere spectator. Take advantage of the festival’s free stunt and power kite lessons taught by the pros themselves!

Conclusion: Things to do in Kill Devil Hills & Outer Banks

As the sun sets over the horizon, painting the sky in hues of pink and orange, take a moment to reflect on the incredible experiences you’ve had in Kill Devil Hills.

From soaring through the skies to lounging on the beach, each moment has been filled with excitement, laughter, and unforgettable memories.

So there you have it, folks – a teen’s guide to thrilling adventures in Kill Devil Hills, NC. Whether you’re a history buff, an adrenaline junkie, or simply a beach lover, there’s something here for everyone.

So pack your bags, gather your friends, and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime. The Outer Banks are calling – are you ready to answer?

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If you’re traveling to the Outer Banks, I hope my article on the best things to do in Kill Devil Hills and Outer Banks will help you see the coast and experience everything from kayaking to hang gliding. 


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Things to do in Kill Devil Hills

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