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Historical Things to Do in Outer Banks

Historical Things to Do in Outer Banks

The Outer Banks is a stretch of islands off the North Carolina coast.

Famous for its wide sandy beaches, great seafood, historic lighthouses, and wild stallions.

Once called the Graveyard of the Atlantic, OBX is home to over 3000 shipwrecks dating back to 1607.

Step back in time as we discover the many historical things to do in Outer Banks.

Discover Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station

Built in 1874, Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station is located on Hatteras Island. This historic site is one of the most complete life-saving stations in the country.

One of the top rescues by the US Coast Guard took place here in 1918. After being torpedoed by a German submarine, the Mirlo was quickly sinking. The brave men of Chicamacomico Station came to the rescue. They saved the lives of 42 British sailors that day. You can see the actual rescue craft used during the rescue.

Highway 12 in the village of Rodanthe at the 39.5-milepost

Climb Currituck Beach Lighthouse

First lit in 1875, this lighthouse is still in operation. It has been home to 12 families of caretakers. It stands 162 feet tall and has 220 steps. Exhibits cover the history and importance of the lighthouse.

The self-guided climb takes between 5-20 minutes. Don’t worry. There are 9 landings for viewing and resting. At the top, you'll have great views of Currituck Sound and the Atlantic Ocean.

Location:  1101 Corolla Village Rd Corolla, NC

Tour the Elizabethan Gardens

Discover the Elizabethan Gardens in Manteo. They were first designed to entertain Queen Elizabeth I.

They now feature a variety of events perfect for all ages.

  • Enchanted Gardens - discover the 12 magical faeries that inhabit the gardens
  • Butterfly Release, Tuesdays and Fridays, April through September
  • The Musical Series during September and October
  • Night of 1587 Pumpkins held at the end of October

Location:  1411 National Park Drive, Manteo

More than Fishing at Jennette's Pier

Enjoy the best fishing on the Atlantic Coast from this 1000-foot pier in Nags Head.

Is fishing not your thing? Explore the many aquariums and exhibits. Relax and play in the sand on the beautiful beach. There’s something everyone in the family can enjoy at Jennette’s Pier.

Location: Oceanfront, Milepost 16.5 Beach Rd, Nags Head, NC

The Lost Colony Outdoor Drama

In 1587, 117 colonists came ashore at Roanoke Island. Three years later when ships returned with supplies, they were gone. Their fate remains a mystery to this day.

Come discover their history at the Waterside Theater on Roanoke Island. The Lost Colony Outdoor Drama first premiered in 1937. It is the nation’s longest-running outdoor symphonic drama.

The stage is 3x larger than most Broadway stages. It surrounds you on three sides, putting you in the middle of the action. Each show features outstanding choreography and stunning visuals.

1401 National Park Dr, Manteo, NC

Ocracoke Preservation Society and Museum

The Ocracoke Preservation Society museum is located in a 1900s farmhouse. It features indoor and outdoor exhibits covering early life on the island. During the summer months, the staff gives informative talks on the back patio.

Location: 49 Water Plant Rd, Ocracoke, NC

What the Heck is a Beach Jumper?

Once a top-secret US Army program, the Beach Jumpers were the precursors to today's Navy Seals. They tracked and monitored German submarine activity off the East Coast.

You’ll find the granite marker on Hwy 12 just before you reach the village boundary at Loop Shack Hill.

Bodie Island Lighthouse

Built in 1872, the Bodie Island Lighthouse stands 156 feet tall. It is one of the few remaining that has an original, first-order Fresnel lens. After climbing the 214 steps, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean.

8210 Bodie Island Lighthouse Rd, Nags Head, NC

The British Cemetery

This cemetery pays homage to the brave sailors who lost their lives in the Outer Banks. You’ll find the cemetery in the heart of town on Ocracoke Island behind the ferry docks.

Fort Raleigh National Historic Site

This historical site preserves the history of the first English colonies in America. Here you’ll find the Lost Colony of Roanoke.

In 1862, it was the home of the Freedmen's Colony. The army built the colony to prepare newly freed slaves for life after slavery. It lasted until 1867.

Location: 1500 Fort Raleigh Road, Manteo, NC

Explore the USS Huron Shipwreck

The USS Huron set sail from Hampton Roads, VA on November 23, 1877, heading to Havana, Cuba. Caught in a storm that first night, it ran aground during the early morning hours of the 24th.

The heavy surf and wind prevented sailors from swimming to safety. During that long night, 98 sailors would lose their lives on the North Carolina coast.

Now you can dive or snorkel the remains of this mighty warship. The lower hull is well-preserved, as well as the bow. The shifting sands cover and uncover portions of the wreckage. Enjoy the views, but remember that it’s illegal to remove artifacts from the wreck.

How Long Does it take to Drive the Entire Outer Banks?

The islands stretch 175 miles. You can make the trip in 5-6 hours, including the two ferry rides.

But why rush it? Take your time exploring the rich Outer Banks' history.

Historic lighthouses. The Lost Colony. Daring rescues. Hidden shipwrecks.

With so many historical things to do in Outer Banks, you’ll need several days to see it all.

ENC Explorer
Author: ENC Explorer

After getting accepted to ECU, I started looking for things to do in and around Greenville, NC. However, my searches kept taking me to places in South Carolina! There must be things to do around ECU, so I started asking other students. They kept telling me to graduate and move away! This inspired me to begin exploring eastern North Carolina and build this website as a showcase of the places to go, sights to see, and things to do all over eastern NC. I have fallen in love with this region and started taking up roots here. After graduating, I didn't move away - I bought a house here and continue to explore eastern North Carolina.

This place is for Publicity

This place is for Publicity

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