Everything You Need to Know About the History of the Outer Banks
Few places are as majestic and beautiful as the Outer Banks of North Carolina. With a diverse landscape made up of several islands, surrounded by spectacular coastal waters, it is easy to fall in love with the Outer Banks. Since the first English settlers explored the area in 1584, to the thousands of present day visitors, people have been drawn to the Outer Banks for different reasons. Things have changed a lot since those first settlers arrived on the shores of the Outer Banks. Today we will take you on a short history tour of the areas we now simply call the OBX.
We know no matter how long you stay during your Outer Banks vacation, that you too will feel the draw of the Outer Banks and make your own memories and history.
What is a Barrier Island
The Outer Banks is comprised of a two hundred
Native American Influence
Native Americans have long inhabited the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Today, visitors can see the influence of the islands first inhabitants at every turn. Names like Manteo, Wanchese, and Roanoke all have their origins in the languages of the local Native American communities. Manteo, for example, is named after the local chief of the Croatan Indians, who in 1585, befriended the English settlers on Roanoke Island. Wanchese, the name of a small town now famous for fresh local seafood, was actually the name of the last known ruler of the Roanoke Native Americans.
Unlike today, where beautiful homes with spectacular views stand on the edge of the ocean, Native Americans preferred the sound side of the
Trivia: Two Native American chiefs, Wanchese and Manteo, at the invitation of Sir Walter Raleigh, traveled to London England in 1584.
English settlers arrived on the Outer Banks in 1584. At first, the settlers arrived on Hatteras Island but realized quickly the island was not suitable for agricultural purposes. The settlers moved up the coast via the local waterways, and eventually settled on Roanoke Island, now home to the beautiful small town of Manteo. Due to several missteps, and with relations deteriorating with the local tribes the settlement eventually disappeared. Even today, it is a mystery as to why and where exactly the last colonist disappeared. For a fun and interesting exploration of this fascinating part of the OBX history, visit the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site in Manteo during your Outer Banks Vacation. With exhibits dedicated to the English Settlers as well as the Native Americans of the area, you're sure to enjoy this intriguing part of OBX history.
Perhaps the most famous part of the Outer Banks history is the history of the local pirates who raided the waters along the Atlantic Coast. With constantly shifting inlets, sand bars, and treacherous currents...the waters off the coast of the Outer Banks provided the perfect place to launch raids and attacks against ships plying the waters of the Atlantic Coast.
Few pirates are as famous as Edward Teach, A.K.A., Blackbeard. Over the course of his career (if you can call it that), Blackbeard is believed to have sunk, captured, or destroyed over fifty ships in the waters on or around the Outer Banks. He often retreated to the waters near Ocracoke Island to resupply, rest, or escape the searching Royal Navy. Finally, in 1718, Blackbeard's luck ran out when he ran his flagship, the Queen Anne's Revenge aground in the shallow waters off the coast. Eventually, he was beheaded by the Royal Navy. The remains of the ship were believed (although there is much debate) to have been discovered in 1996. During your Outer Banks Vacation take time to visit Ocracoke Island; make sure to ask the locals about Teach's Lights.
Trivia: Local lore has it that Nags Head is named for the pirate trick of placing a lantern around an "old Nag" then walking the horse up and down the beach trying to trick ships into thinking the swaying light represented a safe harbor. Nothing was further from the truth.
The Beach Life Begins
The Outer Banks began its life as a vacation hotspot many years ago. As early as the late 19th century, families from surrounding counties, such as Chowan, Perquimans, and Bertie began vacationing on the Outer Banks. These families built cottages along the Nags Head ocean front. In fact, today there are still original beach cottages present in what is called the Nags Head Beach Cottage Row Historic District. Names like Nixon, Twiddy, and Wood have for generations been vacationing on the Outer Banks in the same cottages their relatives build in the late 1800's. Click here, to see a short video about the history of some of the oldest cottages on the Outer Banks.
With the advent of new highways and improved waterways connecting the Outer Banks to the north and surrounding areas, it was inevitable that the Outer Banks would shift from a small rural community of "Bankers" to the vacation center it now is. Today, not only are the Outer Banks famous for vacations, but also commercial fishing, boat manufacturing, and environmental research.
Trivia: "Bankers" was a term used to describe locals living on the Outer Banks.
Taking to the Skies
Graveyard of the Atlantic
The Outer Banks has shifted and changed with the