Kill Devil Hills received its municipal charter in 1953. Situated in the near geographic middle of the Northern Beaches, it is the largest municipality in Dare County with a year-round population of about 6,800 people. We are proud to be the site of the first heavier-than-air powered flight. A 12 second, 120-foot flight that launched the Age of Aviation on Thursday, December 17, 1903. Wilbur and Orville Wright were successful in making four flights at the base of the big hill that is now a part of the Wright Brothers National Memorial.
One of the most popular questions visitors ask is how the name Kill Devil Hills came about. Several versions of the story circulate on the Outer Banks. One legend suggests the pirates who once called these shores home are to blame. Apparently, one night while taking a “shore leave”, a surly lot of buccaneers were sitting amongst the sand dunes that towered over the landscape, drinking moonshine that was “strong enough to kill the devil.” Another version holds that in the 1700’s William Byrd of Virginia, apparently no admirer of the Carolinas, wrote that “most of the rum they get in the country comes from New England, and is so bad and unwholesome that it is not improperly called “Kill Devil.” Other lore suggests the town received its moniker from an old brand of rum that washed ashore at the dunes here, the only surviving cargo from a nameless shipwreck.
The Wright Brothers Memorial Shaft now sits atop the 90-foot tall “Big Kill Devil Hill” where the aforementioned legendary indulgences took place. Much of the Outer Banks was dominated by a chain of giant sand dunes, much like Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head to the south. The dune where the Wrights made history was once one of these slowly migrating giants, until the federal government acted to memorialize Orville and Wilbur’s achievement here with a national park. By the time grass was planted to stabilize the dune in the 1920’s, and the 60 foot granite monument erected way up top, “Big Kill Devil Hill” had moved several hundred feet south over time, a natural process of the prevailing winds.
Wright Brothers National Memorial is also home to First Flight Airstrip. This 3,000-foot paved airstrip was added to the park in 1963 to accommodate small planes. Parking at the airstrip is limited tie down area is restricted to 24 consecutive hours or a total of 48 hours during any 30-day period. Pilots who wish to stay longer for other purposes may tie down at the Dare County Regional Airport, where gas and rental cars are available.
There are many places to eat, play and stay in Kill Devil Hills – from fast food to fine faire, fresh Seafood, Mexican, and Italian. You name it. There are many public beach accesses along Highway 12. Kill Devil Hills also offers a public bathhouse/lifeguard station with public restrooms located at the intersection of Virginia Dare Trail (Highway 12) and Ocean Bay Drive.