Best Towns in Outer Banks NC
Discover the fascinating stories behind the most beloved places on the Outer Banks. From Corolla to Ocracoke, the history behind the monikers that encompass these islands will come to life as the stories of Native Americans, pirates, New World explorers and sailors paint a picture of the past.
Like many other Outer Banks towns, Avon got its name from post office officials. Formerly known as Kinnakeet, officials renamed the town in 1883 as Avon, likely named after the English river.
Another city with a post office-related name change is Buxton, which was formerly known as “The Cape.”
While the name may be spelled like the Toyota car, many residents and visitors know this town is pronounced “Cur-ah-luh.” Although settlers first called the city Jones Hill, community residents chose the name Corolla in 1895 to represent the botanical term for the petals of a flower.
While the name Currituck may sound like a person’s last name, the county actually derives its name from the Native American word “cortank,” which means wild goose.
Dare County is the easternmost county in North Carolina and derives its name from Virginia Dare, the first child with English parents, born in America in 1587.
Residents of Duck can thank their first postmaster who decided to name the town based on a well-known feature: the many ducks inhabiting the area.
Although Frisco was formerly known as Trent, the folks at the post office in 1898 changed its name to Frisco. The exact inspiration for this particular name is unknown.
Hatteras Village derives its name from an area just a few miles north that early settlers called “Hatorask.”
Although Hyde County was originally named the “Wickham” precinct, town planners renamed it Hyde after Edward Hyde, who was governor of North Carolina from 1711 to 1712.
Kill Devil Hills
“As a resident of Kill Devil Hills, I personally find the legends linking the town’s name to the rum trade very fascinating,” says Samantha Crisp, director of the Outer Banks History Center. “William Byrd, a famed colonial landholder in Virginia, claimed that the rum from this area was so strong it would ‘kill the devil.’”
In addition to this story, Crisp also says there is a legend that a local resident named Ike was guarding rum that one of his neighbors ended up stealing. Instead of implicating the neighbor, Ike said the devil had stolen it and Ike was forced to kill him.
While there are many rumors and legends circulating about how Kitty Hawk got its name, the most popular theory is that it comes from what the Native Americans called hunting geese, which was “Killy Honker” or “Killy Honk.”
The fishing town of Manns Harbor got its name from a German boat captain who found shelter at the harbor during a storm.
As the county seat of Dare County, Manteo was named for a Native American named Manteo. Manteo and another Indian named Wanchese traveled to London and acted as a liaison between his tribe and the English settlers.
Whether totally true or not, the legend of how Nags Head got its name is unique. The story goes that land pirates would tie a lantern to an old horse, known as a nag, and slowly walk its four-legged companion up and down the beach’s dunes at night. Sailors at sea would think this was a ship docked at harbor and sail toward the light. When their ship ran aground, pirates would rob the ship.
Residents of Ocracoke Island can thank one of the most notorious pirates for the island’s name. Legend is the pirate Blackbeard, also known as Edward Teach, dropped anchor on the island and yelled into the breeze “Oh, Crow Cock!”
Rodanthe is usually considerably easier to say than the town’s original name of North Chicamacomico. Although the origins of the name aren’t fully known, it’s believed that it “stems” from the flower rodantha.
Legend has it that during the Civil War, sailors were traveling past the Hatteras Island coast and couldn’t identify where they where. When one of the sailors told the ship’s captain, the captain reportedly said, “Give it a salvo anyway.” The sailor wrote “Salvo” on the map, and the rest is history.
This vacation paradise was incorporated as a municipality in 1979. To sell real estate and attract tourists, artist and developer Frank Stick named the town “Southern Shores” as a marketing strategy.
Wanchese is another Native American who traveled to England with Manteo and got to know the English settlers. While his counterpart was friendlier to the settlers, rumors are that Wanchese, ultimately, did not agree with the direction they took the settlement.
Formerly known as South Rodanthe, the post office renamed the city after the Atlantic Ocean’s whitecaps.
No matter the name, each locale along the Outer Banks is draped in historical significance.