Beautiful beaches, local seafood, and water sports are a few of the things typically associated with the Outer Banks. But this vacation destination is much more than an exciting escape. The Outer Banks’ past is one full of value to both North Carolina and the United States, and Kill Devil Hills history is a prime example. The Wright brothers, strong drink, and the maritime history of North Carolina all play important roles in the history of this Outer Banks beach town. Take a few minutes to learn more about these highlights of Kill Devil Hills history!

Kill Devil Hills History


According to, Native Americans first lived on the sandy shores of the Outer Banks, followed by settlers who made a living fishing. However, the area remained fairly quiet and would not officially be incorporated until the 1900s.

The Name

Stories vary when it comes to the strange origins of the town’s name. The most popular seems to be that the town was named after popular rum that with enough potency to “kill the devil,” (or “Kill Devil Rum”) according to The folks at Outer Banks Distilling explain on their website that a widespread Caribbean liquor commonly called “kill-devil” from the mid-17th century that made its way throughout the colonies, and eventually by shipwreck to the area now known as Kill Devil Hills (the company also makes their own Kill Devil Rum!) A news article from The Virginian Pilot also expounds on those theories, as well as others, including that that name stemmed from sailors’ difficulty in navigating the waters off the shore.

The Kill Devil Hills Life Saving Station

The Outer Banks didn’t earn the nickname “Graveyard of the Atlantic” by providing calm waters.Like many other places along the Outer Banks, ships frequently met their demise here. In order to help to sailors navigate the waters off the coast, many Lifesaving Stations were constructed, including one in Kill Devil Hills. Built in 1878, the station served the area for decades to come.

Taking Flight

The most well-known part of Kill Devil Hills history might very well be the contributions made by two brothers from Ohio. Orville and Wilbur Wright from Dayton, OH were treading territory only previously explored by hot air balloons, birds, and centuries of failure: aviation. Basing themselves out of the nearby town of Kitty Hawk, the Wright brothers became the first people to successfully achieve powered, controlled flight. The dunes of Kill Devil Hills were the scene for the Wright’s history-changing fete on December 17, 1903. Today, you can visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Manteo and learn more about their historic accomplishment.

Enjoy Outer Banks Past and Present When You Stay with Shoreline OBX
Swimming, off-roading, fishing, or exploring OBX history – it doesn’t matter what brings you to the Outer Banks. The team at Shoreline OBX just wants to make sure that you have the best place to stay while you’re here. Whether you’re vacationing in Corolla or Kill Devil Hills, we offer the best Outer Banks rentals you’ll find. When you want ocean views from your back deck, space to sleep well over a dozen, and amenities like private pools and game rooms, Shoreline OBX has a selection of Outer Banks vacation homes guaranteed to provide you with what you’re looking for. You’ll be only steps away from the beach, and a short drive from some of the area’s best attractions when you stay in our OBX rentals. Request our free Outer Banks vacation guide today, and call us at (800) 449-2036 for more information.