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The tall sweep of sand dunes at Jockey’s Ridge is one of my earliest memories – the thick heat, the sticky grit on my legs as I held my mom’s hand and watched my dad run, jump, then drift through the air on a brightly colored hang glider. He had a t-shirt from Kitty Hawk Kites depicting the scene in pretty pastels that he wore my entire childhood; we probably still have scraps of it somewhere in our family’s home. My dad loved an adventure, and as my brother and I got older we joined him and my mom in choosing which family experiences would crystallize into memories to carry us through the cold Ohio winters.
Kitty Hawk Kites, the premier outdoor adventure company on the Outer Banks, is approaching 50 years of making memories for its customers like they did for my family. Combining the outdoors, the sensory, the novel and just plain old fun with loved ones, Kitty Hawk Kites has all the elements to construct moments to remember.
Fifty years is a huge milestone, so keep your eyes open for Kitty Hawk Kites’ phenomenal celebrations coming in 2024. For now, let’s get the party started by turning on some music to talk about the options Kitty Hawk Kites offers.
Blowin’ in the Wind
You can’t think Outer Banks without thinking wind. Wind is a trademark of the Outer Banks, the defining feature that drew the Wright brothers to the area in the early 1900s. In exactly the right spot to catch air currents coming off the ocean or the sound, the islands of the Outer Banks are a wind-lover’s paradise.
There’s no need to tell you who the Wright brothers are, but an interesting yet lesser-known figure revolving around the Outer Banks’ wind is Francis Rogallo. A NASA scientist living in Southern Shores, Rogallo and his wife, Gertrude, pioneered (out of kitchen curtains!) the flexible wing you’ll find in all manner of wind-catching, memory-making fun stuff in our wind category. Originally developed for the Gemini program to land and control capsules as they came back to earth, the technology became popularized in kiteboarding kites and hang gliders. Check out the Rogallo Foundation’s website for more on this fascinating figure and for info on October’s Brewtag event, billed as a celebration of flight and beer.
For a classic OBX wind experience of your own, hang gliding is a must. You can watch the pros at several competitions in the area, and to experience the thrill of hang gliding yourself, Kitty Hawk Kites has several options. From dune gliding to going 2,000 feet up in a tandem lesson with a certified Kitty Hawk Kites instructor, there’s a way for everyone to get up in the air.
Kiting is another fun way to get out in the wind on the Outer Banks. The retail locations of Kitty Hawk Kites have tons of kites to purchase that are great for any age level. Jockey’s Ridge is an excellent spot to catch the wind, but kiting is also phenomenal along any beach. Kitty Hawk Kites also hosts five colorful kite festivals that occur throughout the year on Jockey’s Ridge and at Wright Brothers National Memorial.
Parasailing will also get you blowing in the wind with Kitty Hawk Kites. Soar above the Roanoke or Currituck sounds as you enjoy a birds-eye view of the Outer Banks from above. This adventure is good for everyone ages 5 and older.
To catch the wind while also experiencing the water, give kiteboarding a try. Lessons in this sport depart from the Rodanthe location of Kitty Hawk Kites, where you’ll fly in the wind on a kiteboard across the warm, waist-deep waters of the Pamlico Sound. The shallow water and offshore winds offer a safe playground for learning the sport.
Catch a Wave and You’re Sitting on Top of the World
The ocean waves along the Outer Banks are legendary. The shape of the islands ensures that there’s almost always a spot for surfable waves for all skill levels. From locations in Corolla, Duck, Nags Head and Rodanthe, you can take surfing lessons. Surfboards and leashes are provided, and these lessons are available for anyone ages 7 and older. And if your kids get hooked, Kitty Hawk Kites can upgrade you to a three- or five-day lesson package.
You can also try a guided kayak tour through the area’s marshes and waterways, from Corolla to Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Preserve to Cape Hatteras National Seashore to Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge and more.
Kayaks, Jet Skis, standup paddleboards and wingfoils are also great ways to get in the waves of the sound or ocean. For something new, you can try the Fliteboard to hover over the water’s surface on a motorized board as it coasts along the waves.
Here Comes the Sun
The sunset golden hour on the Outer Banks is downright magical. The sky begins to streak with orange, pink and indigo, and when that’s mirrored in the water you just feel surrounded by beauty. Here are few ways to take your loved ones out into this colorful wonderland.
The best way to experience a sunset on the water is to go right out in the middle of it. You can book a dolphin cruise on Roanoke Sound at any time of day, but they’re extra magical at sunset. Led by captains who work with the Outer Banks Center for Dolphin Research, these experts know where the dolphins like to play. Dolphin babies might even make appearance in the spring and summer. The 40-foot pontoon boats can accommodate large groups and depart from locations in Nags Head and Manteo. There’s even a guarantee to spot dolphins when you tour in the summer months.
Miss Oregon Inlet II is a spacious, 60-foot-long head boat that offers inshore fishing trips. They run three trips a day and have everything you need for fishing, including the license. For a golden hour experience, book one of their sunset fishing trips.
For an Outer Banks memory of a lifetime with loved ones, go for a private sunset cruise. These two-hour cruises depart from Nags Head and Manteo and accommodate up to 12 people.
Flying a kite on the dunes at sunset is another must-do to capture the magic of sunset at the beach.
I Get Around
Kitty Hawk Kites has a host of Outer Banks fun activities on land. The history of the Outer Banks is full of fascinating stories – lost colonies, beheaded pirates, wild ponies who arrived via shipwrecks, tumultuous storms and daring rescues at sea – all ripe for exploration.
For a glimpse of wild horses, try an open-air wild horse tour to see wild Spanish mustangs roaming the beaches of Corolla. Or gallop along the beach with the wild mustangs’ more domesticated relatives on a guided horseback tour on Hatteras Island.
For an up-close look at the most haunted places on the Outer Banks, join a ghost tour. You’ll stroll through the streets of Manteo by lantern light as your guide tells spooky tales of ghosts and other lost souls. Don’t forget that the Kitty Hawk Kites retail stores are a very Outer Banks sort of shopping adventure and a way to bring home a talisman of your trip. They have tons of kites, flags, spinners, wind-art, shoes, sunglasses, hats, t-shirts, toys, jewelry and so much more.
Like the refrain of a song, the extraordinary adventures offered by Kitty Hawk Kites have a way of anchoring themselves to a person. “There are places I’ll remember, all my life” The Beatles sang, and for me, this place is the Outer Banks. The driving mission of Kitty Hawk Kites is to help people make memories, and they’ve been succeeding at this for almost 50 years. With a Kitty Hawk Kites adventure, you too can create experiences to remember for a lifetime.
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