No. 9: Kill Devil Hills, NC
The thin strip of land far off the coast of North Carolina known as the Outer Banks can feel very, very removed. That’s precisely because it is. Rustic beachhouses are perched on stilts with hightides nearly at their doorsteps. Sea oats dance on the coastal dunes. Each year, hurricanes come close enough to send the residents running. Despite its sinister name, few American surf towns boast the peace of mind on offer in the Outer Banks town of Kill Devil Hills. That peace of mind, of course, is access to some of the best tubes on offer on the entire Eastern Seaboard. Sure, summer sees its fair share of visitors who want a taste of this town’s beautiful isolation, but in the winters? It’s just you and chilly, thundering peaks.
Exposed, offshore, and (luckily) lacking the gradual continental shelf most states on the East Coast have, the Outer Banks is a swell magnet. Out here, beach breaks and outer sandbars are the name of the game, but there’s just something about the place that makes the waves break harder, hollower and with more gusto. In short, you’re pulling into shacks out here — something you can’t normally say at spots on the Right Coast. From June through October, you’ll probably be wearing trunks, and while you might shiver in your hood and gloves come winter as water temps dip into the low 40s…it’s probably flat everywhere else.
Sure, it’s North Carolina, but you’re still in the deep South. Kill Devil Hills is no exception. Trucker hats and overalls aren’t an ironic fashion statement out here, and that’s a good thing: Locals are authentic, honest, real people. As far as cuisine goes, hush puppies, sweet tea, and syrupy salutations pepper the fine home-cooking establishments along the coast.
Quality of Life:
Kill Devil Hills’ pacing bears an uncanny resemblance to its seasons. In the inclement winter, Kill Devil Hills creeps along as a ghost town. A vast majority of residents just half an hour south receive unemployment checks due to the migratory population. Just as spring revives the natural world, so, too, does it resuscitate the life and economy of the Outer Banks. By summer, the islands bustle with life and warmth, only to settle down and reflect on the momentary gorge during the crisp breath of autumn. The only wildcard in the equation: hurricanes. You never know when a Category Five might seriously change life in this Carolinian treasure.
Average Water Temp: 67 (But gets as cold at 46 in the winter)
Average Air Temp: 62
Median Income: $ 51,101
Median Home Price: $ 294,500
Most Common Industry: Accommodations / Food Service, Construction, Retail Trade
Nearest Large City: Virginia Beach, VA (62.9 miles, pop. 452,745)
Premier Surf Spots: Avalon Pier, S-Turns, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
Local Talent: Noah Snyder, Jesse Hines, Brett Barley, Eric Dotson