Although the Outer Banks has a rich cultural heritage, museums in our area are in short supply. With that said, there are locations that celebrate and document our heritage and region that are worthy of a visit during your vacation stay.
Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education
Located on the grounds of Currituck Heritage Park, which is also home to the Whalehead Club and Currituck Lighthouse, the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education is an extraordinary museum that educates visitors about the ecology and historical significance of the Currituck Sound.
The museum contains an informative diorama of life on the Currituck Sound in the early part of the 20th century. An 8,000 gallon aquarium is located in the center of the museum floor that is stocked with fish native to the Currituck Sound, and it is also home to one of the largest decoy collections in the world.
Additionally the Center offers a number of seasonal educational classes geared toward children, as well as a host of outdoor activities that include crabbing and archery. A visit to the museum will last just over an hour, so be sure to tour the Whalehead Club and climb to the top of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse for a fun filled afternoon of education and activity.
Wright Brothers Memorial
The best known museum on the Outer Banks is certainly the Wright Brother’s Memorial located in Kill Devil Hills. The entire grounds serve as the museum and does a great job of telling the story of the world’s first flight.
The Memorial is perched on top of a massive sand dune that had to be stabilized prior to the memorial’s placement. The climb to the top is steep, but on clear days the view is spectacular. At the base of the hill, the December 3, 1903 flights of the Wright Flyer are marked off, which give a perspective of the brothers’ challenges and accomplishment. The flight was remarkable, and the fact they were able to land successfully is equally as important.
The indoor museum and visitor’s center hold valuable information that complete their amazing tale. While walking through the exhibits, it becomes evident that both Orville and Wilbur Wright were gifted scientists and that their flight was no accident of history. They set a clear objection, thoroughly researched their methods and took all steps to ensure they would succeed.
The centerpiece of the museum is the full-sized replica of the Wright Flyer—the original is in the Smithsonian Institute. Guides are on hand to explain the brothers’ journey and its significance. The information is geared towards children, but is so informative it will capture the interest of all age groups.
Roanoke Island Festival Park
Roanoke Island Festival Park is not a museum; however, there are several historic exhibits and one small museum, so a visit has educational significance. The Roanoke Adventure Museum is an interactive museum that does a great job of educating visitor about 400 years of the area’s history.
The American Indian Town and the Settlement Site provides a hands on look at the colonist’s lives upon arrival to Roanoke Island. The highlight of the historic tour for most kids and adults is the Elizabeth II, a replica ship of the vessel that brought the settlers of the Lost Colony to Roanoke Island.
Hatteras Island Museums
There are two museums on Hatteras Island that, although relatively small, are worth a day trip to the southern beaches.
The Frisco Native American Museum, located in the village of Frisco, features an extraordinary collection of Native American artifacts. Some of the pieces are from local tribes, while other articles originated with tribes outside the area. There is also a short yet interesting nature trail that leads to an open field used to demonstrate Native American dances and ceremonies.
The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum is just 15 minutes down the road at the Hatteras/Ocracoke ferry docks. This museum highlights maritime history including over 2,000 shipwrecks that have occurred off the Outer Banks coastline. This history includes artifacts, piracy, tales of the Civil War blockade runner, the historic sinking of the USS Monitor, submarines of two World Wars and more.