Have you ever wondered why two brothers from Dayton, Ohio, would travel all the way to the Outer Banks to try and fly?  

Travel wasn’t easy in the early 1900s (this is pre-airplane after all, and pre-highway as well) so there must have been a good reason why Wilbur and Orville would make the journey. As much as the Wright brothers loved their hometown of Dayton, when it came to their flying and gliding experiments, it was lacking three key things that they needed: wind, sand and isolation (away from prying eyes!).  

So, they began researching a suitable location and learned about a town called Kitty Hawk. Located on wind-swept barrier islands with rolling sand dunes and a small population of locals, they thought Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, would be ideal for their flight experiments.  

Upon their arrival to Kitty Hawk in 1900, Wilbur and Orville were told about a group of sand dunes called the “Kill Devil Hills.” They chose these sand dunes to conduct their gliding experiments and set up camp during their next two trips in 1901 and 1902.  

On December 17, 1903, when Wilbur and Orville were finally ready to test their powered flyer, the first successful flights of human history took place on the soft, flat sand right outside of their camp buildings. Located in present-day Kill Devil Hills, you can visit the site where these world-changing events took place by visiting Wright Brothers National Memorial on your own journey to the Outer Banks.  

Adapted from the National Park Service. Originally published in the 2022 edition of the Outer Banks Group’s “In The Parks” newspaper.