Hatteras Island is known for a lot of things: sunsets, wildlife, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, and long stretches of pristine beaches, to name a few. But there some lesser-known features and curiosities, too, like the stories behind the quirky names on signs dotting Highway 12 and rich island history beyond the popular pirate lore. Bookmark these 9 fun facts about North Carolina to discover a hidden Hatteras on your next visit!
1. The Haulover Day Use Area was once a literal haul-over.
The Haulover Day Use area situated between Avon and Buxton (known by most locals today as Canadian Hole) is one of the thinnest parts of North Carolina’s coastline at less than 150 yards wide. To save time and avoid having to sail all the way to the Ocracoke Inlet, vessels would literally be hauled over this narrow stretch of sand in the 1700s and 1800s. The boats would sail straight into land until they bottomed out, then from there they would unload their cargo, tie the boat to oxen and have it pulled over a track of logs to the opposite body of water, hence the nameThe Haulover.
Source: Island Free Press
2. There was once an inlet in Buxton.
Buxton Inlet opened in March 1962 from an intense nor’easter that hit on Ash Wednesday. A bridge built over the inlet was destroyed in a second nor’easter in December of the same year. Following the bridge destruction, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided to fill the inlet using dredged sand from the shallow Sound behind the island at The Haulover mentioned above.
3. Native American history lives on all over the Island.
In 1585, “Hatterask” was first marked on an English map, named for the Native American Tribe who were settled in this region of the Outer Banks. What we know now as Avon was once “Kinnakeet,” and Rodanthe was originally “Chicamacomico.” But while the various island areas’ official names have changed, these historic names are alive and well today.
4. Blackbeard made his name here.
The infamous Pirate Blackbeard made the Outer Banks his resting grounds and picked off merchant ships looking to pass through the inlets to reach inland ports. Blackbeard was eventually surrounded on November 22, 1718 just off Ocracoke by Royal Navy Lieutenant Robert Maynard. A fierce battle ensued, and Blackbeard’s run of terror came to end.
5. Hatteras Village was among the first to hear of the Titanic’s sinking.
In 1912, the United States Weather Station in Hatteras Village received the initial distress telegraph from the Titanic informing them that the ocean liner was sinking.
6. Our sunsets are rare sights on the East Coast.
The Outer Banks is one of the very few places you can watch the sun rise and set over water. The sun rises over the Atlantic Ocean, and since Hatteras Island is so far from the mainland that you can’t see it from here, the sun sets into the water of the Pamlico Sound.
7. Some of the first Union victories of the Civil War were here… and led to a quirky piece of presidential history.
Hatteras Island began the Civil War as a Confederate island but was quickly taken over by Union forces in 1861 as some of the North’s first victories. Upon hearing of this, President Lincoln got out of bed and did a celebratory dance in his nighty. The island would remain in Union control for the rest of the war.
Source: National Park Service
8. Pirate ships aren’t the only historic vessels sunk off our shores.
During World War II, the Hatteras Island coastline was trolled by German U-Boat submarines. Several British and Allied Forces ships were destroyed off of Hatteras, which gave the island a new nickname: Torpedo Junction.
Source: National Park Service
9. There’s an abandoned island south of Ocracoke.
Portsmouth Village was established in 1752 by the North Carolina Assembly, and it quickly became the largest European settlement and a major shipping port on the Outer Banks due to its proximity to heavily trafficked trade routes. The Civil War, major storms, shoaling, and the advancement of the national railroad system were all major hits to the island over next two centuries. The population diminished, and in 1971, the last two residents of Portsmouth Island headed to the mainland. Despite being uninhabited, the Cape Lookout National Seashore restored the historic town and the National Park Service still maintains he village today for visitors who want to tour the ghost town time capsule.