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Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina
Touristy Kill Devil Hills, Once Home to Rum-Drinking Pirates, is Today One of the Outer Banks' Most Visited Vacation Destinations
Kill Devil Hills sits between the Atlantic Ocean and Albemarle Sound on the northern North Carolina shore. No one is quite sure how it got its name, but one legend says that pirates here used to wander the dunes drinking rum so vile that it could kill the Devil himself. The pirates and most of the dunes are gone, but Kill Devil Hills endures as one of the Outer Banks' most popular vacation destinations.
Although most people think the Wright brothers made the "first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight" in Kitty Hawk, which is the neighboring town to the north, they did not. They actually did it from a tall dune in what is now Kill Devil Hills, and the Wright Brothers National Memorial, which can be seen for miles, commemorates this achievement. The miles-long public beach is narrow with yellowish sand and is easily accessible from Highway 12. Two and three story homes with balconies line the sand, while on the river side, large homes have long piers and boat docks. Many residences sit atop stilts and have garages or parking spaces underneath the main floor, but modest, cinderblock ranch ramblers are here, too.
Restaurants cater to tourists and run the gamut from seafood shacks and oyster bars to fine dining grilles and elegant bistros. Shopping venues include gift shops, souvenir stores, beachwear boutiques and art galleries. Strip malls with retailers such as Food Lion, Harris Teeter and more are located along wide Croatan Highway that runs through the middle of town.
Life revolves around the water, but there is also an artists' cooperative, a marionette theater, a community theater, a mystery dinner theater and a nature conservancy. Two bridges, one to the north in Kitty Hawk and one to the south in Nags Head, are the only ways off the island by car, and they become congested during tourist season.
Population: 8,000 (city proper)
Age 45 or Better: 37%
Cost of Living: 12% above the national average
Median Home Price: $475,000
Climate: Summer temperatures are in the 80s and 90s, and winter temperatures are in the 40s and 50s. The average annual rainfall is 53 inches.
At Least One Hospital Accepts Medicare Patients? No, but Outer Banks Hospital is five miles away in Nags Head and accepts Medicare patients.
At Least One Hospital Accredited by Joint Commission? No, but Outer Banks Hospital is five miles away in Nags Head and is accredited.
Public Transit: No
Crime Rate: Slightly above the national average
Public Library: Yes
Political Leanings: Conservative
College Educated: 25%
Is North Carolina Considered Tax Friendly for Retirement? Somewhat
Cons: The hurricane threat is real. In fact, Hurricane Matthew in 2016 caused significant flooding and Hurricane Dorian in 2019 caused property damage. It could happen again.
Notes: Kill Devil Hills is very quiet in the winter. The population has grown 15% during the last decade. Home prices have increased 13% since last year.
Recommended as a Retirement Spot? Yes, although vacationers clog stores and restaurants during the high season.
With its wide range of elevations and its three distinct geographic regions, the Tar Heel State is an inviting place to live or visit.
Its Atlantic Coastal Plain offers two national seashores and more than 300 miles of barrier island beaches. The Chowan, Roanoke, and Neuse rivers find the Atlantic here and provide endless opportunities for sailing, fishing, and kayaking. Seven coastal lighthouses help mark a history of pirates, wild horses, aviators, and Revolutionary War heroes. Downtown Wilmington buzzes with fine dining and nightlife.
North Carolina's Piedmont Region shelters some of the state's biggest cities. Metropolitan Charlotte is packed with galleries, furniture factories, breweries, and gardens. Winston-Salem harbors a a living history museum and sponsors the RiverRun International Film Festival. Barbecue flourishes in Lexington. For those looking to play golf, Pinehurst and the Sandhills beckon. The jewel of the region may be "The Triangle," a triumvirate of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. World-class universities, museums, and college athletics are everyday occurrences.
The state would be nothing without its Mountain Region. Mount Mitchell, the highest point in North America east of the Mississippi is here. Asheville, the foothills, and the Blue Ridge Parkway are here. Biltmore, the nation's largest home, is here. Visitors might boat at Lake Lure or find their way to the top of Chimney Rock and a stunning 75 mile view. Summer in the high country means the Great Smoky Mountains, camping, hiking, biking, and fishing. Winter means skiing at the Appalachian, Beech, or Sugar Mountain ski resorts.
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