Best Surf Towns: No. 6 Kill Devil Hills, NC

Best Places in the U.S. to Eat, Sleep, Work and Shred

Unidentified local at Avalon Pier. Photo: McCarthy

Despite its sinister name, few American surf towns boast the peace of mind on offer in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. Isolated enough to catch your breath, yet ample enough in population to provide an amenable community, this Outer Banks gem embodies an American surfer's dream settlement (assuming slow pace is a good thing). With the hollow chatter of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and S-Turns within earshot and a glut of lesser-known sandbars waiting patiently, surfers willing to brave relative isolation during the biting winter needn't look much further than Kill Devil Hills.

As an East Coast swell magnet, the Outer Banks lean heavier and burlier than their Eastern neighbors. Despite the flat spells, this is about as consistent as the East Coast gets, and when swell does strike, forget about variety--you're getting barreled. So long as it's from June to October, you'll probably be wearing trunks. You might shiver along in your hood and gloves come winter as water temps dip into the low 40s, but, hey, it's probably flat everywhere else.

When you drift south of the Mason-Dixon, you've indubitably arrived in the South, and Kill Devil Hills is no different. Southern rules apply, which is generally a good thing, as hush puppies, sweet tea, and syrupy salutations pepper the fine home-cooking establishments along the coast. Don't expect any Broadway glitz or radical fashion statements, unless you consider a trucker hat and overalls to be neo-vintage. People here like things the way they are--and always have been.

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: $43,812
Median Home Price: $148,986
Most Common Industry: Construction
Population: 6,584
Nearest city with pop. 200,000+: Virginia Beach, VA (62.9 miles, pop. 425,257).
Premier Surf Spots: Avalon Pier, S-Turns, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
Local Talent: Noah Snyder, Jesse Hines, Brett Barley, Eric Dotson
Shark Attacks Reported (in Dare County Since 1935): 10

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