The Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci set foot on the beach here in the 16th Century. Four hundred years later, the wreckage of ships destroyed by German U-boats washed up on the same beaches. Blackbeard the Pirate once terrorized shipping from his base at Ocracoke. Today, the only terrifying aspect of a trip to that beautiful island is a wait at the ferry docks.
Wind and water shape the island's dunes and inlets, and yet a maritime forest at Buxton provides a calm oasis. The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, tallest in the nation, was nearly claimed by the Atlantic Ocean but was rescued in the nick of time in 1999 by moving the entire structure away from the sea.
But perhaps most importantly is the fact that Hatteras Island is one of the last places on earth where you can go on the Fourth of July weekend and stake out a stretch of beach to call your very own.