How would you like to soar over sand dunes, fly high above seaand shore, and enjoy thrilling bird's-eye views of lush fields and sparklingwaters?
You can experience all that and more when you try hanggliding here in the Outer Banks of coastal North Carolina.
These beautiful barrier islands offer ideal conditions forfamily-friendly hang gliding - with smooth, consistent winds to lift you intothe air plus plenty of sand to gently cushion your landing.
No wonder thousands of gliding enthusiasts flock here everyear.
Your Chance to Fly Like a Bird
The typical hang-gliding aircraft consists of a light yetstrong airframe covered by spreading wings made of synthetic sailcloth. A sturdytriangle frame attaches beneath the airframe.
For each flight, you're strapped into a safety harnesssuspended from the airframe. Your hands rest on the control frame - the bottombar of the triangle, resembling a handle bar.
There's no motor or engine. You're borne aloft by the wind.As you fly, you control your direction by shifting your body weight in oppositionto the control frame. It's easier than you might expect. And more fun than you'dever imagine.
Beginner to Pro, There's a Hang-Gliding Adventure for Everyone
Never tried hang gliding before? Come to Jockey Ridge StatePark (Mile Post 12 in Nags Head), a 427-acre preserve with a network of massivesand dunes towering up to 100 feet high. They're the tallest sand dunes on the entireEast Coast, and they're the ideal launching platform for gliders.
Here, in this unspoiled setting, Kitty Hawk Kites conductsthe world's largest hang-gliding school - just four miles from the site of theWright brothers' historic first airborne flight.
Founded in 1974, Kitty Hawk Kites offers year-round hang-glidinglessons for students at all levels, beginner to advanced. The only requirements?You must be at least four years old and weigh between 80 and 225 pounds.
What if you're a little lighter? No worries. Special lessonsare available for kids weighing 75 pounds or less.
Kitty Hawk Kites can even accommodate students with handicapsand disabilities. Practically anyone and everyone can get in on the excitement.
Start Out at the Jockey Ridge Dunes
Each three-hour lesson includes five solo flights. First, you'llspend about 45 minutes learning the ropes in the Ground School, with specialemphasis on safety precautions. Then you'll be ready to fly.
Accompanied by your expert instructor (who carries all theequipment), you'll climb to the top of a dune. Your instructor will help youclip on your harness and review any last-minute pointers. Then, safely strappedto the glider, you'll run right into the wind - and, in mere moments, you'll beairborne.
During your exhilarating flight, you'll soar from five to 15feet high over a distance of up to 100 yards. You'll catch breathtakingglimpses of Roanoke Sound and the nearby Atlantic Ocean. Then you'll make a nice,safe landing in soft, welcoming sand. No worries - even if you mess up, you'llbe OK.
How to Prep for Your First Flight
As always when you're gearing up for outdoor sports, you'llwant to be thoroughly prepared. Here's what most experts recommend:
- Usesunscreen with a high SPF toprotect your skin against blazing sun and harmful ultraviolet rays.
- Wearsunglasses or other eye protection- such as a cap with a visor - to shield your eyes against blinding glare.
- Dressin layers. Even on a scorching day,the winds that crisscross the dunes can feel surprisingly nippy. Carry a lightjacket or sweater to chase away the chill.
- Bringwater. As you trudge up anddown giant dunes, you can work up a powerful thirst. Take a swig from yourwater bottle or backpack bladder to stay cool, refreshed, and hydrated.
- Don'tforget your camera. As you soar through theair, you'll have a perfect chance to snap shots of the stunning scenery. Makesure your phone or digital camera is within easy reach. Pro tip: Whenyou're not using your small electronics, keep them in zip-locked baggies toprotect them from sand and grit.
Ready to Fly Even Higher?
Try tandem hang glidingwith Kitty Hawk Kites at theCotton Gin Flight Park in Jarvisburg.
You'll share your special two-person hang glider with acertified flight instructor. Once you're both strapped in safely, you'll beborne aloft by an ultralight craft called a tow plane. Depending on whichpackage you've purchased, the plane will release your glider at either 2,000feet or an entire mile above sea level.
It's an unforgettable experience. For 10 minutes or more,you'll glide above Currituck Island, with sweeping views of Currituck Sound,open ocean, and gorgeous countryside. With your instructor's help, you'll tryheart-pounding tricks like diving, stalling, and turning.
Then you'll cruise to a comfortable landing, thanks to yourglider's "tricycle" wheels.
Don't Miss Out on These Thrills (and More)
Experience the thrill of hang gliding in the Outer Banks of coastal North Carolina, where smooth winds and sandy dunes create the perfect conditions for soaring adventures. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned pro, there's a hang gliding experience for everyone, with lessons available at Jockey Ridge State Park and tandem flights offered at the Cotton Gin Flight Park. Don't miss out on these exhilarating thrills during your Outer Banks vacation rental getaway!