Jockey’s Ridge sand dune and state park is located directly across the street from Jockey’s Ridge Crossing Shopping Center and is accessible to the state park via a stop light pedestrian cross walk. You can also view the ridge and the surrounding area from a 45-foot tower on the site or from the deck of the two story Jockey’s Ridge Crossing Shopping Center facing the dunes. Jockey’s Ridge Crossing is literally at the center of the Outer Banks, aka OBX. It is located at milepost 12 ½ between the Beach Road (Virginia Dare Trail) and the Bypass 158, or 3933 S. Croatan Highway, Nags Head, NC.
Jockey’s Ridge is the largest natural live dune on the east coast of America. It is preserved today as Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head, North Carolina. Folklore has it that land pirates used to walk along the top of the dune at night with a horse (old nag) with lantern around its neck that attracted ships at sea thinking it was a ship with light on mast at safe harbor. When the ship sailed in and ran aground, it was ransacked by the local pirates. In later years, there was horse racing on the flats behind the dunes with spectators sitting on the slope of the dune. Hence the derivation of the names Jockey’s Ridge and Nags Head.
Jockey’s Ridge Crossing is located in the center of the Old Nags Head Historic District. The original beach resort town dating back to 1839 was founded on the soundside, just south of Jockey’s Ridge. Here is where the ferries from Elizabeth City brought summer visitors who stayed in hotels on the soundside and ventured to the beach by horse drawn carts during the day time. Later, people started to develop beach houses on the ocean side. The Nags Head beach row historic district is one of the best examples of 1800s coastal architecture in the United States. Many of these residences are on the National Historic Register and are lovingly referred to as “the Unpainted Aristocracy.
Jockey’s Ridge Crossing is the former site of the Old Nags Head Casino, which was built in 1931. Originally THE CASINO, as locals knew it, was a built as a barracks for the Civil Conservation Core workers who built the Wright Brothers monument. Later it became a social center for the community and a major entertainment attraction for the entire region. Many famous entertainers and bands played at the THE CASINO including Lou Armstrong, Fats Domino, Glenn Miller, and many more. The Casino is fondly remembered by many locals and visitors as a highlight experience of their youth.
Sightseeing and Hiking
Climbing Jockey’s Ridge is something that everyone has to do while they are on the Outer Banks. The 85-foot high sand dune is a magnet for hikers. Running or rolling down the dune is popular for kids. The panorama view from the top of ocean to sound dramatizes the narrowness of the Outer Banks. At sundown, the sunset over the sound can be breathtaking. There is generally a breeze to provide some air. Allow approximately an hour for a leisurely crossing, climb, and return. Besides hiking the dune, the State Park has several interesting trails that you can explore. There is also a soundside access for hikes along the beach.
If you look about 4 miles to the north you will see Kill Devil Hill and Wright Brothers National Monument which commemorates where the Wright Brothers fly the first airplane in 1903. At that time, Kill Devil Hill was an unvegetated dune similar to what Jockey’s Ridge is today.
Hang gliding is a popular activity on the dune and lessons are available to the general public. Sandboarding is also a popular dune activity that is available all year round. Kite flying is highly popular and there are several kiting competitions during the year. Because of the open space, it is a particularly good area for stunt kite flying. Frisbee and other flying tows are also good. Hiking is always good and some people even jog up and down the dunes for physical conditioning.
Jockeys Ridge State Park has a visitor center with museum and auditorium for ranger programs. A short walk south from Jockey’s Ridge Crossing on the beach road (Virginia Dare Trail) is the Nags Head Beachcomber Museum which has an outstanding collection of locally found sea shells, some very rare. They also have an interesting collection of fulgurite fragments, which are sand fusions from lightening strikes on the sand dunes.
Jockey’s Ridge Crossing Shopping Center has 8 unique locally owned shops totaling over 20,000 square feet of retail space. It is a great place to get a ice cream cone or some fresh fudge after a climb up the dune. It also has a wide variety of unique, privately owned and operated shops. You will find all kinds of sports apparel, t-shirts, gifts, sportswear, fashions, fashion accessories, footwear, kites, toys, stuffed bears, ice cream, fudge and sandwiches, old time photos, best beach hair wraps and sand art, sporting equipment, and much more. It is definitely worth a visit to shop for a unique gift to take back home or for yourself. This is not your regular corner shopping center. Come visit these exciting stores: