Wreck Diving and Sailing the Outer Banks

Offshore, the Outer Banks are known as the graveyard of the Atlantic, and have over a thousand wrecks lying beneath the crystal clear water. It’s a great place for sailing, diving, exploring and wandering.

Wreck Diving and Sailing the Outer Banks

Trek Essentials

Where: Outer Banks, North Carolina, East Coast USA
Best Sights: Magnificent tall and ancient lighthouses, wrecks and tiger sharks
Remember to Bring: A professional divemaster

The Outer Banks are one of the most beautiful coastlines in the USA. Their wild and windswept beauty has attracted people through the ages, from the first colonists to surfers who flock here every year. The Outer Banks are made up of a long thin strand of islands stretching in a 100 mile arc from the Virginia border in the north, down to Cape Lookout, halfway down the coast of North Carolina. There are dunes, marshes and beaches interspersed with historic lighthouses. Offshore, the Outer Banks are known as the graveyard of the Atlantic, and have over a thousand wrecks lying beneath the crystal clear water. It’s a great place for sailing, diving, exploring and wandering.


  • Looking out from the top of the 19th century Bodie Island lighthouse.
  • Diving some of the hundreds of wrecks, including the U352 submarine, beneath the Atlantic waters
  • Diving in the vicinity of sand tiger sharks.

Our Journey Path – As Featured in Treks in a Wild World

Our land and sea trek begins at Jockey’s Ridge State Park, home of the largest sand dune on the East Coast. We meets up with our guide, Chris Blanchard, and head out on a reconstructed, traditional 19th century sailboat from Roanoke Island, down Pamlico Sound, to the Bodie Island lighthouse. From here, we sail down to Cape Hatteras before heading to the historic village of Ocracoke. Here, we says goodbye to our guide and sailboat and embark on an underwater adventure, diving to find sand tiger sharks and to see some of the shipwrecks that surround this beautiful coastline near Morehead City.

Traveller’s Tips

When you view the Outer Banks waters from the top of the lighthouse, you get an idea of just how treacherous these waters are. The surf is strong, the sand is shifting and the land is so flat and sparsely habited. This is not an area to be messed with, so if you’re surfing or sailing it’s a good idea to talk to the local fishers and sailors and find how to handle the seas here.

If you’re sailing along the Outer Banks, keep watch for wrecks on the beaches. As the winds blow across the Atlantic, the sand is often pushed away to reveal evidence of ancient or even more recent wrecks.

Wreck diving is a dangerous sport. Don’t attempt to dive wrecks on your own – go with someone who knows about them. Only professional divemasters who dive down and into the wrecks should take you to see them. If you’ve never dived a wreck before – get some training! Contact your local scuba diving company for information on wreck diving courses.

Did You Know?

  • A hundred colonists settled on Roanoke Island in 1587. They had a hard time surviving on these shores and eventually were forced to sent a ship back to England for supplies. By the time the ship returned three years later the entire colony had disappeared, leaving absolutely no trace except for a mysterious carving on a tree spelling out the word ‘Croatan’. To this day, no one had discovered what happened to them.
  • The Bodie Island Lighthouse has stood guard over Oregon Inlet since 1848, but it has a chequered past. The first light started tilting to one side so much that the light stopped flashing. The second light in the lighthouse was blown up by Confederate troops in 1861. The third one is the present one, and stands 150 feet tall and is still fully operational.
  • The tallest lighthouse in the United States can be found at Cape Hatteras, and is 208 feet high. The country’s oldest lighthouse is on Ocracoke Island, and was built in 1872. These days it’s open only in the summer months.
  • The most famous pirate of all, Edward Teach, alias ‘Blackbeard’, used to scour these waters looking for lightly armed merchants to rob. Many wouldn’t even put up a fight once they knew who he was. He used to put wicks laced with gunpowder in his huge black beard to make himself more fearsome. Blackbeard was powerful enough to blockade the whole town of Charleston, South Carolina for a whole week in May 1718. Seven months later, in November 1718, Blackbeard eventually died in a fierce battle at Ocracoke Inlet. His flagship, the ‘Queen Anne’s Revenge’ has only recently been found off the coast and is now being excavated. But his treasure, rumoured to be buried on Ocracoke Island, has never been recovered.
  • The cemetery on Ocracoke island is officially located on British soil. It contains the graves of British sailors washed ashore after the wreck of the HMS Bedfordshire during WW2.

More Information

Olympus Dive Center
P.O. Box 486, 713 Shepard St.
Morehead City, North Carolina
28557 USA
Tel: (919) 726 9432 Toll-Free: (800) 992 1258

Outer Banks
For a superb and thorough website on the Northern Outer Banks, click on this and you’ll get lots of information on the area emailed to you!

Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce:
Tel: (252) 441 8144 Fax: (252) 441 0338

For Sailing, Windsurfing and Parasailing:

Kitty Hawk Kites

Nag’s Head, North Carolina

Tel: (800) 334 4777 Reservations: (919) 441 4124


Sheraton Atlantic Beach
Morehead City, North Carolina
Tel: (800) 624 8875 Fax: (252) 240 1452
Email: sheraton *at* ncnets.com

Pirate’s Cove Marina
Manteo, NC
Tel: (800) 422 3610

North Carolina Maritime Museum 
Located in Beaufort, NC. Located on the town’s beautifully restored waterfront, the NCMM interprets North Carolina’s historical alliances with the sea. You can also see boat building, learn about Blackbeard’s ship and about local folklore.

315 Front Street
Beaufort, NC 28516 USA
Tel: (252) 728 7317
Email: maritime *at* ncsl.dcr.state.nc.us

Cape Hatteras National Park 
National Park Service
Rt. 1, P.O. Box 675
Manteo, NC 27954 USA

Tel: (252) 473 2111

Cape Air 
Tel: 1-800-352 0714 or (508) 771 6944

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