A Pop Culture Journey


Outer Banks

If you have a Netflix subscription, you most likely have at least seen the thumbnail for the hit show Outer Banks, as each season has dominated the top ten list for weeks. The show is about a group of teenagers that always manages to get wrapped up in a treasure hunt and find lots of trouble while in pursuit of it. Though the locations in the show are fictional and it is filmed in Charleston, SC, they do give nods to the Outer Banks with names like Kildare County and Kitty Hawk Camp. You will be hard-pressed to locate the Chapel Hill Ferry in the show, and there are no Kooks or Pogues, but there are shipwrecks, could be treasure, and while it is not filmed here, the real Outer Banks is just as beautiful.

Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives

In the summer of 2012, Guy Fieri and his crew from Diners Drive-Ins and Dives descended on the Outer Banks and filmed at seven local restaurants. In S15E12, "Pubs and Grub" featured Outer Banks Brewing Station, where they cooked up Shrimp & Grits. The now-closed restaurant The Brine and Bottle was featured next in S16E1 "Fully Focused", where he cooked fried pickles, a softshell crab sandwich, and foie gras with peach marmalade. The next to air was S16E3 "Far Out", where Cravings in Duck cooked seared scallops and showed Guy how they make seafood boils to go. The very next episode of "Matches Made in Heaven" featured Ortegaz' Southwestern Grill, where both husband and wife cooked dishes such as a softshell crab quesadilla, blackfin tuna tacos, and shrimp and poblano pepper pesto. S16E5, "Savory Sensations", shows Guy squirming a lot as the Weeping Radish makes sweet potato liverwurst. They also make bacon and potato soup and rueben. Unfortunately, their second location in Grandy is now also shut down, along with the original location in Manteo. "Episode 7: Land to Sea" brings us to Black Pelican and their citris rosemary-brined chicken as well as Wanchese Fishermens Rissoto. Last but not least, S16E12, "Layers of Flavor", shows off Tortugas Lie and their Pork Antonio and jerk chicken dishes.

Kill Devil Hill

Kill Devil Hill Album Cover

You can't get any more on the OBX nose than with the metal supergroup Kill Devil Hill. The group got together in 2011, originally with members from Pantera, Black Sabbath, Ratt, and Moth, and currently with new members from Type O Negative and Five Finger Death Punch. After a 10-year hiatus, the group reformed this year, 2023, and put out a new album with quite a bit of references to pirates, ships, and seas. I don't know that any of them have been here, but former member Mark Zavon got his pilot license in North Carolina, where he heard the town's name and said it has always stuck with him.


Speaking of award-winning, Christopher Walken filmed scenes from his movie Brainstorm on the Outer Banks. In 1983, Walken and Natalie Wood starred in the sci-fi movie about a scientist who develops a machine that can record and replay human thoughts. They compare the machine with that of the Wright Brothers first flight in that it was going to change the world and our existence but also that it could be adapted for nefarious reasons. They filmed multiple scenes at the Wright Brothers Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, including the ending of the movie. Walken continued on in his career, winning just about every award out there, but unfortunately, this was Natalie Woods last movie, as she died during filming.

Nirvana - Mex-econo's Hat

If you are a Nirvana, Foo Fighters, or Dave Grohl fan, then you may have seen a picture of Grohl sporting a Mex-Econo hat. The black-and-white photo below is fairly popular and is one photo taken of the group by legendary photographer Anton Corbijn. In the early 90's, Dave Grohl frequented Mex-Econo when he was in town. Some people say his sister owned a place here, some say his mother, and some say he did until he gave the house away in a divorce. I'm going with the later since he is quoted saying, "I had a house in North Carolina on the beach, which was beautiful, man, like wild horses running around, and the water is warm, and the people are really friendly. There was no local surf gang, and you would just sit out there and surf these 4 foot waves, drinking beer all day long, and it was fun." Either way, many people have stories of Dave checking ID's at the door or playing pool at Mex-Econo, and the restaurant that closed in 1994 will forever be part of pop culture.

Rayolight Productions & Call Sign Romeo

Rayolight Productions is a local film studio based in Kill Devil Hills that specializes in commercial and corporate videos. They do any kind of filming from real estate videos to government and tourism videos. Even though commercial videos are their specialty that doesn't stop Rayolight Productions from making film shorts and feature films. The company has won many awards for its horror shorts and films, Night of the Fluffet, Lost in Buffalo City, Boy!, and most recent The Signal.
If you drove by RC Theater in Kill Devil Hills in 2022 you may have noticed the marquee said Call Sign Romeo the entire summer. The feature film has a mostly local cast and crew and was filmed entirely on the Outer Banks, the movie was co-written and produced by Sam Cortez and Stuart Parks II and directed/produced by Raymond Wallace. The story is based on true events and follows Chris Torres as he navigates high school, wrestling, and his personal life as he tries to pursue his dream to be a Navy fighter pilot. The film was picked up by Freestyle Digital Media so you can find it distributed to watch.

The Moped Diaries

In 2014, local Tyler Nilson co-wrote, directed, and starred in The Moped Diaries. The short film premiered at the Sonoma International Film Festival and was selected by many others, including Raindance, where it was a nominee for best short film. Nilson, along with co-directors and writers Nick Vitale and Mike Schwartz, created a feel-good story about a boy who grows up on Colington Island and lives in his own blissful bubble. Once a bridge is built connecting Colington to the outside world, that bubble bursts, and Levi, Nilson's character, must decide whether to face his fears and adventure across the bridge or keep living stuck in his misery. The 11-minute short film was made using all volunteers and was shot using Outer Banks locals and locales. It had almost no budget but was met with astounding reviews. This feel-good short film is filled with familiar faces and scenes, and everyone that lives here should check it out. I like to watch it yearly for a good boost of go-forward and conquer vibes.

Peanut Butter Falcon

I sometimes wonder if the rest of the world received The Peanut Butter Falcon the same way the Outer Banks embraced it, and today, looking at its 95% score on Rotten Tomatoes, it seems they did. It is a heartwarming tale about a young ward of the state with Down syndrome, Zac, who stows away on a boat in the hopes of finding a way to a wrestling school put on by his hero, Salt Water Redneck. Along the way, he finds friendship and adventure with Tyler (Shia LaBeouf) and Eleanor (Dakota Johnson) as they make their way through picturesque marshes and coastal villages. The movie was filmed in GA and NC, right on Baumtown Rd. in Wanchese and the Pamlico Sound. Locals also helped build the raft in Wanchese, among other things like lending boats and trucks. Not only is the film heartwarming, but the story of how it came to be is as well.
OBX native Tyler Nilson and Mike Schwartz were helping at a camp when they met Zack Gottsagen, who wondered why there were no good roles for actors with Down syndrome like him, so Tyler and Mike wrote him a movie and gave him the starring role. The movie, the crew, and the cast were nominated and won awards at film festivals across the country: Best Film, Best Breakthrough Performance, Best New Film Maker, and more. Out of everything on this map, this one, to me, shines far above the rest. Not only does it feel like home when you watch it, but it was written and directed by someone who calls this place home. My only issue is, what is wrong with the 5% of viewers who didn't like it?

Wicked Tuna North Vs. South & Outer Banks Showdown

Back in 2012, Wicked Tuna first aired on National Geographic. The show follows bluefin tuna fishermen in New England and became a big success. When the tuna industry became slow, boats ventured south to NC, and Wicked Tuna: North Vs. South was started in 2016. Now known as Wicked Tuna: Outer Banks, the show featured the usual New England boats, but they were now competing with boats from up and down the NC Coast. Over its nine seasons, the show has followed many local boats: Fishin' Frenzy (4-time winner), Little Shell, Wahoo, Doghouse, Reel Action, Reels of Fortune (1-time winner), Kahuna, and Hogwild. The local boys dominated the winners bracket, with our southern neighbors also helping to shut out the northern crews for all but one year. The show also had another spinoff, Wicked Tuna Outer Banks Showdown, in which the champions all competed against each other.

DJ Muggs vs Ill Bill: Kill Devil Hills

I'm not sure how it escaped my attention that Grammy award-winning DJ Muggs of Cypress Hill fame teamed up with rapper Ill Bill to create the hip-hop album Kill Devil Hills. But in 2010, DJ Muggs vs. Ill Bill: Kill Devil Hills was released. At first, the pair just liked the name, but Ill Bill states the name evolved into something more for him. When asked about the line 'Pyramids of Mars AKA Kill Devil Hills', Ill Bill takes you on a topsy-turvy explanation of how rich people will escape the apocalypse by going to Mars, and Kill Devil Hills is his escape. He did, after all, live there when he first moved to North Carolina he says. While I can't confirm that, I did find a record of someone of his name and age, originally from Brooklyn, that lived in Manteo.

Andy Griffith & Matlock

As just about anyone reading this probably knows, Manteo is where movie and TV star Andy Griffith lived and passed away. In 1947, he moved to Manteo to play a role in The Lost Colony and was starring in movies a decade later, but he still called Manteo home. Andy was a fixture in the community, and you could always see him around town or driving one of his old cars. He skyrocketed to popularity in the 60's with the Andy Griffith Show and again in the 80's with Matlock. In 1989, Andy convinced the show producers to film an episode in Manteo, and that episode, "The Hunting Party", showcased the island and even had locals on the crew and as extras. So many familiar places stand out when you watch it: the Lost Colony, the Elizabethan Gardens, the Green Dolphin Pub, and the Manteo Courthouse. They also just take a cruise around during the show, where spots like the library and Kellogs are pointed out. You can even catch a glimpse of the old Bonner Bridge as the episode opens. Griffith is remembered by many here, and those memories vary drastically, but I will always remember eating lunch at the old middle school at the picnic tables by the road and him driving by in his old car honking, waving, and making a show for us kids.

Expedition Unknown

In 2016, Expedition Unknown, hosted by Josh Gates, came to Roanoke Island. S3E4, on the Discovery Channel, explores one of America's oldest mysteries, the disappearance of the first English colonists. Josh joins archeologists and learns about the work they do, trying to solve the mystery while also exploring the Outer Banks.

In Search Of

In 2019, the History Channel aired In Search Of: The Lost Colony of Roanoke Island. The show explores the history of the colony and follows multiple historians as they try to find not only where the colony landed but where it moved to as well. The current accepted location of the settlement is put into question, as is whether they moved north or south.

The Lost Colony

Since 1937, The Lost Colony has been seen by millions of fans and has included over 5,000 cast and crew members. The nation's longest-running outdoor symphonic drama was commissioned by the people of Roanoke Island to celebrate the birth of Virginia Dare. Author Paul Green wrote the drama that centers around the history of the first English colony in the US and its disappearance. The Lost Colony is a piece of Outer Banks pop culture, but beyond that, it was also a place where many actors got their start or at least appeared before fame. We already talk about Andy Griffith and Leon Rippy on this site, but just to name a few, there are also actors such as Steve Kazee, whom I know from writing an epic break-up song on Shameless; Peter Paige, known for Queer as Folk; Collen Dewhurst, who has nearly 100 acting credits to her name; and one of my favorites, Chris Elliot, whom I will forever know as Woogie from There's Something About Mary. There are famous choreographers, costume designers, dance instructors, and producers that were all once part of The Lost Colony, and from Emmys to Oscars to Tonys, the awards they have are countless.

Summer Rental - Mary Kay Andrews

Mary Kay Andrews is a 15-time New York Times bestselling author, and in 2011, she published Summer Rental. The novel is set in Nags Head, and Andrews herself spent time at Pelican Cottages in Nags Head while writing the book. Her first descriptions of the Outer Banks are not quite what we come to expect when people describe it here; she talks of the miles of hotels, houses, and strip malls. She even goes on to compare OBX to Myrtle Beach and the Jersey Shore! Once the main character turns off the bypass, the descriptions become more like what we are used to, describing the dunes, ocean views, and wooden walkways to the beach.

Brad Paisley - Waitin

"Waitin' On A Woman" debuted by Brad Paisley years before he wrote a letter to Andy Griffith asking him to star in the video. In 2009, the video for "Waitin' On A Woman" was released and featured local celebrity Andy Griffith, a handful of local extras, and the former Tanger Outlet Mall. Growing up, Paisley was a big fan of Griffith, and when he wrote him a letter asking him to be in his video, he told him all about how The Andy Griffith Show helped him raise his son. That did the trick, and in a quick 8 hours, Brad flew to the Outer Banks and shot the video with him. The video concludes with Andy in all white waiting on his wife in heaven, which is a bit sadder now since he passed just a few years later in 2012.

Saving Grace

In Saving Grace Season 3 Episode 12, Earl (Leon Rippy) can be seen wearing a Sam and Omies T-shirt. Leon Rippy began his on-screen career in 1983, but his first paid acting job was for The Lost Colony in Manteo. He has well over 50 acting credits and an impressive body of work with titles such as Star Trek, Stargate, Maximum Overdrive, Quantum Leap, The Patriot, and The Blacklist. But from 2007 to 2010, he starred alongside Holly Hunter in Saving Grace. Sam and Omies, which has been an Outer Banks staple since the 1940s, has a picture of Leon Rippy hanging on the wall.

Scotty McCreery - Feelin' It Video

Season 10 of American Idol produced 17-year-old winner Scotty McCreery. McCreey, who is a native of Garner, NC, grew up vacationing on the Outer Banks with his family, and this is reflected through his music and videos. His song "Carolina To Me" talks of Kill Devil Hills and the wild horses of Carova, but his music video for his top-ten single "Feelin' It" was shot here. They shot at multiple locations around the Outer Banks, but prominently featured were Jennette's Pier, Dune Burger, Bodie Island Lighthouse, and Jockey's Ridge Sound Access.

Nights in Rodanthe

In 2008, the film adaptation of Nicolas Sparks's book Nights in Rodanthe hit theaters. The film tells the story of two single people who are in rough places in life who help each other through the difficulty and renew their faith in the future. Starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane, they filmed a little over two weeks on the Outer Banks. Some of the locations include the S-turns, the Inn at Rodanthe (formerly Serendipity), and Rodanthe Pier, among others. They also used locals as extras to film scenes such as the party scene at the pier and the pre-storm stocking at the now-closed Jobobs Trading Post. After the movie filming was over, they undid the cosmetic things they added to the house, such as the blue shutters, but new owners later restored the house to the way it was in the movie, inside and out, renamed it the Inn at Rodanthe, and rented it out as a romantic getaway home.

Send It

One of my favorite concerts I've been to was Method Man & Redman at Real Watersports during the Wind Voyager Triple-S Invitational. Who doesn't like getting to see a show outside on a beautiful night at a small venue surrounded by people you grew up with? Charlie McKinney, a screenplay writer from Dallas, felt the same way, and after stumbling upon the Triple-S one summer, he decided to write a movie about kiteboarding and the local sports scene.
Send It is a romance action film starring Kevin Quinn of Disney fame and Claudia Lee that was shot during the 2018 Triple-S in Waves. They filmed the whole week and got fantastic kiteboarding footage as well as a real 2 Chainz concert. The kiteboarding film also attracted names like Patrick Fabian, Denise Richards, and Michael Jai White, and according to an article in Island Free Press, everyone loved filming on Hatteras Island.


I am unsure how I made it out of the 90's without seeing a picture of Bradley Nowell and Bud Gaugh of Sublime in front of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, especially given that the picture was supposedly in an album insert and I owned EVERY one of their albums. But here I am in 2023, seeing this for the first time. While no one knows exactly why they were here, there are two main theories: one is that they were supposed to play at the Atlantis during their summer 1995 tour and they were here because they knew a Big Tom from Rodanthe, and the other is that Nowell was checking out surf spots on a break from their 95' tour in the winter/spring between shows in Virginia Beach and New Jersey. The first has been called into question by their heavy clothes, so I'm going to assume a combination of the two. Sadly by May of the following year, Bradley Nowell would be deceased, but other members of the band and tribute groups still play here to this day.

Thank you for exploring Dare County and its role in pop culture with us for GIS Day 2023. We know we have missed some items that may be your favorites. The Outer Banks features so many songs and books from Tim McGraw to Suzanne Tate that we can't possibly cover them all. Not to mention all the celebrity cameos and homeowners we have here. From Tom Cruise, Andy McDowell, and Bill Gates, to more recently, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and his wife Hilarie Burton Morgan, celebrities and politicians have been relaxing on our shores.
Brought to you by Dare County GIS Department, put together by GIS Analyst Kristen Stilson

This information is NOT to be construed or used as a "legal description." Map information is believed to be accurate, but accuracy is not guaranteed.
Dare County GIS Department 2023
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