Because of the strong northward current of the Gulf Stream, most southbound sailing vessels had to choose a distant offshore course or a perilous inner course near the dangerous shoals.
On September 7, 1846, the present Hatteras inlet was opened by a violent gale. This was the same storm that opened present-day Oregon Inlet to the north. The new Hatteras Inlet was a strategic connection between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pamlico Sound. It was made all the more important because it demanded less of a struggle against the Gulf Stream to reach it from the north. A fishing and shipping village arose near the inlet. A post office was established at Hatteras Village in 1858.
In 1861 the Hatteras area became the first portion of the Confederacy to fall victim to Union forces. In 1861 Confederate forts --Fort Clark and Fort Hatteras-- guarding the inlet quickly fell. The stategic importance of Hatteras Inlet under the control Union Fort Wool became apparent as the entire NC coastal region around the Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds eventually fell to Union occupation. After the Civil War, the Durants lifesaving station was built near the village in 1878. By the turn of the century, a US weather station was also active at Hatteras.
In the mid-1930s, the Army Corps of Engineers dredged a channel which allowed better access from the sound to Hatteras Inlet. Soon, a sizable fishing fleet began to develop at Hatteras.
During World War II, this area became known a "Torpedo Junction," due to the heavy loss of ships attacked by German submarines. Over 100 ships were lost in the waters off Hatteras.
Following World War II, a private ferry began operating across the inlet to connect Hatteras and Ocracoke islands. The state took over the ferry in 1957, and it has continued in operation until the present.
Highway 12 did not reach Hatteras Village until the 1950s.