Outer Banks Spotlight on Manteo and Wanchese


OBX Spotlight on Manteo and Wanchese

We're trucking along here on our tour of the Outer Banks. We started with the northern beaches and headed south, stopping at each of the OBX towns along the way and exploring their uniqueness and highlighting what each has to offer you.

The next stop is Roanoke Island where you'll find the town of Manteo to the north and the village of Wanchese to the south. Let's take a peek into what you can expect to find here in this charming region of the Outer Banks. Here we go!


The History & Mystery of Roanoke Island

Steeped in legendary history and a mystery that is still unresolved to this day, Roanoke Island played host to the first English-speaking colonists in America in the year 1584. This was well before Jamestown and Plymouth were settled in the years 1607 and 1620, respectively. The English fort and settlement of more than 100 men was established at the north end of the island. It didn't go well for them due to the weather conditions, the lack of supplies and the ill-formed relations with the Native Americans. The colonists and natives didn’t get along despite the fact that the two local chiefs, Manteo and Wanchese, had been taken to England in the hopes of forming good relations. The end result was abandonment of the settlement the very next year.

A few years later in 1587 another party of 110 English colonists, this time including women and children, set sail for the New World, reaching Roanoke Island in July. On August 18, one of the colonists, Eleanor Dare, gave birth to the first English-speaking child in the New World, Virginia Dare. A week later, the baby’s grandfather, Captain John White, was forced to return to England for badly needed supplies. Due to Spanish attacks on England, White was waylayed in England for three years, and when he returned to Roanoke Island in 1590 there was no sign of his granddaughter or the other colonists. Their houses were gone, and the only sign of human presence was the letters "CRO” and "CROATOAN” carved on two trees. This led some people to believe that the colonists had sought the help of the Croatoan Indians on Hatteras Island, but they were not there. The fate of the lost colonists is still an unsolved mystery and their story has been retold in the outdoor drama The Lost Colony since 1937.

Roanoke Island was permanently settled in the mid-1600s, and much of the history is still very much alive on the island today. This is only part of the story, but you can read more about the history of Roanoke Island here to learn more.

Fishing Boats

More About the Town of Manteo

As the birthplace of English colonization in America, Manteo is rich in history and attractions, as well as being the home to one of our nation's greatest unsolved mysteries. Manteo also has a modern side to its town with downtown boutiques, book stores, gift shops and exquisite restaurants. The downtown stretch of Manteo lies conveniently adjacent to the breathtaking waterfront of Shallowbag Bay.

The Town of Manteo wraps around Shallowbag Bay on the eastern side of Roanoke Island, part of North Carolina's Outer Banks. Named the seat of government for Dare County in 1870, this waterfront community became incorporated in 1899. In those early days, every store lining the waterfront had two doors: one for those coming by boat, and the other for those coming from the courthouse or one of the inns on Water Street.

Today, county business still brings people to town, as well as many reminders of the island's history, including the representative 16th century ship at Roanoke Island Festival Park, or the George Washington Creef Boathouse and Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse, part of the North Carolina Maritime Museum. Each summer, the town welcomes singers, dancers, and actors back to Waterside Theatre, where they perform the nation's oldest outdoor symphonic drama, The Lost Colony.

Explore the maritime streets and waterfront adventures in Manteo or just find a spot on the bench and enjoy the views. You learn more about the Town of Manteo here.


Dock and Boat

More About the Village of Wanchese

You'll find that Wanchese has a long history of being a quintessential fishing village where residents take great pride in their heritage and legacy. It's off the beaten path but well worth a visit for a peek into everyday life on the Outer Banks filled with quiet streets, local grocery stores, casual island fare and bustling marinas. Nature lovers revel in the miles of maritime forest, marshland and soundfront that are home to migratory and native species of all kinds.

Historians believe Wanchese to be the very first fishing village in the Outer Banks dating back to 900 A.D. when Native Americans settled here and quickly reeled in the veritable bounty of the Roanoke Sound. Wanchese later became home to the Roanoke Tribe, a subset of the Alqonquins. The town name itself comes from the Indian Chief Wanchese who accompanied the neighboring Chief Manteo on an expedition to England. Returning home the next year, they were disenchanted with the new European arrivals. Some say that it may have been Chief Wanchese's aggression that was responsible for sealing the fate of the settlers of The Lost Colony.

Today, the Village of Wanchese is home to the North Carolina Seafood Industrial Park. Here you'll find commercial fishing vessels and seafood dealers sorting through the day's catch to provide fresh North Carolina seafood to most of the Eastern Seaboard. Wanchese is central to the local Outer Banks economy and beyond. While Wanchese never became as popular for tourists as neighboring Nags Head, its proximity to the Oregon Inlet and route to the Gulf Stream put it on the map as a vital part of the Outer Banks.


OBX Attractions and Events on Roanoke Island

Some of the most popular Outer Banks attractions are found in Manteo and on Roanoke Island—the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse, Roanoke Island Festival Park and the Elizabeth II, the NC Aquarium, the Elizabethan Gardens and, of course, The Lost Colony outdoor drama. Don't forget a stop to the Pioneer Theater, the oldest single-screen, family-owned theater in America. First Fridays, Dare Day, July 4, Virginia Dare's Birthday, Halloween, and Christmas are special times in the town for residents and visitors alike.

Here are our favorite Roanoke Island attractions on the Outer Banks:


Favorite annual events on Roanoke Island include:


Plan Your Stay on the Outer Banks

Élan Vacations has the perfect Outer Banks rentals for you in nearby Nags Head. Peruse our OBX rentals and start planning your next adventure on the Outer Banks. Let us know if we can be of service. We're here to help you have the best OBX vacation ever!

If you missed any of other Outer Banks Spotlights, you can catch up here:


OBX Spotlight on Manteo and Wanchese Pin