An Incredible Day Trip Centuries In The Making: Roanoke Island Festival Park and Manteo, NC

Aug 26, 2020 | Places to Visit

One of the unique advantages of Albemarle Plantation is its location. Even though our community is an easy drive to major metro areas, we’re really in a world all our own. Set among the incredible Inner Banks landscape, our secret haven is an easy day trip to some of the most interesting and engaging destinations on the North Carolina Coast. Some of our favorite places to explore are Roanoke Island Festival Park and the town of Manteo—an unforgettable day trip with unexpected delights for all ages.

Just down the road a bit…

It’s just an hour and a half or so drive or about an hour by boat to Roanoke Island and Manteo—an easy jaunt for a day filled with history, attractions, great dining and more. Actually, this area is so full of interesting things to do and see, it could easily fill a week full of day trips. Luckily, we’re so close, it’s easy to dart over and enjoy a day trip there anytime.

Roanoke Island Festival Park—wow, just wow!

You’ll want to set aside plenty of time to discover Roanoke Island Festival Park—a sprawling 25-acre site just across from Manteo’s waterfront on its own island. This is an iconic attraction that pays homage to Roanoke Island, home to the earliest English settlement in North America. Pre-dating Jamestown, the Roanoke settlement and its history come to life at this one-of-a-kind park.

See, do and truly experience it:

Make your way across the wooden bridge that crosses over the harbor and see the impressive Elizabeth II, a representative 16th century sailing ship whose grand sails and flags stand watch over the island. With admission to the park, you can board this pulse-quickening ship and get a feel for the adventurous life of the late 1500’s. You’ll be able to explore and meet costumed crew members who demonstrate swabbing the deck, rigging the sails and plotting a course to the new world. Questions and conversation are welcome and encouraged!

Elizabethan Gardens

The park also is home to a Settlement Site populated with historic re-enactors among authentically styled tents and cottages. Stroll through and get a flavor for time gone by as costumed blacksmiths, soldiers, settlers and craftsmen demonstrate the typical daily tasks of centuries past and interact with visitors. It’s easy to lose yourself in the history of it all!

Fun tip: be ready to try out your English accent—the costumed re-enactors are good spirited and love carrying on with visitors in an Olde English manner!

Just down the way, you’ll want to explore the American Indian Town. See replica longhouses, learn about the struggles and times of the Native Americans and English settlers, and get a glimpse of the Native Americans’ daily activities, like basket weaving and farming. We love the feeling of stepping back in time here, and are reminded of the amazing history of the region we call home.

While you’re at the Park, step inside the Roanoke Adventure Museum and see more about the Elizabeth II ship, the historic sites and the vast history of this place in a highly interactive and engaging atmosphere. Enjoy the cool, air-conditioned exhibits (ahhh..) and walk through time, from the earliest recorded history of the area through present day. If you’re an explorer who loves souvenirs, fear not—there’s a lovely gift shop with all manner of unique treasures, both fanciful and history-oriented for you to take home. Once you’ve explored and experienced all these attractions, you may be ready for a break—but the 25-acre historic wonderland that is Roanoke Island Festival Park is just getting started.

Winding alongside its historic sites and attractions are acres and acres of pristine natural landscape. Walking trails curve through the woodlands and past waterways. You’ll enjoy strolling the expansive boardwalk along the Roanoke Sound’s peaceful waters. It runs along the park and is an ideal way to take in the scenic landscape, birdwatch, or just breathe in the fresh Outer Banks air.

When it’s time to sit back and relax, you may want to spread out a blanket or set up a chair at one of the many small docks that dot the park. The views are, in a word, incredible.

Roanoke Island Festival Park is also home to many special events throughout the year. Concerts, theater productions and music festivals are especially enjoyable in this unique environment. We’d be remiss not to mention another interesting facet of the park—the Outer Banks History Center. It is a revered resource, housing an incredible library and collection of historic archives telling the tales of the Outer Banks’ four centuries of adventure. This Center is a national treasure, frequented and referenced by such organizations as The History Channel and NPR. Appointments are recommended to access and view the historic documents.

Albemarle Plantation Pro Tips:

  • Wear comfy clothes. Roanoke Island Festival Park is a large, exciting place and you’ll want to be able to explore comfortably. Things we bring: hat, fave water bottle, and sunscreen
  • Consider turning a ‘day trip’ into an overnight. Sometimes, it’s fun to stay the night to make it feel like a real getaway, and nearby Manteo is an incredibly gracious host. There are several charming Bed and Breakfasts in Manteo whose cool porches and lovely accommodations are a great retreat at the end of an exciting day.

Exploring the Town of Manteo 

The Outer Banks is bursting with a charm and character all its own. Manteo takes this to a whole new level. This town is begging to be explored and you’ll be richly rewarded for doing so. The waterfront and historic area are wonderfully walkable and have much to explore. Manteo is home to art galleries, eateries, and eclectic shops with all manner of curiosities and delights to discover. Plan to enjoy a meal there, or pop into Lost Colony Brewery & Café for a sip of something truly spectacular!

Roanoke Island Marshes Lighthouse

Check out the distinct Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse, at the end of the pier on the waterfront. Walk along and take in the beauty of historic homes, and soak in the friendly atmosphere of Manteo, one of the Outer Banks’ most interesting towns.

If you’re feeling like joining a guided tour, your options are many. From Roanoke Island and Manteo, there are sailing excursions that tour the area, plus sightseeing jaunts, guided kayak trips that paddle along the waterways, fishing tours, and even dolphin spotting cruises which seem never to disappoint!

For more information about Manteo and Roanoke Island Festival Park:

We hope you take the opportunity to explore Manteo, Roanoke Island Festival Park, and all the hidden treasures and beauty spots along the way. After all, our Outer Banks neighbors are part of what makes living here at Albemarle Plantation such an incredible experience.

Have you been to Roanoke Island Festival Park or Manteo?

We’d love to hear about it! Share your pix with us on social and help us share the beauty of the incredible coastal North Carolina region we call home.

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