The Cultural Hub of the Outer Banks

When my wife first talked us into spending the day in Manteo, I had some grave misgivings. You see, culture and me have never been a great mix. Also, the thought of a lost beach day did not thrill me. However, the shear beauty of the town as you crossed the bridge quickly dispelled any such concerns.

The sign welcoming you to Manteo

The town is the county seat of Dare County, having been so since 1870, and is located on Roanoke Island. Its "turn of the century homes", built in Victorian and Colonial style has drawn artists and art–lovers alike to this quaint little town. The people are so committed to maintaining this look and feel, that they published "The Manteo Way of Building: A Guide to Development", a 52 page guide meant to preserve the town's current allure. The town is dotted with many art stores and antique shops, so get ready to find the unique and different. I am not just talking about the art and antiques, as the people of this comfortable town are warm and friendly.

The Elizabeth II Kimmy to the crowsnest on the Elizabeth II

On this day, our first stop was at the Roanoke Island Festival Park, where you will find the Elizabeth II, a replica of a 16th century sailing ship. My youngest decided she needed to be hoisted up to the crow's nest ... a bit of a stomach twister for me. However, when they asked for volunteers, she happily stepped forward. There was also the Interactive Roanoke Adventure Museum where the kids (big and small) can dress up in period clothes.

Donning the period clothes Typical townspeople?

It is also home to the production of The Lost Colony, commemorating the first attempt by the English to land a settlement in the New World in the 1580’s. It is the oldest outdoor symphonic drama in the U.S. Shows run nightly at 8:00 from the end of May to the third week in August. Tickets run from $10 to $22. The Elizabethan Gardens, which is adjacent to the Lost Colony Waterside Theater, was built to honor those early settlers. If you appreciate horticulture, it is worth a trip to see the amazing displays.

© Shelley Chamberlin Photography
Boardwalk in Manteo
© Shelley Chamberlin Photography
From the Gazebo in Manteo

You will also find the North Carolina Aquarium just north of town. It is the largest aquarium in North Carolina with a 285,000 ocean tank complete with all kinds of fish, sea turtles and sharks. A 1/3 scale replica of the USS Monitor anchors the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” exhibit. In addition to this tank, there are several other tanks themed around both fresh water and coastal wetland habitats in the Outer Banks. It is located just outside of town three miles north off of Route 64 on Airport Road. The aquarium is open daily from 9:00 to 5:00 year round.

The Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse in Manteo

You may also want to pay a visit to the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse, which is part of the North Carolina Maritime Museum.

Manteo, from its unique architecture and eclectic bent to its many historical and educational attractions, is well worth the trip. For a walking tour of Manteo, click here.

Follow this link to find Manteo and Roanoke Island on the map.

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