Roanoke Island, North Carolina

Roanoke Island is an eight mile long and two mile wide island located between the US mainland and the Outer Banks.  It’s bordered by Roanoke Sound on the North and Albemarle Sound on the south.

Despite it’s relatively small size, there’s a lot of history packed into the 16 square miles as well as a lot of things to see and do – even if it’s not peak vacation time.


Fort Raleigh Earthworks

Fort Raleigh is the location of the “Lost Colony”.  A reconstructed earthen fort roughly markes the site of the first English settlement in the new world.  About 50 yards from the reconstructed fort is a historical marker showing the site of the first English baby born on North American soil – Virginia Dare.

Waterside Theater
Every summer night, the play, “The Lost Colony” is performed at

Waterside Theatre

The Waterside Theatre.  The theatre, located at the eastern end of the original settlement,   Seating right at 400 people, ticket prices range from $18 to $24 depending on what seating you want.

Elizabethan Gardens
Families, flower and nature lovers, history buffs as well as culture seekers …there’s a little bit of everything for just about everyone at Elizabethan Gardens  As their website says, it’s “an oasis of green in a land of sea and sun.  Where the Old World and New World Grow together”.  Tickets are $8 each and although it’s accessible only by going through the National Parks Service Ft Raleigh, they do not honor the Park Access pass for free admission.

North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island
Continuing the drive south on Roanoke Island, you find the Aquarium.  It’s claim to fame is that it is the largest “ocean tank” (i.e., saltwater) tank in North Carolina.  Holding 300,000 gallons of salt water, it also contains a “petting area” where stingrays, crabs and other aquatic life can be petted.  If you visit, make sure you don’t do it on a rainy day trying to find something to do.  Everyone else visiting the island is thinking the same thing and the lines are ultra long.

Freedmen’s Colony
The biggest surprise on Roanoke Island is the site of the “Freedmen’s Colony” on the northern and western shores of Manteo.  Freedmen’s Colony was a refuge of sorts for escaped slaves and the reverse side of the marker commemorating the settlement reads:

“1862–1867. A year after the Civil War began, Roanoke Island fell to Union Forces. Word spread throughout North Carolina that slaves could find “safe haven” on the Island. By the end of 1862, over a thousand runaway slaves, freed men, women and children found sanctuary here. This colony, precursor to the Freedmen’s Bureau, was to serve as a model for other colonies throughout the South. Once again this small island, site of the first English attempt at permanent settlement in the New World, became a land of historic beginnings.”

Jerry Nelson is a freelance photojournalist living in Asheville, North Carolina. He has traveled the world documenting the tears, joys, laughter and lives of people everywhere. He currently focuses his attention and his camera on people, places and things in the United States. A portion of the proceeds from each photo shoot is donated to organizations that help the homeless in the communities in which he works. You can see more of his photography by clicking here.

3 thoughts on “Roanoke Island, North Carolina

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  3. Pingback: Travel: Manteo, NC | Great American Things

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