It’s less than two miles square, with a year-round population right around 1,600. Yet the tiny town of Manteo is packed with fun and fascinating sights for the entire family.
Named for Manteo, a Croatan Native chief who befriended the early British settlers, this Roanoke Island village is steeped in Elizabethan lore. In fact, it’s the actual site of the legendary Lost Colony, the 1585 British settlement that disappeared without a trace, except for the word “Croatan” carved into the bark of a tree.
If you and your kids are history buffs, you’ll be in heaven. But history’s just the beginning. Manteo offers something for everyone, including its:
- Picturesque waterfront
- Unique cottage lighthouse
- Charming shops
- Bayside bistros
- Gorgeous gardens
- Interactive aquarium
- 19th-century working farm
Not to mention its most famous attraction, the spectacular Lost Colony play, the longest-running outdoor drama in America.
Spend a day in this quaint coastal community to discover its countless opportunities for family-friendly enjoyment.
Start with a Scrumptious Breakfast
You’ll need plenty of energy to tackle the day’s adventures. So, head down to Manteo’s Waterfront Boardwalk for some hearty Outer Banks fare.
- Seeking traditional country-style cooking – eggs, biscuits, and all the trimmings? Try T.L.’s Family Restaurant at 812 US Highway 64.
- Prefer the classic coffee-house experience? Check out Front Porch Café at 300 US Highway 64 South, where you can wash down your muffin, croissant, or bagel with freshly roasted artisanal coffees.
Either way, you’ll enjoy a delicious meal. And you’ll feel ready for just about anything.
Let the Fun Begin!
After breakfast, why not tour an attraction right there at the downtown waterfront?
If you’ve got pint-size pirates in tow, head to Roanoke Island Festival Park, where you can board the Elizabeth II, an exact, realistic replica of one of the British ships that reached Roanoke in 1585. This jaunty ship is docked right off the park in the waters of Shallowbag Bay. And she’s open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. throughout the entire season.
You and your family will experience firsthand what it was like to sail the Atlantic on a 16th-century vessel. With guidance from costumed sailors, you’ll get to set the sails, swab the decks, raise the anchor, steer the ship, fire the sling gun, search for treasure, play period games, and more. Kids love it so much they often beg to stay all day!
Once you’ve finished exploring the Elizabeth II, be sure to check out the park’s other interactive attractions:
- Settlement Site, where you’ll see for yourself how 16th-century settlers lived
- American Indian Town, complete with life-size replicas of early Algonquian longhouses
- Adventure Museum, where you’ll discover 400 years of colorful Outer Banks history. Your little ones will have a blast dressing up in 16th-century costumes!
The entire park experience costs just $11 per adult and $8 for kids ages 3 to 17. (Tots 2 and under are admitted free.)
Ready for a Bite of Lunch?
By now, your kids’ tummies may be growling (and yours as well). Why not drop into Poor Richard’s Sandwich Shop, located right on the waterfront at 305 Queen Elizabeth Street? Designed to resemble a ship’s cabin, this cozy, comfortable eatery serves delicious deli-style sandwiches, including gluten-free options. When the weather’s fine, you can sit on the open back porch, where you’ll enjoy panoramic views of docked boats and shimmering waves.
Now It’s Time for an Afternoon Adventure
No Manteo day trip is complete without a visit to Elizabethan Gardens at 1411 National Park Drive, inside Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. These lushly landscaped gardens blossom all year ‘round with wave after wave of bright flowers and blooming shrubs. Designed to mimic 16th-century formal gardens, they delight the eyes and soothe the senses at every scenic turn.
Stroll along paved, winding walkways to take in the colorful spectacle. Relax on stone and marble benches to savor the sights and sounds. And scope out the Old World statues – including one majestic statue of Good Queen Bess herself. Don’t forget to take plenty of pictures!
Up for another outing? Check out Island Farm (1140 US Highway 64), an interactive “living history” site showcasing the life of an 1850s farm family. Or visit the North Carolina Aquarium at 374 Airport Road for an enthralling close encounter with exotic creatures of the deep.
Grab Some Supper Before the Play Begins!
If you have time, you’ll want to linger in Manteo long enough to see The Lost Colony play. (Make sure to order your tickets online well ahead of time!)
But first, enjoy a delectable dinner at Darrell’s Seafood Restaurant at 521 Highway 64. A local favorite, this family-owned eatery serves up healthy helpings of fresh fried or broiled oysters, scallops, shrimp, crabmeat, and other tasty seafood, along with savory BBQ, juicy steaks, and tender chicken. There’s an ample children’s menu, too.
Then Head to Manteo’s Waterside Theatre
This year, the Lost Colony “symphonic outdoor drama” runs every night from June 2 to August 26. Gates open at 7:30. And, at 8:30 p.m. sharp, the show begins – a Tony Award-winning extravaganza performed on an outdoor stage three times as large as most Broadway stages.
Relax in plush cushioned seats under the stars while costumed professional actors re-enact the Lost Colony’s riveting story. Thrill to eye-popping pageantry, moving drama, intriguing mystery, and exciting music and dance. It’s an unforgettable experience.
Now Head Back to Your Outer Banks Rental
You’ve had a full day, packed with activities. Thankfully your comfy Outer Banks rental awaits you just minutes away. Relax before bedtime. Maybe soak in the hot tub. Sweet dreams are virtually guaranteed!