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17+ Great Things to Do in Manteo NC

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Manteo is located on Roanoke Island, a small, eight-mile island in Dare County bordering the Outer Banks in North Carolina. Manteo makes for a beautiful summer vacation, and it is one of the most fascinating historical towns in the Outer Banks.

You may have heard of the “Lost Colony of Roanoke” tale, a significant chapter in America’s early history. In 1587, more than 100 pioneering English settlers arrived, seeking a fresh start on the island. However, after three years, supply ships arrived to discover the colony deserted and abandoned, leaving an enduring mystery.

Today, Roanoke Island thrives as a vibrant community that honors its storied past through museums, immersive dramas, and more. While it may no longer be deserted, the island hasn’t lost its allure.

Visitors can relish a plethora of outdoor activities, savoring delectable cuisine at fabulous restaurants and immersing themselves in thrilling events. From history enthusiasts to adventure seekers, Manteo offers a little something for everyone, ensuring an unforgettable experience in this unique city. Now let’s dive into the things to do in Manteo NC.

Where To Stay in Manteo NC

📍Island Motel OBX – This beachy-themed motel is the perfect, inexpensive way to spend your vacation. The motel sits just minutes away from popular attractions like Waterfront Park, Roanoke Island Marshes, and beachfront access. The rooms are clean and comfortable and even offer apartment-style kitchenettes for longer stays. With a beautiful outdoor patio and a great location, the whole family will love this motel. 

📍Waterfront 3 Bedroom – Top-floor with elevator access. Enjoy breathtaking views of the waterfront sound, Historic Manteo, and Jockeys Ridge from the rear deck. The front deck offers a covered porch with marina views. Experience fantastic views, cool breezes, and stunning sunrises and sunsets for a memorable stay.

Things to do in Manteo NC

Headed down to the Outer Banks for your summer vacation? Manteo is the perfect place to kick back, relax, and enjoy some of the beautiful things the Outer Banks has to offer. Here is a complete guide to all the best things to enjoy while visiting Manteo. 

1. Explore Downtown Manteo

Downtown Manteo is a quaint, beachy downtown strip with lovely restaurants and over 30 shops to explore. Here are some of our favorite stops in downtown Manteo and things to do in Manteo. 

✅ Downtown Books

Downtown Books is an independently owned bookshop just one block from the waterfront. They have wall-to-wall shelves full of books and any genre you can think of. They are also strong supporters of the Dare County Schools and contribute as much as they can to the young readers of today. 

Downtown Books

✅ NouVines

NouVines is an exciting wine bar that carries small-batch wines from around the world. Guests are welcome to try new wines, enjoy special food pairings, join in trivia night, see live music, and simply enjoy good company with delicious glasses. 


✅ Manteo Historic Walking Tour

Manteo’s beloved retired Chief of Police takes visitors on beautiful candlelit walking tours of historic Manteo. There are over 400 years’ worth of fascinating stories, ghost stories, and interesting facts that Francis D’Ambra knows by heart, and if you’re lucky, he’ll even share some of his own thrilling tales.

Tours run from April-October and start at 7 pm, generally going for about an hour and a half. If you’ve ever been interested in Manteo history or want to know more, this is the perfect way to dive in. 

Manteo Walking Tour

✅ Olde Town Creamery

Olde Town Creamery is an old-fashioned-style soda shop that serves ice cream, hot dogs, pizzas, and more. They have a lovely outdoor patio and are a great place for a sweet treat and a quick bite. 

✅ Manteo Farmers Market

Manteo Farmers Market is a seasonal event that takes place every Saturday at George Washington Creef Park. There is fresh produce, baked goods, crafts, vendors, and music. 

✅ The Gourmet Olive

The Gourmet Olive is a unique store with gourmet oils, vinegar, jams, locally made spices, and spreads. Anyone is welcome to come in and try samples and purchase unique items they may not find anywhere else. 

The Gourmet Olive

✅ Laughing Lollipop

The Laughing Lollipop is the sweetest store in Manteo! This little mom-and-pop candy store has all your favorite nostalgic candies and everything else you can think of, including ice cream, homemade cotton candy, and sweet gifts. 

Laughing Lollipop

✅ Charis Coffee Company

Charis Coffee is a locally roasted coffee company with the freshest ground beans and delicious coffee drinks. Each month a portion of their profits go to an organization to make the world a better place. 

Charis Coffee Company

✅ Outer Banks Distilling

Outer Banks Distilling is the first legal distillery in the Outer Banks. They specialize in small-batch rums that have a beachy, nautical flare and are unlike anything you’ll ever try. Tours are available of the facility, where you can also purchase your very own bottle of their award-winning rum. 

2. North Carolina Aquarium

Address: 374 Airport Rd, Manteo, NC 27954

The North Carolina Aquarium is the best and most popular aquarium in North Carolina. The large facility houses thousands of species of ocean life, including sharks, turtles, jellyfish, sea otters, reptiles, amphibians, and so much more.

The aquarium also holds several exciting indoor/outdoor educational programs for kids to get involved with animals and science. These programs include things like fishing, kayaking, behind-the-scenes tours, aquarium tours, and live feeding shows. 

You don’t want to miss out on the North Carolina Aquarium on your trip to Manteo, NC! Everyone of all ages will have a blast, and a must-add to your things to do in Manteo, NC.

Aquarium entrance

3. Elizabethan Gardens

Address: 1411 National Park Dr, Manteo, NC 27954

The Elizabeth Gardens is a historical site and replica of the gardens made for Queen Elizabeth the First. These botanical gardens feature seasonal blooms of plants, shrubs, and flowers and bring an array of wildlife.

As visitors tour the gardens, they’ll find several themed gardens, such as the sunken garden, a butterfly garden, a woodland garden, a rose garden, and more. After your walk, you must visit the Royal Exchange Gift Shoppe for plant sales and to find beautiful trinkets, souvenirs, garden decor, and art. 

Entrance to Elizabethan Gardens

4. Fort Raleigh National Historic Site/ The Lost Colony 

Address: 1401 National Park Dr, Manteo, NC 27954

Fort Raleigh National Historic Site preserves the land on which Sir Walter Raleigh’s attempted colony started their settlement. The site also protects the cultural significance of the Native Americans and African Americans who also lived on Roanoke Island. The park has plaques, artifacts, walking trails, and educational programs. 

Visitors Center at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site

Fort Raleigh National Historic Site is also the location for The Lost Colony, a symphonic drama production of the event of the first settlers on Roanoke Island. This drama takes place in a large outdoor theater called the Waterside Theatre and has been running since 1937, making it the longest-running outdoor symphonic drama in history. 

Sign for Fort Raleigh National Historic Site

5. Roanoke Island Festival Park

Address: 1 Festival Park, Manteo, NC 27954

If you ever wondered what life was truly like for the first settlers in 1585, then you must visit Roanoke Island Festival Park. This 27-acre park is where history comes to life, and visitors are able to experience history firsthand.

The park features a replica of the “Elizabeth II” ship, history lessons at American Indian Town, and hands-on activities at the Adventure Museum. There are also live demonstrations, shows, exhibits, stores, and more. 

Roanoke Island Festival Park is also the place in town for festivals, concerts, and live shows that are held at the main stage. If you are looking to catch an event, this is where you’ll want to be! 

Roanoke Island Festival Park

6. Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse

Address: 104 Fernando St, Manteo, NC 27954

Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse is one of the five lighthouses that are located on the Outer Banks. Visitors are welcome to explore the house on the bottom that holds a small maritime museum with artifacts and exhibits.

Climbing the actual lighthouse is prohibited for safety reasons. We have more information on this lighthouse and the other lighthouses in the Outer Banks in another article, 5 Great Lighthouses in the Outer Banks

The Island Marshes Roanoke Lighthouse

7. Island Farm

Address: 1140 US-64, Manteo, NC 27954

The Roanoke Island Farm is a living, historical farm that shares what life was like on Roanoke Island in the 1850s. The farm has fun live demonstrations like blacksmithing, feeding animals, traditional agriculture, and other farm jobs.

You will also be able to join in a number of hands-on activities. This is a lovely experience for people of all ages to learn more about Roanoke Island’s history, and you can’t leave without trying some of their delicious homemade apple butter! 

8. Jumpmasters Trampoline Park

Address: 728 US-64, Manteo, NC 27954

Jumpmasters Trampoline Park is one of the newest attractions in Manteo. The large indoor park has all kinds of activities like trampolines, ninja warrior courses, dodgeball, climbing walls, axe throwing, and more. The whole family can enjoy Jumpmasters, even the little ones who can participate in toddler time every Wednesday from 10 am-12 pm. 

Things to do in Manteo NC include Jumpmasters Trampoline Park

9. Coastal North Carolina Refuges Gateway Visitors Center

Address: 100 Conservation Way, Manteo, NC 27954

The Coastal Refuges Gateway is over 152,000 acres of nationally preserved wetland habitats. Hundreds of species, including black bears, alligators, bird species, and fish, make this area their home.

The Gateway Visitors Center acts as a hub for the other nine refuges in Coastal North Carolina. Trained staff volunteers are very knowledgeable and can answer any questions and direct you to the places you’d like to explore. Inside the visitors center, you’ll also find interactive exhibits, 37 critters, including a red wolf den, photographs, and more. 

10. Manteo Waterfront Park

Address: 207 Queen Elizabeth Ave #14, Manteo, NC 27954

Just a short walk from Manteo’s Waterfront Marina is the exciting Waterfront Park, which has a playground, picnic tables, benches, and access to the boardwalk. The park is the perfect place to enjoy lunch by the sea or to set up a picnic on the lawn. There is also a gazebo that makes a great spot for pictures.

Waterfront Park

11. The Mother Vine

Address: 263 Mother Vineyard Rd, Manteo, NC 27954

The Mother Vine is a beautiful 400-year-old grapevine, estimated to be the oldest grapevine in America. The vine is currently on private property, but anyone is welcome to come to see the vine and marvel at the intricate root system. Grapes still grow on the vine, and the owner often makes jelly to share with family and friends. 

12. Roanoke Island Maritime Museum

Address: 104 Fernando St, Manteo, NC 27954

Roanoke Island Maritime Museum is located inside the George Washington Creef Boathouse along the downtown waterfront. The Boathouse is a working boat shop where volunteers take on projects, build designs, and work on boats. The famous Elizabeth II (at Roanoke Island Festival Park) was built here. 

Visitors are welcome to explore the grounds and see exhibits inside the boathouse. Everyone working is happy to answer questions, talk to guests, and share their knowledge. 

Martime Museum

13. OBX Axe Throwing

Address: 728 US-62, Manteo, NC 27954

OBX Axe Throwing is the first axe-throwing venue in the Outer Banks. Axe throwing is a fun, interactive activity that has become extremely popular in the past few years. It is a great way to celebrate an occasion or get out and do something different. OBX Axe Throwing also has a small concession with drinks, and there are usually food trucks parked outside. 

14. Dare County Regional Airport Museum

Address: 410 Airport Rd, Manteo, NC 27954

The Dare County Regional Airport Museum is located at the Dare County public airport and can be found in the old operations room from the WW2 era. The museum has artifacts, documents, photographs, and uniforms from World War 2 and more local historical information. 

✅ OBX Helicopter Tours

From the Dare County Regional Airport, visitors can take an exciting helicopter tour to see OBX attractions from the air. It is the best way to experience all of the Outer Banks, free from crowds and with a friendly, knowledgeable guide. 

✅ OBX Airplanes

An air touring service where guests can take a ride in a red, open-cockpit biplane. They also offer flight training and banner towing. What a thrilling thing to add to your things to do in Manteo.

OBX Airport

15. George Washington Creef Memorial Park

Address: 104 Fernando St, Manteo, NC 27954

The George Washington Creef Memorial Park is a small waterfront park located in front of Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse. George Washington Creef was a Roanoke Island native and famous boat builder. The park is a lovely place to stretch your legs and enjoy a picnic while looking out onto the ocean. 

George Washington Creef Park

16. Dare County Arts 

Address: 300 Queen Elizabeth Ave, Manteo, NC 27954

Dare County Arts is a nonprofit arts organization that shares the artwork of local artists. The gallery is open to the public and has a variety of art, including paintings, fiber arts, metalwork, pottery, mixed media, photography, and more. 

Arts Council

17. Collins Park

Address: 622 Sir Walter Raleigh Street, Manteo, NC 27954

A small town park featuring the Herbert M. Collins Boathouse Museum. Herbert M. Collins was the last keeper of the Pea Island Life Saving Station, America’s only all-African-American U.S. Coast Guard Station. 

Collins Park

Drinks and Restaurants in Manteo NC

There are so many great options; we cannot list them all. Here are some great choices to check out while exploring things to do in Manteo, NC.

✅ Lost Colony Tavern

Address: 208 Queen Elizabeth Ave, Manteo, NC 27954

Located in the heart of Manteo is this bustling local tavern and restaurant. Named after the Lost Colony, the tavern brings old-world flavors like British-style beers and many ingredients imported from the United Kingdom and Ireland. 

Lost Colony Tavern

✅ Poor Richard’s Sandwich Shop

Address: 305 Queen Elizabeth Ave, Manteo, NC 27954

Poor Richard’s Sandwich Shop has been a staple of Roanoke Island since 1984. Their delicious sandwiches are made using imported Boars Head meats and cheeses, and they have a large menu with all your sandwich favorites, like Reubens, Italian subs, cold wraps, and more. 

Poor Richards Sandwich Shop

✅ Hungry Pelican Deli 

Address: 205 Budleigh St, Manteo, NC 27954

The Hungry Pelican Deli has been serving delicious foods for over 30 years in Manteo. They have a large menu with soups, salads, hot and cold sandwiches, daily specials, and delicious homemade desserts. 

Hungry Pelican

✅ Ortega’z Southwestern Grill & Wine Bar

Address: 201 Sir Walter Raleigh St, Manteo, NC 27954

Ortega’z brings a flare of southwestern-style food and drinks to the coast of North Carolina. They have a delightful menu of authentic Mexican foods, a large wine selection, and handcrafted cocktails. 

Ortega'z restaurant

✅ Blue Water Grill & Raw Bar

Address: 2000 Sailfish Dr, Manteo, NC 27954

Blue Water Grill & Raw Bar is a very popular seafood restaurant with views overlooking Pirate’s Cove Marina. It is a casual restaurant with five-star food and live music during the summer. Reservations are highly recommended. 

✅ Darrell’s Restaurant

Address: 521 US-64 #264, Manteo, NC 27954

Since 1960, Darrell’s Restaurant has been serving those who come to Roanoke delicious breakfast and some of the best-fried oysters in town. Guests can enjoy generous portions of homestyle meals and desserts in their casual, comfortable eatery. 

✅ Olives A Greek Kitchen

Address: Waterfront Shoppes, 207 Queen Elizabeth Ave 1st Floor, Manteo, NC 27954

Olives is a lovely little restaurant located in the waterfront shops area of Manteo. They serve authentic Greek food from family recipes, and food can be enjoyed on their lovely outdoor patio. 

✅ Stripers Bar & Grill

Address: 1100A S Bay Club Dr, Manteo, NC 27954

Stripers is a must-visit on any trip to Roanoke Island. This three-floor, award-winning restaurant serves the freshest locally caught seafood, housemade desserts, and more. The first floor is the outside dining area with live music, the second floor is more of a family-style dining experience, and the third floor could be considered the romantic part of the restaurant with jaw-dropping views and another outside deck. 

Things to do near Manteo NC

✅ Alligator River Wildlife Refuge

Address: Miltail Rd, East Lake, NC 27953

The Alligator River Wildlife Refuge is located on the Albemarle Peninsula, just under an hour from Roanoke Island. The refuge was created to protect the rare wetlands that grow in the area, as well as support the black bears, alligators, river otters, and other wildlife that make this area their home. This is a great area to kayak or paddle around, and fishing and hunting are allowed with restrictions and permits.  

Annual Events in Manteo NC

Here are some of the most exciting communal events happening this year on Roanoke Island. 

✅ Dare Day Festival (June 3, 2023)

Address: 407 Budleigh Street, Manteo, NC 27954 (downtown Manteo)

A fun, family event that kicks off the summer season each year. There will be a variety of vendors, including crafts, food, art, games, music, kid-friendly games and activities, obstacle courses, and more. This is a family event you don’t want to miss!

✅ Outer Banks Bluegrass Festival (October 19-21, 2023)

Address: Roanoke Island Festival Park

The Outer Banks Bluegrass Festival is one of the most popular events of the year! Musicians and music lovers from all over come together to celebrate bluegrass, good food, and fun. Big names like Sam Bush, Leftover Salmon, and the Kitchen Dwellers are just some of the amazing musicians joining in the excitement. 

✅ Dirty Heads – Island Glow Tour (August 6, 2023) 

Address: Roanoke Island Festival Park

The Dirty Heads have been coming to the Outer Banks for the past three years. This year they are putting on a spectacular music show with Lupe Fiasco, Bikini Trill, and more. 

✅ July 4th Celebration Music & Fireworks

Address: 407 Budleigh St, Manteo, NC 27954 (downtown Manteo)

The Fourth of July is possibly the biggest beach celebration in the Outer Banks. All across the coastline, there are exciting events, games, food, and spectacular fireworks shows. The town of Manteo holds one of the most popular Fourth of July celebrations in the area that goes on all day and ends with stunning fireworks. 

The streets of downtown Manteo will be lined with vendors, kids’ games, face painting, food trucks, music, parades, and more. Then head over to Roanoke Island Festival Park for a concert and a good place to watch the fireworks. The Manteo Waterfront Park is another great place to set up to see the fireworks show. 

✅ OBX Pridefest (September 8-10, 2023) 

Address: Roanoke Island Festival Park

OBX Pride is the biggest pride celebration on the North Carolina coast. For two days in September, anyone is welcome to come to celebrate life, love, and community!  There will be drag shows, bands, live performers, food trucks, drinks, games, and more in this safe, friendly environment. 

Each day holds different activities like drag brunch, sunset booze cruises, and DJ dance parties. The main event, on Saturday, is free and family-friendly. 

✅ The Lost Colony Wine & Culinary Festival (April 15, 2023)

Address: Fort Raleigh Historic Site

As we mentioned above, Roanoke Island is home to the oldest grapevine in America, and this is an entire day to celebrate that and the wine grown in North Carolina. The Grand Tasting is the main event that takes place at the Waterside Theatre. Regional chefs will provide decadent meals to pair with the wine, and there will be live performances, music, a silent auction, and more. 

Manteo NC: FAQs

📌 What is Manteo NC known for?

Manteo, NC, holds significant historical significance as the site of the mysterious Roanoke Colony, where in 1587, over 100 English settlers arrived on Roanoke Island to establish a new settlement. 

Yet, after three years, supply ships arrived to discover the colony deserted and abandoned, leaving behind an enduring enigma. Today, Manteo stands as a testament to this captivating tale, attracting visitors with its scenic beauty and vibrant arts scene.

📌 Is Manteo considered Outer Banks?

Yes, Manteo is located on Roanoke Island, which is part of the Outer Banks. 

📌 Does Manteo have a beach?

Roanoke Island has a beautiful coastline, although it isn’t technically an ocean coastline or ocean beach. Since Roanoke is separated by sound, there are only sound beaches, meaning no crashing ocean waves, as you would see at most ocean beaches. 

📌 Does Manteo have a boardwalk?

Downtown, you will find a small boardwalk along the dock area.  Easy to access and beautiful to explore.

Outer Banks Locations Nearby

Distance from Nags Head NC: 9 miles
Distance from Kitty Hawk NC: 20 miles
Distance from Duck NC: 26 miles
Distance from Corolla NC: 42 miles
Distance from Ocracoke Island NC: 88 miles

Final Thoughts

You simply can’t visit the Outer Banks without making a stop in Manteo. So much of the Outer Banks’ history, flair, and excitement takes place on the small but special island, and no one should miss out on it! Whether you are looking for fun events, live music, delicious restaurants, ocean tours, or anything else your heart desires, all of that can be achieved in Manteo, NC. 

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