Whether you’re a tourist planning an upcoming Outer Banks vacation and want to explore all the historical attractions the area has to offer or you’re a local looking to take break from everyday life on the beach and start exploring your own backyard, one spot you won’t want to miss is Roanoke Island Festival Park. From a representation of the 16th Century ship that brought English settlers across the Atlantic Ocean to the settlement site where some of America’s earliest settlers set up a permanent colony for England on U.S. soil in the 1500s, this historical Outer Banks attraction offers something for everyone in the family.
Sail Back in Time Aboard the Elizabeth II
If you’re searching for a unique way to take a step back in time on your next Outer Banks vacation, look no further than the shallow waters that surround downtown Manteo on Roanoke Island. Here, history buffs will find a replica of the Elizabeth II, a famed English merchant vessel that sailed the sea centuries ago, transporting colonists and supplies from England to the barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina during Sir Walter Raleigh’s voyages to the New World. Situated on the southwestern edge of Roanoke Island Festival Park, the 69-foot-long ship that is safely anchored in Shallowbag Bag annually attracts thousands of visitors who venture aboard the vessel and get a taste of what life was like for colonists who made the long and treacherous journey on the high seas during Sir Walter Raleigh’s 1585 expedition.
Costumed sailors in 16th Century attire invite tourists to help set the ship’s sails, swab the decks and explore the lines and rigging that make it possible for such a ship to set sail on the open water. Children and adults alike will have the opportunity to help raise the ship’s anchor, scope out a representation of the original vessel’s tiny living quarters and to search for surprises in a series of boxes and barrels stashed onboard the boat. The ship is also staffed with several interpretive guides who provide answers to visitor inquiries about the historic Outer Banks vessel, its passengers and crew, and the incredible voyage its namesake made across the sea more than 400 years ago.
Roanoke Island Settlement Site
The Outer Banks may best known for housing tens of thousands of temporary visitors to its beautiful beaches in the spring and summer months each year, but the barrier islands’ most famous residents were those who braved the long and arduous journey from England to Roanoke Island to start brand-new lives in the New World. To honor these early English settlers and educate Outer Banks vacationers about some of the first people to inhabit this stretch of sand in the center of the Roanoke Sound, Roanoke Island Festival Park boasts several unique attractions for adults and children of all ages to enjoy.
Throughout the Roanoke Island Settlement Site, you’ll encounter a series of costumed interpreters whose exhibits will enlighten guests and explain what life was like for North America’s earliest settlers. Stop by a blacksmith’s station to watch him create unique iron wares, or try your hand at traditional woodworking alongside an interpreter within another nearby exhibit. Kids—or adults who are kids at heart—can play games that were popular during Elizabethan times, try on costume armor that members of Roanoke Island’s military settlement would have worn in centuries past and attempt to perfect an English accent with the aid of the settlement site’s interpretive guides.
While the Outer Banks of North Carolina are best known for recreational activities ranging from surfing and standup paddleboarding to kayaking and kiteboarding, if you’re embarking on an Outer Banks vacation, make sure you don’t miss the wide array of unique historical attractions at Roanoke Island Festival Park that pay homage to some of the earliest individuals to call this pristine island paradise their home.