Header background

Discover the Island Farm on Roanoke Island

Discover the Island Farm on Roanoke Island

On the northern end of Roanoke Island lies a secluded spot few tourists vacationing on the barrier islands of the Outer Banks have ever been. Situated just west of U.S. Highway 64 in historic town of Manteo, the Island Farm is a unique destination for both visitors and locals, offering a slew of adventures and a wide array of activities for attendees of all ages. If you’re searching for a place to spend a day on your vacation well off the beaten path, a stop by this historic living site is well worth the trip.

When you first set foot on the grounds of the Island Farm, you’ll feel as though you’ve taken a trip back in time to 1847. The site sits on a slice of the Etheridge farmstead, a chunk of land where one of the area’s earliest settlers, a man named Adam Etheridge, built a house and established a farm with his family centuries ago. Today, the Island Farm comprises a period restoration of the house—including several 19th century furnishings, many of which were original to the property—as well as a dozen other buildings, such as a reconstructed slave cabin, smokehouse, cookhouse, dairy, corn crib, outhouse, woodshed and blacksmith shop.

Historical interpreters clad in period-specific attire can be found working inside and around the various buildings constructed on the Etheridge farmland, giving visitors a chance to witness what daily life would have been like on the Outer Banks in the middle of the 1800s. Throughout the year, interpreters perform a variety of tasks that bring Roanoke Island history to life. Here you can watch a blacksmith create his wares, help a farmer hoe a row of corn, assist the cook in making plates of corn cakes, or stroll along the fences of the pasture that houses animals ranging from a cow and an ox to several sheep and two banker ponies. Several free-range chickens also roam the grounds of this often-undiscovered island attraction.

If you’re not content to sit back and watch 19th century island life unfold before your eyes, you can take part in a wide array of hands-on activities and demonstrations. From woodworking, cooking and blacksmithing to garden planting, and harvesting, you won’t find a lack of things to do when you visit the Island Farm on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Once you’ve exhausted your list of daily “chores” on the farm, climb into an on-site wagon for an ox-drawn wagon ride around the premises, or embark on a self-guided tour of the farm and farmhouse.

The visitor center provides historical context via a series of educational exhibits on such topics as fishing, farming, boatbuilding, island culture, slavery and the locally famous Freedmen’s Colony. A family graveyard on the property allows visitors to pay respects at the final resting place of Adam Etheridge as well as many of his immediate family members and descendants. A large oak tree referred to as “Crissy Oak” marks the final resting spot of Crissy Bowser, a longtime resident and worker on the farm.

Whether you’re looking for a way to take a break from the beach during your Outer Banks vacation or you want to add a history lesson or two into your trip, you’ll find all that and more during your visit to the fun-filled Island Farm on Roanoke Island.  

*All photos courtesy of TheIslandFarm.com

 

 

History of the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse

Photo: Dan Waters Photography

The Outer Banks of North Carolina are home to several historic lighthouses that have aided mariners sailing along the treacherous coastline for centuries. While most visitors to the area are familiar with the well-known beacons, such as Buxton’s Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and the Bodie Island Lighthouse located in South Nags Head, far fewer vacationers have paid a visit to the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse in downtown Manteo.

Photo: Courtesy of Lighthouse Friends

Constructed in 1877, the original Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse was a screw-pile structure situated at the southern edge of the Croatan Sound, halfway between the village of Wanchese and the North Carolina mainland to the west. Like its counterparts that illuminate the coastline on the ocean side of the Outer Banks, the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse served as one of many such screw-pile structures throughout the sounds that separated the barrier islands from the mainland. The lighthouse emitted a beam of light that helped sailors to orient themselves as they ventured from the sea lanes of the Atlantic Ocean and through shallow channels in the sound on their way to inland ports along the eastern portion of the state.

Photo Courtesy of VisitNC.com

Outfitted with a Fresnel lens built in France that measured 2 feet 4 inches in height and weighed 200 pounds, the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse was operated by the U.S. Coast Guard until 1955, when it was deemed no longer necessary due to the advent of more modern navigational aids and subsequently decommissioned. The lighthouse was sold to a private owner, and an attempt was then made to relocate the structure to private property further inland, but it was damaged so severely in the process, the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse was ultimately destroyed and lost in the sound.

Photo: Stephanie Banfield

For decades, the lighthouse that once lit the waters of the Croatan Sound was all but forgotten—until 1999. At that time, the Town of Manteo was planning its centennial celebration, and residents came up with a plan to reconstruct a replica of the original Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse, this time in the Roanoke Sound. Designs for a full-scale exact replica of the 1877 structure were drawn and approved; however, a slew of issues ranging from lack of sufficient funding to the devastating effects of 2003’s Hurricane Isabel forced the project to come to a temporary halt. Nearly half a century after the original lighthouse in the Croatan Sound was decommissioned, the brand-new version of the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse was completed in September 2004.  

Photo: Pinterest

Today, the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse can be found at the southeast corner of downtown Manteo in the waters of Shallowbag Bay. A long, wooden boardwalk stretches from the Manteo waterfront into the sound, where the square-shaped, white structure with a red roof and black shutters stands guard over the shoreline. Visitors to this area of the Outer Banks can tour the inside of the replicated lighthouse to learn about the maritime history of Roanoke Island via an assortment of education programs and exhibits. After taking a self-guided tour of the structure, guests can sit back and relax on one of the benches or picnic tables that line the decking behind the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse to watch boats and paddleboarders passing by and to take in a picturesque view of Roanoke Island Festival Park, downtown Manteo and the neighboring coastal community of Pirate’s Cove.

 

Explore the Past at Roanoke Island Festival Park

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.

aerial
An aerial view of Roanoke Island Festival Park (Photo: RoanokeIsland.com)

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.

roanoke island elizabeth II
The Elizabeth II sets sail in the Roanoke Sound. (Photo: RoanokeIsland.com)

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.  

elizabeth II seaside
The Elizabeth II, anchored in Shallowbag Bay. (Photo: Seaside Vacations Outer Banks)

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.

roanoke island woodworking
Woodworking exhibit at Roanoke Island Festival Park (Photo: RoanokeIsland.com)

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.  

roanoke island blacksmith
Blacksmith exhibit at Roanoke Island Festival Park (Photo: RoanokeIsland.com)

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.

Footer background

Let Us Know

© 2017 The Coastal Cottage Company. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Web Design