10 Things You Can Do on Roanoke Island that You Can't Do Anywhere Else on the Outer Banks

By Molly Harrison | Wednesday, June 26, 2019

1. Mark the hours by the courthouse bell.
The former Dare County Courthouse is the majestic centerpiece of downtown Manteo. While the building is no longer the site of judicial business (it’s now the home of the Dare County Arts Council and its stunning multi-artist gallery), the belfry still serves its historic purpose of chiming bells to mark the hours of the day. 

2. Swing and slide by the water.
The Town of Manteo’s waterfront playground is a parent’s dream. While the kids get their ya-yas out, parents can rest on a bench and enjoy the breeze off Shallowbag Bay. 

3. Jump off a bridge.
Jumping off the Cora Mae Basnight Bridge, which connects the Manteo waterfront to Roanoke Island Festival Park, into Shallowbag Bay is a Roanoke Island rite of passage for kids and adults. 

4. Ride bikes along a shade-covered path.
Roanoke Island’s paved multi-use path is one of the best places to ride bikes on the Outer Banks. Full-growth trees provide a cool respite from the sun, and traffic is minimal. Bikes are available for rent at Manteo Cyclery.

5. Get that downtown vibe.
Manteo is the only Outer Banks town that has a real downtown. Park the car and walk to boutiques and galleries, dine in streetside cafes and maybe even do a little low-key brewery and bar hopping.

6. Climb aboard a 16th-century sailing ship.
As the location of the first unsuccessful English colony in the New World, Roanoke Island remembers its 16th-century history at Roanoke Island Festival Park, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site and The Lost Colony.

7. Join the crowd on a Friday night.
A monthly First Friday celebration makes Manteo a favorite destination. Shops stay open late, live music fills the air, restaurants offer special deals and art is everywhere. Come back downtown the next morning for the weekly Saturday Farmers Market.

8. Walk into a restaurant on a summer night and not wait for a table.
It’s a well-guarded Outer Banks secret: Manteo restaurants are every bit as wonderful as those in the beach communities, but they’re much less crowded. We can’t promise you won’t ever have to wait for a table, but if you do the wait won’t be long. 

9. Go on a movie date for less than $20.
At The Pioneer Theatre, said to be the oldest theater continuously run by the same family in America, tickets for a first-run movie are just $7, and the price is right on the popcorn too. Two people really can go for $20.

10. Remember what silence sounds like. 
Roanoke Island is one of the quietest places on the Outer Banks. When you choose to stay overnight in a bed and breakfast here, your pre-bedtime stroll will be filled with the songs of birds, frogs and cicadas – and little else (even that belfry bell is silent at night).


Outer Banks charm amidst island history
Scarborough Inn | (252) 473-3979 | 524 U.S. Highway 64 | scarboroughinnmanteo.com

Homemade breakfast every morning 
The Cameron House Inn | (800) 279-8178 | 300 Budleigh Street | cameronhouseinn.com

Breezy porches, Southern friendliness & Chantilly comforts
The Tranquil House Inn | (252) 473-1404 | 405 Queen Elizabeth Avenue | tranquilhouseinn.com


Elegantly eclectic treasures for you and your home
Nest | (252) 473-5141 | In Magnolia Market Square, across from Tranquil House Inn | nestobx.com


Creative fare, wine and water views
1587 Restaurant | (252) 473-1587 | 405 Queen Elizabeth Avenue | 1587.com

About the Author Molly Harrison
Molly Harrison is managing editor at OneBoat, publisher of OuterBanksThisWeek.com. She moved to Nags Head in 1994 and since then has made her living writing articles and creating publications about the people, places and culture of the Outer Banks. When not working she practices and teaches yoga and spends as much time as possible outside and in or on the water with her husband and two children.