So Much to Love About Manteo

By Molly Harrison | Tuesday, June 13, 2023

The little town of Manteo, which became an NC Main Street town in July 2023, is having its moment. What used to be mainly a quaint waterfront daytrip destination for shopping, dining and attractions is feeling surprisingly cosmopolitan and becoming an increasingly popular place to stay now that it’s home to nighttime offerings like a rum distillery cocktail bar, two wine bars, two pubs, an updated theater, a summer live music festival and the Outer Banks’ first official social district. It’s all coming together to make Manteo a mecca for merriment.

What makes this town attractive as a destination is its easy walkability. You can park the car and get around on foot to just about everything. Just wandering away from your car will turn up all sorts of finds. You can browse in the local shops, including an independent bookstore, art galleries, a ceramics studio, clothing boutiques, souvenir stores, gifts shops and more. The historic courthouse building at the center of town is home to Dare Arts and houses a huge collection of local art on display along with workshops and events. If you’re hungry, stop in one of the restaurants or the coffee shop or pick up snacks and picnic items in markets and sweets shops.

There’s more to Manteo than shopping and dining. You can visit Roanoke Island Maritime Museum and Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse, explore the town docks and boardwalk, let the kids play on the waterfront playground and walk across the bridge to the museum and reproduction 16th-century sailing vessel at Roanoke Island Festival Park. You can book the dolphin tours and sailing tours that leave from Downtown Manteo or fish from the town docks. If you’re craving more activity, the attractions of Roanoke Island’s north end – Island Farm, North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, The Lost Colony and the Wildlife Refuges Visitor Center – are less than a five-minute drive or a short bike ride away. Bike rentals are available in town.

In the early evening, Manteo turns on its own brand of nightlife charm. For cocktails, you can visit the bar at the distillery, sip wine at one of two wine bars or enjoy beers at the pubs, before or after dinner. Now that Downtown Manteo is an official social district, you can take your beverages to-go and sit on the waterfront and watch the sunset. The local establishments often offer live music, comedy or trivia nights, and the recently renovated Pioneer Theater, which dates back to 1918, offers movies and occasional live music and comedy events. By 10 or 11 p.m. everyone heads home, and the downtown streets are quiet.

Manteo has a tradition of spectacular events. Every first Friday of the month from April through December the town comes alive with live music, food, events and fun for First Friday. On Saturday mornings from mid-May through mid-September, there’s the waterfront Downtown Market, with fresh produce, baked goods, prepared foods and art and craft vendors. During June, July and August, Vusic OBX music festival brings big-name touring bands to Roanoke Island Festival Park, just across the water from downtown. In October, it’s the Bluegrass Island Festival, now in its 12th year. These events fill up the restaurants, bars, hotels and parking spaces, bringing vibrancy to the town.

Other events Downtown Manteo is known for include a huge Fourth of July Festival with fireworks and live music, a fabulous small-town Christmas tree lighting, parade and home tour, a New Year’s Eve bash with fireworks and the long-running Dare Days community celebration the first weekend in June.

As more people discover the charm of Manteo, it’s become a vacation destination in itself. There are numerous small inns, bed and breakfasts, old-school motels, renovated hotels and vacation rentals beckoning you. Walking to your accommodations after a night on the town and waking up in the sleepy town before all the visitors arrive for the day might just be the best way to experience Manteo. No matter when you visit, there’s no doubt that you’ll be charmed by this small town and impressed by its increasingly cultivated offerings.

Something or Other Treats & More

107 Budleigh Street
(252) 489-0087

Everything you need to stock up for charcuterie or pack the picnic basket – meats, cheeses, pickles, crackers, hummus, nuts, Mackeys Ferry Peanuts fudge and tasty sweets. Head upstairs for t-shirts, candles and more from local artists.


Magnolia Market on Magnolia Lane
(252) 473-5141 •

Elevate your nest and your wardrobe with goods for fine living. Visit our downtown Manteo shop for high-quality, beautiful pieces that stand the test of time, from clothing, accessories and jewelry to soaps, fragrances, tabletop accessories and home decor. You won’t find goods like these anywhere else on the Outer Banks.

Roanoke Island Market

207 Queen Elizabeth Avenue 
(252) 473-1914

This is the place for fresh, healthy food in downtown Manteo. Come for coffee, juice, smoothies, loaded toasts, salads, paninis, acai bowls and fresh-baked goods and breads. Enjoy seating on the patio or indoor seating with a water view. Be sure to check out our pop-up shops: pet goods at Poodles and Bob and fresh-baked treats at Necy’s Baby Cakes.

Bloom Boutique

110 Sir Walter Raleigh Street
(252) 305-8638 •

Bloom is a must-stop while you’re out browsing in Manteo, but it’s also a worthy destination when you’re seeking high-quality, stylish additions to your wardrobe. We offer women’s clothing for a wide age span, jewelry, accessories and gift items as well. You can access our shop from either Sir Walter Raleigh Street or Fernando Street. 


Bluegrass Island Music Festival

October 19 - 21, 2023
(252) 423-3039 • 107 Budleigh Street Unit D

Mountain music by the sea! Music lovers from all over the world descend on Manteo every October for the Bluegrass Island Music Festival. Now in its 11th year, our festival draws internationally famous bands and top-notch regional acts. In 2023 the line-up includes Sam Bush, The Dan Tyminski Band, Leftover Salmon, Rhonda Vincent, The Steeldrivers, AJ Lee & Blue Summit, The Kitchen Dwellers and many more. It all happens in the stunning 22-acre Roanoke Island Festival Park overlooking Roanoke Sound. Extras include late-night jams and a 2-Hour Cruise with Rhonda Vincent. Purchase tickets and set up your Manteo lodging well in advance – this one fills up fast!


Smokin' Grass Bluegrass & BBQ Festival

July 8, 2023 
(252) 423-3039 • 107 Budleigh Street Unit D •

With six bands including headliner The Kitchen Dwellers and five BBQ pitmasters, all at Roanoke Island Festival Park, you don’t want to miss this summertime sister festival for Bluegrass Island!


105 Budleigh Street
(252) 339-1634 •

Discover new wines and make new friends at Manteo’s original wine bar. Our spacious, brick-walled bar is the place to see and be seen in Downtown Manteo. Choose from more than 160 bottled selections, 60+ wines by the glass and select craft beers. Enjoy wine flights, charcuterie, cheese boards and a fabulous assortment of locally made Sinfully Delicious truffles, chocolates and jams. We have weekly Trivia Nights on Thursdays, live music on Friday and Saturday nights and occasional wine dinners. Sip your selections indoors at sofas, tables or barstools. Sit out on the patio and watch the activity of Downtown Manteo. Or with the town’s new social district designation, you can now take a beverage to go (and we are within walking distance of Roanoke Island Festival Park and all its live music events). We’re open Monday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Trivia Nights: Thursdays 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Live Music every Friday and Saturday: 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Ask about our Chef's Table Wine Dinners

His Shells by Brenda

101 Budleigh Street
(252) 473-4000

Take home a memory of the Outer Banks! You’ll love our elegant and distinctive nautical and sea-inspired gifts, locally made sea glass jewelry, ornaments, loose shells, handmade Love Knots and colorful, breezy summer dresses.

Ortega'z Southwestern Grill and Wine Bar

201 Sir Walter Raleigh Street
(252) 473-5911

Experience Southwestern and South of the Border fare with an Outer Banks twist. Sit inside or on our covered streetside patio to enjoy handcrafted cocktails, beer and wine, fish tacos, build-your-own fajitas, ribs, steaks, salads, homemade desserts and more.

Downtown Books

103 Sir Walter Raleigh Street
(252) 473-1056

Local authors, Outer Banks titles, greeting cards, bestsellers, new releases and author events – we’re a very independent bookstore serving the entire Outer Banks and voted Best of the Beach four years running! 

Sisters of Manteo

207 Queen Elizabeth Avenue
(252) 305-8582 •

Linger awhile in our Manteo waterfront boutique. Try on the dresses, model the jewelry and hug the throw pillows until you’ve found the fine clothing and distinctive home decor that’s just right for you.

The Pioneer Theater

109 Budleigh Street
(252) 305-8578

This 105-year-old movie theater has just received an incredible update. A new bar and lounge area, fresh carpet and enhanced bathrooms are great interior additions, and outside the original façade is back with a beautifully lit marquee and box office, specially designed doors and a reproduction of the vertical, eye-catching metal theater sign. Evening movies start at 7:30, and the bar opens at 7 for pre-movie drinks.

The Pearl

100 Old Tom Avenue

The Pearl, a three-story hotel/apartments combo, is the newest addition to the downtown Manteo scene. The property brings a needed addition to accommodation options, and for an incredible view, you can take the elevator up to the rooftop, which will be rentable for special events or available for just relaxing and taking  in all the lovely sights.

The Manteo House

210 Sir Walter Raleigh Street

This gem of an historic island house is home base for the owners of the Pioneer and The Pearl, but it also now hosts regular events such as intimate living room concerts and weddings and also provides Airbnb rooms. 

Sass & Jewels Boutique

101 Sir Walter Raleigh Street Unit 109
(252) 945-3846

In the heart of downtown Manteo, our women’s boutique offers trending fashions at affordable prices. You’ll find dresses, skirts, pants and tops, along with shoes, bags, hats, locally made jewelry, accessories and goat’s milk soap. We love helping you choose just the right styles and accessories. We also sell gifts and full-spectrum CBD products.

John Silver Studio

105 Fernando Street
(252) 473-8252

Experience the soul-catching work of painter John Silver, who translates coastal life and worldwide adventures through his brushes. Stop in the Downtown Manteo gallery to explore fine framed oils and watercolors, and you may catch the artist himself.

The Gourmet Olive

101-A Budleigh Street
(252) 216-1709

In addition to high-quality Ariston olive oils and vinegars, local honey and specialty foods, we sell a huge selection of Lady Fingers Gourmet to Go prepared meals. We have soaps, pottery, jewelry and gifts too.

Coming Up in Manteo

July 7, August 4, September 1, October 6, November 3, December 1, 6 to 8 p.m.

Saturdays through September 16, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

July 4, 3 to 9:30 p.m.

June & July, gates 6 p.m., games 7 p.m.

June 20 to August 18

July 8

July 29

August 12

October 19 to 21

December 1 and 2

About the Author Molly Harrison
Molly Harrison is managing editor at OneBoat, publisher of 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.