An old-school inn on the sound in Manteo has found a new groove. The Burrus House Inn at Manteo began operation back in 2005. Before then, part of the current building served as the home of then-owner Jack Burrus. He built the original cottage in 1976 and over the years added more rooms and features. During Burrus’ life the Inn served visiting couples and solo travelers to Manteo – another inn among several in the town. Burrus, though, always envisioned his Inn being something more.
The three-story, cedar-shake structure evokes images of the traditional beach cottage along the Outer Banks – one you’ve likely seen in old black-and-white photos. It’s the reunion spot that groups returned to annually, generation after generation, to make new memories. It’s believed that Burrus built the Inn with a dream of creating that type of ideal mainstay for his family members and, later, for guests to his Inn. Each of the suites is named for one of his siblings, and Burrus himself lived on the second floor after converting the property into an inn. It’s a place that practically begs to be that annual vacation spot but was still in the process of becoming that.
In the spring and summer of 2019, Sarah Burrus Dozier (Jack’s daughter) brought this vision for The Burrus House Inn at Manteo to life. After Burrus’ death in the fall of 2018, Sarah, who lives in Raleigh but spends a lot of time in her childhood home, began revitalizing the Inn, along with long-time innkeeper Vicki Holmes.
“Mr. Burrus always wanted one of his daughters to be a part of the Inn,” said Vicki “Sarah realized her dad’s vision, and it’s been so exciting to see all of the Inn’s potential getting recognized.”
It’s exciting for Sarah as well. “My father just loved talking about the Inn; he was always building and creating in his mind,” said Sarah. “Being able to finish his vision and continue his legacy makes me feel truly grateful.”
The Inn has changed its design and appeal. The building was revamped with a focus on making it timeless for either large groups of adults or single or couple travelers. Renovations began in the winter of 2019 with a primary emphasis on increasing the number of guests that the Inn can accommodate and the amenities offered.
For example, the owner’s quarters on the second floor was converted into three separate suites, upping the Inn’s number of suites from nine to 12. These suites connect to each other through doors that lock, so the second floor can be used either by a group needing multiple rooms or as space for the three separate guests.
Another step that was necessary to enhance the lnn’s appeal was to make the rooms spacious enough to accommodate a more than just a single or a couple. In the past the suites were furnished to sleep two guests. Each suite had a queen or king bed in the bedroom, a bathroom and an adjoining sitting room that opened onto a private deck. After the renovations and remodeling, the suites feature pull-out sofas in most rooms, which allows the Inn to accommodate up to 30 adult guests at a time.
There’s more to playing the role of an Outer Banks vacation spot than simply having the space. The destination needs to look the part too. The Burrus House Inn’s prior dark-stained walls and floors and its stately Italianate decor evoked images more of a bachelor pad or grandfather’s library rather than a beach retreat. However, after updating the decor, furniture and bedding, bringing in a softer color palette for the walls and cabinets and other additions, the Burrus House now evokes that elegant, yet beachy, aesthetic.
As far as changes in the rooms go, one quality that visitors can count on remaining is the incredible views from the private deck off each suite. All the suites overlook Shallowbag Bay and offer unobstructed views of downtown Manteo, Roanoke Island Festival Park, Nags Head in the distance and the incredible sunrise for early risers.
Sarah gave me a tour of the Inn. As we walked out the sliding glass door onto a first-floor suite’s deck, she admitted, “This is the worst view from any of the suites.”
I didn’t buy it. The sparkling panorama of Shallowbag Bay and the surrounding area rendered me speechless. It was so blue, so vivid, so close! There was no way Sarah meant it … but then we explored the rest of the floors. Once at the top, as I gazed at the watery surroundings, I felt like a lucky sailor in a ship’s crow’s nest, able to see the stunning landscape for miles. That “worst view” was amazing, and the higher I climbed the more breathtaking each vista became.
Changes go beyond the rooms, though. The Inn’s communal areas have been turned into spots that invite just that: a sense of community. The lounge near the check-in desk is a gathering place with inviting sofas and seating, perfect for striking up a conversation with a fellow traveler or enjoying the Inn’s evening happy hour with wine and cheese. Guests staying at the Burrus House Inn can start their day with a complimentary continental breakfast each morning, fueling up for the day’s activities with coffee and a pastry.
This communal atmosphere is relaxing, but it’s also fun and lively. The Inn’s waterfront location is one of its prized features. While the Inn has relied on its visual appeal in the past, it offers plenty of potential for recreational activities too. A small lagoon with three boat slips connects to a channel that meanders out to open water, so guests can have fun on the Inn-provided paddleboards and kayaks or on their own small boats that can come and go right from the Inn. Future plans also include a larger dock and more boat slips. Imagine arriving by boat or, at the very least, having a convenient place to dock during your visit. They also added an outdoor firepit with surrounding seats that has become one of the most popular gathering spots at the Inn.
Manteo is already an attractive spot for visitors to the Outer Banks, especially for those celebrating a special occasion. These islands are already one of the most popular destinations for weddings in the Southeast. The Inn is available for private events, such as small weddings, corporate retreats and other affairs wanting a venue to match the occasion. The quiet little town doesn’t get the same traffic and hustle and bustle as the beaches. However, the ocean is just a quick 10-minute drive away when visitors do get the urge for sand and surf.
Manteo is also the Outer Banks town most known for its walkable (or bikeable! and the Inn provides free bikes) downtown area with shops, restaurants and attractions. It’s the sort of destination that demands accommodations to match – something that Burrus envisioned his home and the Inn would complement one day. With its renovations and remodeling to welcome and entertain adult travelers, the Burrus House is now much more than the place Burrus called home for 42 years. It's a place to call your home away from home.
509 U.S. Highway 64 Manteo, NC