Roanoke Island is where the historic town of Manteo is located, and that’s a great place to start a tour of the island. Be sure to turn right at the intersection of NC 345 and US 64. Going straight will lead to Raleigh in three hours or so. Heading left will lead to Wanchese, which is the heart of the Outer Banks commercial fishing industry.
The main business road through the town is the old US 64, but the real Manteo is the dock and waterfront area. Turn right at almost any light, and in two minutes a beautiful downtown emerges. Brick buildings with quant art galleries and wonderful restaurants line the streets. Especially in the summer, the waterfront area is a thriving business district, but at any time of the year there is a feeling as though this is what the town looked like 70 or 80 years ago.
Queen Elizabeth Avenue is the street that parallels the waterfront, ending on Annais Dare. Turn right to go over the little bridge that crosses Dough Creek, leading to Roanoke Island Festival Park. Festival Park has a little bit of everything—indoor and outdoor theaters, an interactive history museum and Native American village, and easy to navigate paths to stroll around the park. There is also beautiful path that runs next to the creek on the north side of the facility.
Another must-see on Roanoke Island is Elizabethan Gardens. An amazing formal garden, there is always something in bloom or in season here. Plan on being there for at least an hour and a half to two hours.
As you build up an appetite after a full day of wandering around Roanoke Island, head back to the Manteo waterfront; there are four or five very nice restaurants nestled in the downtown.
It’s really the ride to Hatteras Village that makes this day trip.
Located at the southern tip of Hatteras Island, Hatteras Village is a good one to two hours from the northern Outer Banks, depending on the starting point.
Hatteras Island is remote and doesn’t have quite as many services or amenities as the northern Outer Banks, but it is a wonderful place to visit.
The trip to Hatteras Village passes through a series of small towns and villages. Avon, which is approximately at the halfway point of Hatteras Island, is the probably the largest town. It was a fishing village at one time—known originally as Kinakeet—and some longtime residents still call it that.
There is still a small fishing dock, although its use is sporadic. Turn right at the light at Harbor Road and follow the street to the dock. There is only one light in Avon, so finding Harbor Road should be easy.
The next town south of Avon is Buxton, which is where the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is located. The lighthouse can be climbed, but it’s important to note that tickets must be purchased and are sold on a first come first serve basis. The lighthouse is closed to climbing in the winter.
Just past Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is Buxton Woods—the northern border actually abuts the Hatteras area. A rare example of a maritime forest with temperate and semitropical plants growing side by side, it’s worth a quick stop and exploration.
It’s only about 10 miles from Buxton to Hatteras Village, and it’s a pleasant ride with towering dunes on the ocean side and the open expanse of Pamlico Sound extending to the horizon on the west.
Hatteras Village was and still is a fishing village, and there is a lot of activity on the docks with commercial and recreational fishermen using the facilities.
At the very southernmost tip of the village, past the ferry terminal to Ocracoke is the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum— a small museum, but worth a visit.
Highlighting the maritime history of the Outer Banks, major exhibits include life on the Outer Banks during the Civil War and information about the excavation of Queen Anne’s Revenge, Blackbeard’s ship.