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Anyone with a fascination of history and America's European roots will love a day exploring the Elizabeth II, a historic 16th century sailing vessel that is docked along the borders of the Roanoke Island Festival Park. This ship can be admired by virtually anyone who takes a stroll along the downtown Manteo waterfront, as it sticks out like a sore thumb amidst the modern day sail boats, yachts, and fishing boats that are docked nearby. The wooden exterior and brightly colored Tudor flags sail in the breeze, and the sight of the resting ship certainly feels like a step back in time.

Elizabeth-II is moored at Roanoke Island Festival Park

Visitors who want to delve a little deeper into this curious attraction are welcome to climb aboard and explore, as costumed interpreters are more than happy to put their new crew members to work raising the anchor, swabbing the decks, or even helping the captain plot a course to or from the New World. With virtually every nook and cranny of the painstakingly maintained 69' foot 0ship open for exploring, visitors are sure to have a wild adventure going back in time, and experiencing the hard life of America's earliest settlers, before they even set foot on Roanoke Island.

An actor answers questions on the Elizabeth II

The History of the Elizabeth II

The ship, or rather ships, that the Elizabeth II was modeled after are the sailing vessels that were sent to Roanoke Island in 1584 and 1587, respectively. At the time, Tudor-era queen Elizabeth I was trying to keep up with the New World exploration achievements of Spain, which had been sending vessels to and from the Americans for nearly 100 years. Spain had already conquered and settled the South American portions of the New World, so Elizabeth I turned her attention further north, to the modern day United States.

A settlement commandeered by Sir Walter Raleigh was sent to initially set-up a colony in the southern Outer Banks, (near Ocracoke and Hatteras Islands), but after a bout with bad weather and a bit of misdirection, the colonists settled instead on Roanoke Island.

An actor answers questions on the Elizabeth II

This first settlement had trouble with supplies and local Native American relations, and a second colony was sent just three years later, this time with men, women and children, to try a more permanent settlement that could grow into an established New World colony. Unfortunately, the fate of these travelers went down in the history books, as this "Lost Colony" completely disappeared within several years of landing. Their fate is still argued today, and the story has become the plot of the famed "Lost Colony" outdoor drama which is performed nightly in the summertime just a couple hundred yards away from the Elizabeth II.

Certainly, the daily life of dealing with the Outer Banks elements, building a settlement from scratch, and living next to a growingly hostile community of Native Americans was a hard enough life on its own. But before the colonists even got to the New World, they had to deal with months aboard a heaving 16th century ship with cramped quarters, stale food, and barely livable conditions. Life on the ship was really an introduction to how hard their life on the new mainland was about to be, and the Elizabeth II replica plays an important role in teaching visitors the courage and determination America's first English residents needed in order to survive in an entirely New World.

The Elizabeth II was conceived and built as an integral part of America's 400th Birthday Celebration, and was constructed from the ground up right in Manteo at "The Boathouse," which now serves as the Roanoke Island Maritime Museum in downtown Manteo. Popular since it first laid out the gangplank, the Elizabeth II is still an admired and eye-opening attraction for visitors, and an incredible head-turning sight along the Manteo harbor. With no detail spared from the colors of the Tudor flags to the navigational instruments in the Captain's Quarters, the Elizabeth II is truly a remarkable way for visitors to experience the hardships of the first colonists, while still being able to step off of the ship, and step back into modern times.

Touring the Elizabeth II

Visiting the Elizabeth II

The Elizabeth II can be found in the middle of Shallowbag Bay at the very edge of Roanoke Island Festival Park. Visitors can access the site by entering the Roanoke Island Festival Park, and crossing over through downtown Manteo via a well-placed boardwalk that spans across the bay and presents some pretty incredible views of downtown and the Elizabeth II herself.

At the site, visitors are free to walk around the docks and grassy areas where the Elizabeth II is stationed, but a small admission fee is required to board the ship and take the full and well-guided tour. The ship is well-stocked with trained and costumed crew members who are happy to answer questions and explain the daily operations of life on the ship while out to sea.

The crew members rotate, and visitors will ever quite know what to expect on any given Elizabeth II adventure. On the topside, or the main above-ground level, visitors may be asked to help set the sails or swab the decks as they wander across the ship admiring the hundreds of yards of intricate rigging, and the incredible views of the downtown located just across the bay. Visitors may even be asked to help raise the heavy anchor out of the water, or lower it back down to keep the ship safely near the docks. The "top level" is a pleasure to explore, and on a clear summer day, the breezes and the open water views may make even the most die-hard landlubber want to take to the sea.

Touring the Elizabeth II

The lower level , however, is not for the claustrophobic, and visitors can wind through narrow hallways to different compartments that were well-known to the captain, crew, and the everyday pedestrian settlers. In these areas, visitors can shift through barrels and boxes to see what goods are being carried to the New World, try out the straw and feather mattresses that served as beds for months at a time, or even pass the time playing checkers with a local 16th century sailor. No detail has been overlooked, and many visitors marvel at the thought of living in such cramped quarters for months at a time, with nothing but the open ocean to look at for entertainment.

The staff and crew of the Elizabeth II take great efforts to make sure everyone gets a hands-on visit, especially their youngest visitors. This is definitely a kid-friendly excursion, as kids are usually the first visitors to get recruited to help the captain find his latitude with an astrolabe, or turn the giant sailing mechanisms that lower or raise the sails. Extremely educational while still feeling like a fun day playing pretend at sea, vacationers are encouraged to bring along their youngest family members who will certainly have an incredible interactive and eye-opening experience.

The Elizabeth II is open daily, generally from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., and is open year-round except for the rare occasions when she takes to sea to visit other locations. In the spring and fall months, the Elizabeth II has been known to leave the harbor to serve as a traveling exhibit to other East Coast destinations, often cruising in tandem with the Silver Chalice, a smaller 24' replica of the boats that were used after arriving on Roanoke Island to transport goods and colonists to the shore. Maritime history lovers who can't squeeze in a visit to the Elizabeth II or the Outer Banks are advised to look out for these seasonal tours for an opportunity to see history in action, literally, and heading to a port near their home town.

Other than these small seasonal excursions, the Elizabeth II is wide open to visitors, and everyone is encouraged to take a tour, either as a part of a full Roanoke Island Festival Park excursion, or as just a scenic side trip during a Manteo waterfront stroll.

Touring the Elizabeth II

Tips and Tricks for visiting the Elizabeth II

  • Don't have time to take the full tour? Visitors are free to explore the exterior of the ship at their leisure, snapping as many photos as they'd like. Virtually every angle can be admired from the grounds surrounding the ship at the docks, and from across the water along the waterfront paths of downtown Manteo. Pay close attention to the intricate detail that was put into the construction of the ship itself from the small, wobbly-looking crows nests to the brightly colored decor touches along the exterior, and even along the bottom of the boat itself. While a couple minutes of admiration will certainly suffice, visitors are advised to take their time and peruse the ship from top to bottom, and enjoy all the painstaking recreation details.
  • For a real treat, enjoy a quick lunch or leisurely dinner at one of downtown Manteo's many restaurants bordering the boardwalk entrance of Roanoke Island Festival Park. Most all of these establishments have outdoor seating overlooking the water, and patrons can enjoy a good meal or a cold cocktail overlooking the Elizabeth II docked nearby. For a little history that requires no effort whatsoever, and one of the best waterfront dining views on the Outer Banks, these local establishments are a must stop for any Manteo visitor.
  • If you're taking the full tour of the Elizabeth II, don't be afraid to ask questions. The staff and crew are more than happy to engage with visitors, and will answer any queries that a visitor might have, from the duration of the trip to the number of lines attached to each sail. Get your curiosities out in the open, and let the crew members guide you to further your experience of touring the Elizabeth II.
  • The Elizabeth II may certainly be a highlight of the Roanoke Island festival park, but it is by no means the park's only attraction. Visitors are advised to dedicate a full morning or afternoon exploring the park in its entirety for a full, interactive experience of the Roanoke Island colonists' lifestyle. Browse through the working Native American and English settlement villages for an in-depth tour of the daily island life more than 400 years ago, and chat with costumed residents who are happy to explain the difficulties colonists faced after coming ashore. The park also has an extensive history center and museum, as well as a gift shop for one-of-a-kind treasures to take home. The Elizabeth II is certainly an attraction all its own, but the surrounding attractions of the Roanoke Island Festival Park paints a complete portrait of the English settlers' full experience.

The Elizabeth II has been turning heads since it was first constructed and moved just a few hundred yards from the Manteo Boathouse to its permanent location in Shallowbag Bay. An incredible attraction that has been drawing visitors for nearly four decades, the ship is a masterpiece of boat building, and a replica so true to life that visitors may forget that they're in the 21st century.

Take an in-depth tour of the ship to meet and greet with a 16th century crew hard at work getting the settlers on their way to building a New World in America, or simply admire the site from a comfortable chair at your favorite local waterfront restaurant or pub. The Elizabeth II simply enhances the Manteo scenery, and cements its reputation as one of the most fascinating and history-rich vacation spots on the Outer Banks, and the entire East Coast.

For a close look at where America History all began, be sure that your crew sets sail for a visit to the Elizabeth II.

Elizabth II Photos

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Surf or Sound Realty

Surf or Sound Realty

What is your kind of vacation? Perhaps it is a relaxing day spent sprawled out on the beach under a shady umbrella with the sound of the waves, a good book and drinks in the cooler. Or maybe it is a day spent serenely paddling your kayak on the warm waters of the sound followed by a soothing soak in the hot tub. How about circling the deck chairs under starry skies with best friends after vibrant mealtime conversation over fresh seafood prepared in a gourmet kitchen?

Whether you envision vacationing in an extravagant oceanfront estate, a quiet soundside retreat, or somewhere in between, Surf or Sound Realty has the perfect home to accommodate your kind of vacation.

Surf or Sound Realty is located on Hatteras Island, part of the pristine Cape Hatteras National Seashore just south of Nags Head on The Outer Banks of North Carolina. Regularly found on Top Ten lists for the Best Beaches in America, Hatteras Island’s beaches and villages are quiet, family friendly and picturesque. Since 1978, we have offered weekly premier Hatteras Island vacation rentals from single family beach cottages to expansive oceanfront estates with a wide range of luxury amenities. We make it easy to fit an Outer Banks vacation into your budget with several interest-free;flexible payment plans and multiple payment methods. We make vacationing effortless with options like keyless entry and early check-in.

Serving thousands of happy Outer Banks vacationers every year, we look forward to seeing you at the beach this year! Contact us for more information about our beautiful Hatteras Island Vacation Rentals on the finest beaches of the Outer Banks, NC today!

Currituck Banks Coastal Estuarine Reserve

Currituck Banks Coastal Estuarine Reserve

Vacationers adore the Outer Banks for its unspoiled stretches of undeveloped shoreline, and some may not initially realize that this sporadic lack of development is completely intentional, and is the result of decades of careful environmental planning. While tourism flourished on the beaches, for generations, locals and visitors alike made inquiries and partnerships with government branches to ensure that certain areas of the Outer Banks would always remain pristine, unspoiled, and open to everyone.

Donutz on a Stick

Donutz on a Stick

Stay, Play and Eat- Donuts, Ice cream and coffee treats!  Family Friendly, Duck's newest dessert shop features treats you've never tasted before!  Try their warm donutz on a stick with 35 toppings! They'll melt in your mouth!  Plus, try the 9 flavors of Tastefully Twisted soft serve.  Frozen yogurt, hand dipped and homemade ice cream flavors too.  Unique coffees and flavored-milks that will satisfy the whole family.  Mix-and-match candy and much more.  Take your picture with a 6ft Duck or show your skills on the Chalkboard Wall.  Come to Duck and bring the carnival to your mouth!

Wright Brothers National Memorial

Wright Brothers National Memorial

The Wright Brothers National Memorial is a "Must See" attraction for any Outer Banks aviation enthusiast, history lover, and virtually any Kill Devil Hills vacationer who wants an up-close look at the towering granite structure that towers over the town's landscape.

Jimmy's Seafood Buffet

Jimmy's Seafood Buffet

Jimmy’s Seafood Buffet is a great stop for an all you can eat affordable dinner extravaganza. The buffet offers over 100 different items. It even serves Jumbo Alaskan crab legs and Jumbo steamed shrimp, something you will not find on any other buffet in the OBX. The buffet offers a variety of seafood and non seafood options. Try some of Jimmy’s seafood options and load your plate with blackened tuna, Louisiana crawfish, steamed scallops and mussels, fried oysters and deviled crabs. Not in the mood for seafood? Fill your plate with carved and sliced turkey with gravy, steak, cheese pizza and fettuccini alfredo. The buffet also offers a kid section. Let you kids load their plates with chicken tenders, hot dogs, broccoli, curly fries and tacos. Don’t forget dessert! The buffet also offers soft serve ice cream, and a plethora of baked goods. 

Currituck Beach Lighthouse

Currituck Beach Lighthouse

The Currituck Beach Lighthouse, located in the heart of Corolla, borders the historic Whalehead in Historic Corolla and still functions as a guide for passing mariners. At 162' feet tall, the lighthouse's First Order Fresnel light, (the largest size available for American lighthouses), can be seen for 18 nautical miles as the light rotates in 20 second increments.

The Lost Colony

The Lost Colony

In July of 1587, 117 English men, women, and children came ashore on Roanoke Island with a commission from Elizabeth I to establish a permanent English settlement in the New World. Just three years later in 1590, when English ships returned to bring supplies to the settlement, they found the island deserted with no sign of the colonists except the single word, “CROATOAN,” carved into the surface of an abandoned structure and the letters, “CRO,” scratched into the bark of a tree. After nearly 450 years, the mystery of what happened to the colonists remains unsolved.

Currituck National Wildlife Refuge

Currituck National Wildlife Refuge

It's easy to see why vacationers fall in love with Carova. Located almost literally off the Outer Banks map, while other towns along the barrier islands of North Carolina grew and developed over the decades and became popular East Coast tourism destinations, Carova never really changed.

Scarborough Lane Shoppes

Scarborough Lane Shoppes

Scarborough Lane Shoppes entered the Duck NC shopping scene in the summer of 1995. Duck was already becoming known as the Rodeo Drive, so to speak, of Outer Banks shopping experiences by then, and we think our design, built around a garden in a grove of shady trees, was – and still is — the pinnacle. Our building was designed to resemble an old life-saving station because we value the history and heritage that make the Outer Banks of North Carolina such a special place and wanted to blend into that style. But that’s where the blending ended! From the beginning, we hand-picked our shops to entice and excite you.

Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum

Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum

More than 2,000 shipwrecks sunk off the Coast of North Carolina in what’s called the Graveyard of the Atlantic. With all that history floating around, it was only natural to build a museum to honor and preserve the maritime culture of the Outer Banks. A state-of-the-art structure, the year round museum houses and displays artifacts, and presents a variety of exhibits and interprets the rich maritime culture that includes war, piracy, ghost ships and more. Artifacts include thoseex from the USS Monitor, which sank 16 miles off the Hatteras coast. The lobby features the stunning and original, 1854, First Order Lens from the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Current hibits include those on piracy and the Civil War on Hatteras Island.

Slice Pizzeria

Slice Pizzeria

Sometimes you want a whole pizza, sometimes you just want a slice. Thankfully with Slice Pizzeria, you’ve got plenty of options. This popular dine in and take out restaurant serves up some of the tastiest pizzas you can experience on the beach, all made with fresh ingredients so that you can taste the quality.

Buxton Woods

Buxton Woods

Perhaps the reason that this area of maritime forest goes unnoticed, (an area which in fact comprises the majority of Frisco Village), is simply because the oceanfront beaches just yards away are too alluring to ignore, and garner the lion's share of vacationers' interest. This is understandable, as when most folks think of an Outer Banks vacation, they envision miles of unspoiled beaches, refreshing ocean waves, and plenty of room to spread out a beach blanket, and Frisco's beaches have all of these attributes in spades.

The Christmas Shop

The Christmas Shop

It would take a set of Britannicas to say all there is to say about the Island Gallery and Christmas Shop. Experiencing a Renaissance, the original shopkeepers retired briefly to open the doors again in 2008. They worked hard to bring the grand dame back to her glory. A true wonderland, and locals' favorite, the 15 plus rooms and meandering halls are filled with Christmas décor, jewelry, art, crafts, linens, toys, books and antiques. Every room is decorated with antique furniture to create a one-of-a-kind ambiance.

Whalehead in Historic Corolla

Whalehead in Historic Corolla

The prestigious Whalehead in Historic Corolla has been a dominant attraction to Corolla visitors since it was renovated and opened to the public in 2002. As part of the Historic Corolla Park, the Whalehead in Historic Corolla serves as a northern Outer Banks icon, and a living testament to Corolla and Duck's heyday as a secluded oceanfront retreat for the country's wealthy hunters and conservationists.