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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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TRiO

TRiO

Wine, beer and cheese lovers will love TRiO, an exciting retail and tasting destination in Kitty Hawk. Both a gourmet retail wine, beer and cheese shop as well as a bistro with a wine bar and tap house, TRiO offers the best of the worlds of wine, beer and cheese for your enjoyment on premise or in the comfort of your home. TRiO's bistro is elegant and comfortable, with a large bar and two-story dining and bar area. The gourmet bistro menu of appetizers, and light fare such as cheese and charcuterie, paninis and salads make TRiO a wonderful lunch and dinner restaurant. Unique and high-tech self service WineStations are available in the downstairs bar area, where you can sample full, half and tastes of wines of all regions at varying price ranges. If you prefer beer, you can select from 24 beers on tap or try a TRiO Flight and sample a taste of four beers. In the upstairs mezzanine, which is part of the bistro, you'll find comfortable lounge seating and a free pool table. TRiO also has live music from local and visiting artist 4-5 nights a week all year long.

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.

Sundogs

Sundogs

Sundogs is a happening spot open year round in Corolla. Along with good food, they feature a nightlife that includes live music, karaoke and a DJ dance party. They have a full bar and a menu suited to a host of tastes. Starters include nachos, crab dip, wings and oysters on the half shell. Steamers include lobster, crawfish, crab legs, oysters, mussels and shrimp. Order up a shrimp basket or a fresh fish dish – grilled or fried. Sundogs is very proud of their hamburgers, and while they will top it with all the fixings, you don’t need a thing atop one of these babies to enjoy it.

Outer Banks Tours

Outer Banks Tours

Many newcomers to the Outer Banks find the best way to delve into the local history, scenery and culture is via a tour, and luckily the Outer Banks has a world of different tours available. Vacationers can take to the sea, skies, or the land for an in-depth view of the Outer Banks, and can choose from quick one-hour excursions to overnight trips that explore the region's little known hidden treasures.

For an introduction to everything the Outer Banks has to offer, or to experience the North Carolina Coast from an entirely new perspective, hop on board a boat, kayak, bus or plane, and begin a guided adventure that will surely leave your family completely fascinated with the rich landscape of the Outer Banks.

Mako's Beach Grille & Bar

Mako's Beach Grille & Bar

The inviting and friendly family atmosphere of Mako Mike’s has made it a favorite Kill Devil Hills restaurant and Outer Banks restaurant for visitors and locals. Families can enjoy a good meal at a good value, a memorable dining experience from their first greeting at the door, amazement and wonder at the fun, colorful and aquatic/shark theme and décor, a satiating experience for the palate, and sincere appreciation from the staff for choosing to dine at Mako Mike’s Kill Devil Hills restaurant.

Mako Mike’s menu has something delicious for every palate featuring: fresh outer banks seafood, Angus beef, authentic jerk chicken, golden fried oysters, tantalizing appetizers, salads, pasta dishes, homemade desserts, gluten free items, and full children’s menus available and wood oven pizzas made in our authentic Italian wood burning oven! One of the most dynamic menus of all Outer Banks restaurants. At Mako Mike’s Kill Devil Hills restaurant everyone is dedicated to creating a great dining experience!

 

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.

Black Pelican

Black Pelican

Black Pelican oceanfront restaurant is one of the Outer Banks’ premier restaurants serving lunch and dinner daily. Black Pelican is where you can enjoy fresh seafood, steaks, vegetarian dishes, sandwiches and some of the barrier island’s best wood-fired pizzas complete with a beautiful ocean view from the dining rooms and outdoor deck. The restaurant is big enough to handle large parties, but the setting is intimate enough for a cozy date.

Hatteras - Ocracoke Ferry

Hatteras - Ocracoke Ferry

The Hatteras / Ocracoke ferry is one of the most popular of the seven coastal ferry routes that are orchestrated and managed by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT.) Open for everyone, with daily runs that occur 365 days a year, the short 40-45 minute island-hopping ferry provides an integral link for Ocracoke Island to the rest of the Outer Banks, and provides visitors of all seasons with an exciting way to enjoy a coastal day trip. For a little bit of completely free entertainment, hop aboard via car, truck, bike or even just on foot, and discover a scenic boat ride that's just as thrilling as discovering the island of Ocracoke itself.

North Beach Watersports

North Beach Watersports

Located at the beautiful Inn at Corolla Light,  family owned North Beach Water Sports is operated by a retired Coast Guard Licensed Master Captain. We provide a mix of excitement and scenery. Your mind will be captivated by the beauty that surrounds.

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.

Thai Room

Thai Room

If you love Thai food (or have been wanting to try it), you must stop at the family-owned Thai Room in Kill Devil Hills. This authentic Thai restaurant is owned by an incredibly friendly and cheerful Thai family who will make you feel right at home the moment you walk in the door. 

Event Homes

Event Homes

In the past few years, the Outer Banks has become a popular destination for large families and groups who are planning a beach wedding, a corporate retreat, or just a casual family reunion. This turn of recent events is due in no small part to the crop of sprawling vacation rental homes that have popped up throughout the coastline providing gorgeous accommodations, ample meeting or gathering spaces, and fantastic access to the nearby beaches and attractions.

Fuji Japanese Steakhouse

Fuji Japanese Steakhouse

Fuji Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar serves up delicious hibachi and sushi making it a favorite Asian cuisine restaurant in the Outer Banks. The large, steel grill hibachi tables make for an entertaining communal dining experience. Watch and smell your food prepared by talented chefs who will wow you with unique chopping talents and flaming tricks. Expect highly skilled maneuvers with razor-sharp knives, the striking sounds of salt and pepper shakers clanking together and flying shrimp you can attempt to catch in your mouth. It’s all about good food and fun, great for a family meal or an outing with a group of friends. Hibachi dinner selections are served with soup, salad, hibachi vegetables and fried rice and include chicken, New York strip, shrimp, scallop, filet mignon, vegetable or teriyaki chicken options as well as various combinations.

Stand-Up Paddle Boarding (SUP)

Stand-Up Paddle Boarding (SUP)

Stand-Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) may be considered one of the Outer Bank's newest crazes to hit the water, but the sport itself is actually centuries old, originating in the Hawaiian and Polynesian Islands as an easy-going mode of transportation from one waterfront beach to another.