Wanchese Listings:

Wanchese, located well off the beaten path of the typical Outer Banks beach towns, has a charm all its own with quiet residential side streets, local grocery stores and small dives that serve up the freshest seafood, and one of the busiest marinas on the islands. Wanchese has a long history of being a fishing village, and the residents take pride in that heritage. A brief tour of the town will present a collection of local homes and businesses with impeccable maritime gardens, and crab pots and painted wooden boats serving as coastal yard decor. While located miles away from the oceanfront, Wanchese can easily be considered as home to the true character of the Outer Banks. Salty, rustic, and scenic, a trip through Wanchese allows visitors to have an up-close-and-personal view of everyday Outer Banks life.

Wanchese, NC - boats docked

Where to stay in Wanchese

For extended stays, vacationers will also find themselves mildly limited in accommodations as opposed to the central Outer Banks towns of Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, or even Manteo. However, there are still a variety of options available, ranging from locally run camp grounds, to quiet, off-the-map bed and breakfasts, and even occasional vacation rental homes" in the heart of the village, or bordering the wild soundfront. For Outer Banks lovers who want to get back to nature, Wanchese may be an ideal locale to completely escape from the rest of the world.

Vacation rental companies

Wanchese, NC fishing boats

Wanchese History

Local archeological digs have proved what islanders have always expected - Wanchese is a true fishing village. Historians believe that the town is, in fact, the first fishing village of the Outer Banks, as local Native Americans dating back to 900 A.D. settled here and made treks either by boat or along the shoreline to reel in the bounty of the Roanoke Sound. The town was a popular home for Native Americans for centuries, and would later become the home of the Roanoke Tribe, an eventual subset of the Algonquins. In fact, the town name of "Wanchese" is in honor of the tribe's chief, who in 1584 accompanied the neighboring Chief Manteo on an expedition to England, but returned home the next year somewhat disenchanted with the new European arrivals. Some theorists postulate that it was Chief Wanchese's aggression that sealed the fate of the infamous Lost Colony settlers in Manteo.

In the centuries that followed, a hardy collection of locals moved in, and while the area never became a popular tourist destination like neighboring Nags Head, Wanchese thrived for its' proximately to Oregon Inlet, and therefore the route to the Gulf Stream.

Today, the village is home to the North Carolina Seafood Industrial Park, located at the southeastern point of the island. Here, commercial vessels and seafood dealers of all kinds congregate to sort through the day's catch, and provide fresh North Carolina seafood for virtually all of the Eastern Seaboard. The bordering marinas also serve as a launching point for shrimp trawlers, flounder boats, and other huge vessels that travel out to the Gulf Stream and beyond for weeks at a time in search of large hauls to be brought home and distributed to the public. Most of the fresh seafood that winds up on the Wanchese docks ends up on the plates of Outer Banks restaurant patrons several days, if not hours later, making the town an instrumental, if barely visible, contribution to the local tourism scene.

Wanchese, NC

Wanchese today

This is not to say that Wanchese is all work and no play. The same marinas that provide launching and dockage to the major commercial boats are also home to a number of locally renowned charter businesses as well. Hop on board a charter boat at the Wanchese harbor, and you're just a 15 minute ride away from Oregon Inlet, which in turn is a mere 15 miles from the exceptional off-shore Gulf Stream fishing. A half day or full day charter trip will allow visiting anglers to catch a number of big sport and game fish, including the exceptionally prized blue and white marlins, mahi mahi, drum, large tasty tunas, amberjacks, and much more.

Charter boats should always be booked well in advance, although for smaller parties of 1-2 fishermen, "add-on" trips can be available on short notice. Bring plenty of sunscreen, and a little Dramamine, as once you're past Oregon Inlet, the choppy waves leading out to the Gulf Stream can give even the most seasoned sailors a little bit of sea sickness. Upon returning home to the Wanchese harbor, the catch is hauled on the docks and can be cleaned at a number of fish cleaning stations to take home and enjoy, hassle free. Wanchese visitors are encouraged to take a stroll along the docks at around 4:00 p.m. and take a peek at the fish cleaning stations, to see up close what catches the day's fishing has yielded.

Boats out of the water in Wanchese, NC

Nature lovers will also want to plan a trip to Wanchese, as the miles of marshlands, soundfront and maritime forest provides exceptional habitats for both migratory and native species of all kinds. In fact, a small public walking trail on the edges of Wanchese has been designated as a destination along the official North Carolina Birding Trail. This small 1 mile trail will lead visitors to the sound and back, with a variety of opportunities to spot the local wildlife at its finest along the way. Admire great blue herons, egrets, ibises, and a number of shorebirds in their natural habitat, as you enjoy the truly wild Outer Banks landscape.

As for amenities, Wanchese doesn't offer the same larger brand name stores or restaurants as its Outer Banks neighbors, however visitors can find a small selection of locally owned grocery stores, bait and tackle shops, convenience stores, and locally loved restaurants that are generally open year-round. For authentic coastal North Carolina fare, a fried oyster Po'boy or a steamed shrimp platter served up in a local Wanchese restaurant is about as truly Outer Banks as it gets.

Quiet, unpopulated, and terribly proud, Wanchese is a symbol of the importance of the fishing industry and the local community on the Outer Banks. The small village comprised primarily of year-round residences pays homage to its history as one of the first American Fishing Villages in a number of ways, from its extensive commercial seafood park, to its local resident pride, to a harbor filled with charter boats just waiting to show visitors how good Outer Banks fishing can be. For an Outer Banks adventure that's well off the map, take a turn into Wanchese, and discover the heart of the Outer Banks' fishing community.

 Frequently Asked Questions

Where is Wanchese, NC?

Wanchese is located in the southern portion of Roanoke Island in the central Outer Banks. It is bordered to the north by Manteo and the Roanoke Island Marshes Nature Preserve.

How do you get to Wanchese, NC?

Visitors can reach Wanchese from the Outer Banks beaches or the Eastern North Carolina mainland via US 64. From there, visitors will want to head south on NC-345, also known as Mill Landing Road.

What is there to do in Wanchese, NC?

Wanchese is a primarily residential community, but it is a unique destination for visitors who want to explore the quieter and more authentic side of the Outer Banks. The town borders the Roanoke Island Marshes Nature Preserve, and there are several nature trails that lead into the area’s woods and marshes. As such, the outskirts are a popular destination for birdwatching, while the waterfront in the heart of town is home to a number of recreational charter fishing boats and tour vessels that explore the nearby Oregon Inlet and beyond.

Where did the name Wanchese come from?

Wanchese is named after a local Native American chief who was first encountered by English colonists in the late 1500s. Along with Chief Manteo, Wanchese was one of the first Native Americans to visit England, making a trip in 1584.

What are the special events in Wanchese?

Wanchese has a number of events at area churches and community centers, and the town is nicely close to Manteo which has a wealth of events throughout the year. Popular events in nearby Manteo include the annual Dare Days Festival in June, the December Christmas Parade, and the Independence Day celebration with fireworks over the Roanoke Sound

Where can you go fishing in Wanchese?

Wanchese has several marinas that serve as a home for a number of local inshore and offshore charter fishing businesses. From the waterfront borders of Wanchese, it is a short cruise to the dredge spoil islands and inland waters of Oregon Inlet, and a relatively short trek through the inlet to the offshore Gulf Stream.

Where can you get seafood in Wanchese?

Wanchese is known as a hub of commercial fishing along the Outer Banks, and as such, is a popular spot for locals and longtime visitors to buy fresh local seafood. The town has several fish markets throughout the town, as well as a couple down-to-earth restaurants with fresh coastal fare.

How close is Wanchese to the beach?

Wanchese is approximately a 10-15 minute drive to the beach, depending on the traffic. The closest beaches for visitors are the public beach accesses of Nags Head and South Nags Head, as well as the northern regions of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, such as Coquina Beach.

Where can you park to explore Wanchese?

Street side parking is available in the heart of town, although many visitors agree the best way to explore Wanchese is via a car. A cruise around the town takes less than 30 minutes, and presents an opportunity to see local commercial fishing centers, historic homes, and the rugged and undeveloped terrain of the Roanoke Island Marshes Nature Preserve.

Can you Dock in Wanchese?

Wanchese has several marinas and fishing centers on the edge of the Roanoke Sound, which are close to Mill Landing Creek and Broad Creek. Local marinas may offer short-term and long-term docking options for transient or local mariners.

What are the attractions in Wanchese, NC?

Wanchese is most famous as a commercial and recreational fishing hub, which includes collection of marinas on the edge of the Roanoke Sound. Visitors will find a number of water tours and charter fishing businesses on the local docks, and can also explore the local landscape via the Roanoke Island Marshes Nature Preserve, which is listed as a point of interest on the North Carolina Birding trail.

Are there shops and restaurants in Wanchese, NC?

Wanchese has a collection of community stores and businesses, as well as a small handful of casual restaurants that specialize in seafood and budget-friendly fare. The town is most notably close to Downtown Manteo, which has a wealth of additional dining and shopping options. Manteo is also home to basic supply stores, including grocery stores, hardware stores, and other area businesses.  

Where do you stay in Wanchese, NC?

Wanchese has a small collection of Bed and Breakfasts and vacation rentals, as well as several campgrounds that are close to the water, and which can accommodate RVs or tent campers. With that being said, accommodation options are generally limited, especially compared to more tourist-oriented destinations on the Outer Banks, like nearby nags head and Manteo.

What can you do on a rainy day in Wanchese, NC?

Wanchese is just a few miles away from a number of Roanoke Island attractions, including the Roanoke Island Maritime Museum, the North Carolina Aquarium, and a wealth of shops and restaurants in historic downtown Manteo.

When is the best time to visit Wanchese?

Because Wanchese is a primarily residential community, it can easily be explored any time of the year. The area is arguably the most popular in the summer and fall months for visitors, when the fishing from inshore or offshore charters is at its best. 

What are the air temperatures each month in Wanchese?

January - high: 52°, low: 36°F 

February - high: 54°, low: 38°F 

March - high: 60°, low: 43°F 

April - high: 69°, low: 52°F 

May - high: 77°, low: 59°F 

June - high: 84°, low: 69°F 

July - high: 88°, low: 73°F 

August - high: 86°, low: 72°F 

September - high: 81°, low: 68°F 

October - high: 72°, low: 58°F 

November - high: 64°, low: 49°F 

December - high: 56°, low: 40°F 

Kitty Hawk Surf Co.