Do You Know the History of Roanoke Island?

history of Roanoke Island
NCDOTcommunications / Roanoke Island / Flickr

One of the best known Outer Banks attractions, Roanoke Island has a colorful history that dates back to the 16th century. The history of Roanoke Island is tied to the very foundation of colonies on North America and is famous for the “Lost Colony” which continues to mystify historians today. Take a trip to the Outer Banks and enjoy the wonderful history of Roanoke Island either with a visit to the island and the Elizabethan Gardens, or watching the Lost Colony Play.

The first English colony on North America was created on Roanoke Island back in 1500’s with colonists attempting to gain land for Great Britain. Ralph Lane was the first to try a colony in 1585 after being dispatched by Sir Walter Raleigh. Supplies were limited and delayed after Sir Richard Greenville was delayed in returning from England with the necessary supplies. Facing attacks from natives and low rations, the colonists returned to England.

John White tried another colony in 1587, but after settling the colony returned to England. His return trip was delayed by the England’s war with Spain. White did not return back to the island until 1590 to find all of the colonists had disappeared. No one was left in the colony with no trace as to where they went. One clue was found however. The word, “CROATOAN” was carved into a tree but that was it, no other clue or location was left by the 110 colonists. White never found the colonists and had to return to England. The “Lost Colony” legend was born.

The island commemorates this part of the history with the Lost Colony Play. The Lost Colony is the second-longest running historical outdoor drama as it has been performed since 1937. The play runs May through August at Waterside Theater at 1409 National Park Drive in Manteo. The Lost Colony is based on this mystery and features several top performers and has been a long-time tradition on Manteo. North Carolina’s own Andy Griffith performed at Waterside Theater from 1947-1953. The play has everything from music, laughter, dancing and sorrow.

This amazing production involves more than 200 actors, designers, technicians and volunteers and spans over three stages. The Lost Colony is a historical drama that was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paul Green. The musical play is about Sir Walter Raleigh’s attempt to establish a permanent settlement on Roanoke Colony in the 1580’s.

Later in the history of Roanoke Island, the Confederate Army established three bases on the island in the Civil War. Union forces captured the three bases and the island during the Battle of Roanoke Island in 1862. Slaves from the south had escaped to Roanoke Island, hoping to gain freedom by going to Union controlled territory.

After the Civil War, Dare County was created along with the town of Manteo. The area was a big trading and business center and had established itself as a major part of the state of North Carolina. The island has grown and established itself as a premier destination spot in the Outer Banks.

If you are looking to enjoy the history of Roanoke Island, book a stay with Shoreline OBX. Shoreline OBX was created to provide quality vacation rentals in the Outer Banks that a popular destination deserves. We are confident that we can provide you a memorable experience by providing quality OBX properties in Corolla, Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head. You can also check our favorite things to do in the Outer Banks and download our free OBX vacation guide to help you begin planning your vacation today!