Bask in the Peaceful Nature of Roanoke Island on the Outer Banks

Outdoor NC has partnered with local tourism organizations across the state to help promote the protection of North Carolina’s stunning and diverse outdoor spaces by practicing the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace. Here are some insider tips if you're visiting the Outer Banks.

Q&A host: Outer Banks Visitors Bureau
Where in NC: Roanoke Island and Dare mainland

Best places on Roanoke Island on the Outer Banks to spend outdoors?

Biking along the multiuse path along Roanoke Island, paddleboarding Dough’s Creek and into the Roanoke Sound, and Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.

Best season to spend in NC?

Fall in the Outer Banks is spectacular – both the weather and water are still warm, and the sunsets are incredible.

What level of experience is needed for outdoor activities?

No experience necessary to total pro. No matter your level of experience, you will find adventures and things to do on Roanoke Island, the mainland and the rest of the Outer Banks. 

How long should you plan on visiting the Outer Banks?

Whatever suits your schedule. If you can manage the time, a weeklong stay is typical.

What attracted you to North Carolina or the Outer Banks?

The open spaces, recreational options and easy, relaxed feel.

How do you plan or prepare for your outdoor activities?

Bring comfy shoes and clothes. There are plenty of rental shops for paddleboard or kayaks, plus lessons. The local bike shop rents bikes and sometimes offers group tours. There is a bike path that runs to the north end of the island, taking you to Fort Raleigh National Historic SiteElizabethan GardensThe Lost Colony and the Roanoke Sound.  

On the mainland, Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge offers a home to red wolves, black bears and the northernmost range for the American alligator. Over fall and winter, the refuge is home to snow geese and tundra swans. You can drive around the refuge yourself or take a tour with the Fish & Wildlife Service. Kayaking and canoeing are allowed in the refuge as well. has great resources for local things to do that can be categorized by preference. The site gathers all the businesses in Dare County into one convenient location, filtered into categories such as land, air, water, historic, tours & lesson, and so on. Before heading on any adventure, it’s important to check the weather and call ahead to make reservations or confirm business hours.   

What piece of gear is your must-have? 

Sunscreen is a must. If you visit the refuge, you will need bug spray.

How do you practice the Leave No Trace principles?  

Carry out what you carry in, and sometimes, you’ll have to carry out what other people have carried in. Be respectful of wildlife such as birds, turtles or bears – don’t try to pet or feed the animals.

Best places for breakfast/lunch or dinner? 

Manteo has a few locally owned coffee shops. If you're in the mood for a heavier breakfast, pay a visit to Darrell's. There is a variety of locally owned restaurants along the waterfront in downtown Manteo for lunch and dinner. 

Where do you like to go after outdoor fun? 

Outer Banks Distilling. Not only do they create their own rum, but they also create their own cocktails and have a really relaxing vibe. Lost Colony Brewery and Cafe brews and bottles its own beer and offers samples. Or relax on the patio and sample wines from across the state at NouVines.

Cool places to stay? 

White Doe Inn and Roanoke Island Inn offer cozy accommodations, but there is a range of accommodation types and prices on the island.

Other sites to see while on the Outer Banks? 

Roanoke Island is a short drive to the beaches of the Outer Banks. Visit Bodie Island and Cape Hatteras lighthouses, fly a kite on Jockey’s Ridge, and walk where the Wright Brothers first took flight in Kill Devil Hills.

What is your can’t-miss experience on the Outer Banks? 

Take a sunset sail on the Roanoke Sound. The setting sun turns the water gold.

Insider tip!

If you’re here on a Friday, be sure to get cruffin (a muffin/croissant hybrid) from Charis Coffee. They’re like nothing you’ve had before.

This article was produced in partnership with the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau. Visit Outdoor NC for additional tips on how to connect with nature and help preserve the natural beauty of our state.

Updated September 1, 2021
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