Roanoke Island, North Carolina

Everything the RV Renter Needs to Know

Roanoke Island has a long history. It was one of the early colonized locations of what would become the United States. And with that history comes a particularly juicy mystery, which you may be familiar with. The original Roanoke Colony was intended to be the first permanent English colony in America. Instead, something went awry.

There were over 100 settlers in the colony, and when left on their own for three years while leaders went back to England to bring more supplies, they returned to an empty colony and the word CROATOAN carved into a palisade. They assumed this meant that the colony had moved to Croatoan Island, but weren’t able to check before the need to return to England. While they believe this mystery has since been solved, Roanoke Island is still a hotspot for travelers and vacationers seeking to discover a unique part of our country’s earliest time.

Why Visit Roanoke Island in Your Rented RV?

As the intended spot of the first permanent English colony in what would become the United States, Roanoke Island’s history with explorers dates back into the 1500s. That alone should be enough of a draw to visit on your rental RV road trip. If you need more convincing, consider that now it’s very much part of the resort-heavy Outer Banks and lies in the Atlantic Ocean. When you’re traveling in a rolling house, what’s better than doing so on an island?

History and Museums

Roanoke Island is an absolute must for history buffs. But even if history bores you, you can’t deny that the mystery of the colony makes for a fun story. There are several museums on the island that are dedicated to the early life of the colonizers. You’ll find artifacts and other interesting pieces that date back to the 1500s and show you just what life was like.

It’s not all about the First Colony, though. There’s a maritime museum dedicated to how the ocean has played a role in the development of the area. There’s also a wildlife refuge and a lighthouse museum. If you like to learn, or simply like to see cool, historical things, there’s plenty to see on Roanoke Island.

Elizabethan Gardens

Being founded by the English and with a rich history, you should expect to find touches of that history still here. It presents itself beautifully in the Elizabethan Gardens, an area full of lush, lavish flowers and interesting plants. These gardens were originally kept and maintained as a form of entertainment for Queen Elizabeth I during her reign, and gardens of her type are still prevalent.

This 10.5-acre area has over 500 species of plants, and you’ll almost always find something different in bloom. There are over 85 species of Camellias alone. There are also a variety of English-style sculptures throughout the park. Two particular plants of note are the Queen’s Rose Garden, with a rose sent by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, as well as a live oak estimated to have been alive in 1585 when Roanoke Island was founded.

Festival Park

Are you a fan of “living history” exhibits? They may not be for everyone, but Festival Park really puts you in the period by giving you lots of ways to experience the history yourself. You’ll find costumed interpreters across the area, and they’ll engage you like they were living in 1585. Throughout the settlement site, you’ll see the challenges and other hardships these people faced.

Two other interesting areas of note in Festival Park are the American Indian Town, an area that replicates the same type of Native American settlement the colonists would have explored, and Elizabeth II, a representation ship that mimics a merchant sailing vessel from 1585. You can explore the ship, help swab the deck, steer the ship, and even cook onboard.

Watersports & Fishing

You’re on a barrier island in the Atlantic Ocean, so you have to know the ocean is a big draw to the area. The area has been full of fishing towns practically since the settlers landed here. And fishing is still a popular pastime. You can take an offshore fishing charter and try to land a whopper out in the ocean, or stick closer to shore and fish the Roanoke and Croatoan Sound.

Not trying to catch anything but feel the water calling you? Take a boat cruise out on the ocean, or rent jet skis or kayaks and cruise to your heart’s content. In nearby Manteo, you can even get onboard with parasailing and get high above the ocean.

Fort Raleigh National Historic Site

This is the big one: the exact location where the settlers intended to build their colony. There’s not much of the fort left these days, but you can see the original earthen walls that were built up as a base to support the walls of the fort. When you visit, remind yourself that this is where our country began, over 500 years ago.

When you’re there, stop in at the Visitors Center for an in-depth look at why the area was originally chosen by the settlers and how they tried to make it work. Inside, you’ll also find many artifacts that were discovered from the very area. Depending on the season, you can enjoy the locally famous Lost Colony outdoor show, which dramatizes the rich historic event.

Campgrounds and RV Parks for Roanoke Island

While the colonists had a rough time of it at Roanoke Island, you certainly don’t have to. Traveling in your rental RV, you’ll find plenty of beautiful, fun campgrounds that are brimming with amenities—plus several that are particularly close to the shore as well. The Outer Banks know how to treat vacationers, so you’re in for a treat when you camp here.

The Refuge on Roanoke Island

In a fishing community called the Village of Wanchese, you’ll find a port in the storm (or a nice day, whichever). The Refuge on Roanoke Island is a welcoming campground featuring 59 sites with full hookups. There’s a pool, a gathering pavilion, and a bathhouse to offer you all of the comforts you’re looking for. There’s also internet and cable TV available on the occasion it actually does get a little rainy.

OBX Campground

Simply named, OBX Campground is in Kill Devil Hills, not far from Roanoke Island. There are nightly and weekly rates available for 56 RV sites, so if you’re planning on staying awhile, you may end up with a discount. There are full hookups here, and other amenities include sites with water views and a dock, and a bathhouse and laundry facilities. There’s even a historic cemetery on site as well...but it’s optional to visit that.

Kitty Hawk RV Park

You may know it as the birthplace of modern flying machines. But since you’re shirking air flight for a great American road trip, you’ll be glad to know that Kitty Hawk RV Park is a perfect place to park your RV. There are lovely sites here with oceanfront views, plus full hookups at each one. Want a real treat? There’s a private beach here that’s yours to take full advantage of.

Camp Hatteras

Visit one island and stay on another. Located on Hatteras Island, Camp Hatteras is surrounded on all sides by water: the Atlantic Ocean and Pamlico Sound, so you’re sure to get a water view campsite. It sits on 50 total acres of beach and seashore. These full hookup sites are all on concrete pads, and there are dozens of amenities to choose from. Just look at the marina, where you can rent jet skis and more, or the indoor pool, or the mini-golf, or fully stocked camp store. And that’s not even all of them.

Cape Hatteras / Outer Banks KOA

What do you get when you combine a prolific set of campgrounds with a beautiful barrier island? Cape Hatteras / Outer Banks Kampground of America. KOAs are immensely popular with RVers, and for good reason. This particular site has loads of oceanfront camping so you’ll get your fill of ocean views. There’s a pool, double water slide, and hot tub. There’s a poolside cafe for drinks and other enjoyment. And of course, full hookups.

Places to Eat Near Roanoke Island, North Carolina

The Outer Banks is home to a lot of good food. Seriously, it’s everywhere. In particular, the seafood in this area is second-to-none because it’s so fresh. Fishing has obviously played a huge role in the development of the area, so you’re bound to find fresh fish and shellfish nearly anywhere you go.

Dining at Roanoke Island

Anywhere you go, try the seafood. But seriously, you’ll find it at nearly any restaurant you visit because it’s so easily had. And whether you’re looking for fine dining or cheap eats, there are plenty of options. OBX has a great bar scene as well, and how could it not with all of that waterfront? Enjoy the catch of the day prepared how the chef sees fit, or enjoy a few crabs drug freshly from the ocean. Seafood not your thing? You’ll find barbecue places, pizza, sandwiches, and more as well.

Dining outside of Roanoke Island

OBX is a long strip of islands, so whether you’re up at Kill Devil Hills or Kitty Hawk, you’re still going to find lots and lots of fresh seafood. From fried oysters to fresh, and other shellfish in stews and chowders, plus full entrees like grilled catch-of-the-day and even fried clams, you’ll be in seafood heaven here. And it’s ok if you’re not feeling seafood. You’ll still find sandwiches, Thai, Mexican, and other great foods here too.

The Outer Banks, from Kitty Hawk to Kill Devil Hills to Roanoke Island and everywhere else, knows how to feed people. Even if you’re not a seafood person, you should try it fresh here. Otherwise, enjoy the pizza, the barbecue, the burgers, and everything else. You most definitely won’t get hungry here and go wandering off looking for somewhere called CROATOAN.

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