Fort Raleigh National Historic Site


In Manteo, North Carolina, the Outer Banks islands protect Albemarle Sound, where Roanoke Island can be found.  If that name sounds familiar, it is because it was here that Fort Raleigh became the first English settlement in North America.  First scoped out in 1584, its original inhabitants all left with Sir Francis Drake after supply ships failed to arrive.  The 117 colonists that came in 1587 actually wanted to settle further north on Chesapeake Bay, but their captain left them here instead.  John White soon sailed back to England to get aid, but an ongoing war with the Spanish Armada kept him away until 1590.  Upon his return he found the fort deserted, the buildings stripped, and a fencepost marked “CROATOAN” (the name of nearby island).  White was thwarted in his attempt to land on Croatoan Island by a hurricane, so to-this-day nobody knows the true fate of the colonists.


Museum, site of first British colony in America, Lost Colony Outdoor Drama

Must-Do Activity

The National Park Service museum has excellent displays, including the videos of Sir Walter Raleigh (the fort’s namesake) in the Elizabethan Room.  It offers all the theories on happened to the settlers so visitors can decide what they believe.  “The Lost Colony” did lend its name to an outdoor musical performed most nights throughout the summer within the boundaries of Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. 

Best Trail

The Thomas Hariot Nature Trail provides views of the reconstructed earthen fort, musical theater, and Albemarle Sound.  Hariot was a scientist who searched Roanoke Island in 1585 for precious metals and made drawings of the local flora and fauna.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Waterside Theatre has hosted the outdoor symphonic play “The Lost Colony” every summer since 1937.

Peak Season

Summer beach season when the musical theater has performances



None, except for tickets to the Lost Colony Outdoor Drama.  Admission is also charged at the adjacent Elizabethan Gardens.

Road Conditions

All roads paved.


There is a private campground nearby, but we recommend you reserve a campsite near the beach within beautiful Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

Related Sites

Cape Hatteras National Seashore (North Carolina)

Wright Brothers National Memorial (North Carolina)

Colonial National Historical Park (Virginia)

Explore More – What was the name of the baby girl born at Fort Raleigh, famous as the first child born of English parents in the Americas?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s