For Malcolm Fearing, growing up in Manteo in the 1960s “was like Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer.” The neighborhood kids would hop on their bikes in the morning and spend the day riding all over the island — sometimes causing a little mischief along the way. A few things have changed since then — there’s a bridge connecting Roanoke Island to the mainland, the streets are paved, and there’s even a stop- light in town — but the feel of Manteo is still much the same. “It’s just a beautiful, quaint little town,” says Susan Fearing, Malcolm’s wife of nearly 40 years. “It’s very charming. I just love it.”
Manteo’s history as the site of the first English settlement is a large part of its identity, says Malcolm, a fourth- generation islander. “Roanoke Island is about culture, community, history, and education, and Manteo’s the center of it. It’s the land of beginnings. This is where the dream began — on Roanoke Island.”
Ortega’z Southwestern Grill and Wine Bar. “As a boy, that used to be a filling station,” Malcolm says. “I remember filling up water balloons there.” Today, this Southwestern-style restaurant fills up diners with Latin-inspired dishes like wasabi shrimp tacos and mojo pork nachos, plus build-your-own margaritas.
Wasabi Shrimp Tacos at Ortega’z Southwestern Grill. photograph by Chris Hannant
Poor Richard’s Sandwich Shop. For more than 35 years, Poor Richard’s has been a local favorite for both sandwiches (Malcolm likes the Cuban Reuben) and nightlife, with regular live music performances. “That’s an absolute center of community activity on the waterfront,” Malcolm says.
Avenue Waterfront Grille. Owners Thomas and Maria Williamson buy only local seafood, and many of their other ingredients are sourced locally, too. Chef Thomas’s years of experience in the fine-dining industry, combined with Maria’s passion for healthy foods, has resulted in an eclectic, seasonal menu featuring everything from butter-broiled crab cakes and steaks to burgers and pizza, plus several gluten-free and vegetarian options.
Lost Colony Brewery and Café. When The Full Moon Café started brewing its own beer, people kept referring to it as “Lost Colony beer,” much to the confusion of owners Paul Charron and Sharon Enoch. So they decided to embrace the new name, and today, Lost Colony Brewery and Café still serves the same high-quality seafood, salads, and sandwiches — plus British- and Irish-style beers.
Wanchese Pottery. Bonnie and Bob Morrill have been selling their pottery out of a cottage on Fernando Street for almost 30 years. Visitors can sometimes see Bonnie (above) at work at her potter’s wheel inside the shop. “The connection to the community that they have, the welcoming spirit that they have, is just an example of the type of merchants we have in town,” Malcolm says.
107 Fernando Street Manteo, NC 27954 (252) 473-2099
Wanchese Pottery. photograph by Chris Hannant
Downtown Books. “[Owner Jamie Anderson] has a great selection,” Susan says, including an extensive collection featuring the Outer Banks and local authors. Anderson personally selects every book in the store, and staff members often leave handwritten sticky notes recommending their favorite reads.
105 Sir Walter Raleigh Street Manteo, NC 27954 (252) 473-1056 manteoreads.com
Bluegrass Island Trading Company. In a tribute to all things bluegrass, this small storefront sells CDs, records, and T-shirts (plus gourmet foods and other souvenirs), and serves as a box office for many local music events. Free Pickin’ on the Porch concerts (pictured) are held in front of the store throughout the summer, and the owners host the Outer Banks Bluegrass Island Festival each year at Roanoke Island Festival Park.
The Roanoke Island Inn. Lauren and Jason Borland moved to Manteo in 2017 and bought this historic eight-room inn, where they’re also raising their two young children. “Right off the bat, they’ve rolled up their sleeves and engaged in trying to make the community better,” Malcolm says.
Jason and Lauren Borland of the Roanoke Island Inn. photograph by Chris Hannant
The Tranquil House Inn. Along with its fine-dining restaurant, 1587 — named for the year the Lost Colony was established — this inn is “one of our showcase facilities,” Malcolm says. “That was one of the projects that breathed new life into the town by having people stay and eat in town.”
Roanoke Island Festival Park. This 25-acre historic site includes re-creations of the first English settlement and a Native American village, a replica of the Elizabeth II (built in Manteo at the George Washington Creef boathouse), and an adventure museum for kids. 1 Festival Park
(252) 475-1500 roanokeisland.com
The Elizabeth II at Roanoke Island Festival Park. photograph by Chris Hannant
Pioneer Theatre. The Creef family has run this theater since its inception in 1918. “You can drop your child off [for a movie] at 8 o’clock and rest assured that the child can be entertained in a wholesome environment,” Malcolm says. “That’s a long-standing family tradition.” 113 Budleigh Street
Roanoke Island Maritime Museum. Inside the George Washington Creef Boathouse is a working boat shop and small museum featuring traditional watercraft and other exhibits, including a shad fishing boat that was built in 1883. 104 Fernando Street townofmanteo.com/maritime
6 Things You Can’t Miss in Manteo
From Queen Elizabeth Avenue to the Elizabeth II to the Elizabethan Gardens, England’s monarch during Sir Walter Raleigh’s voyage to the New World still holds a commanding presence in Manteo. Queen Elizabeth set the stage for a tradition of tenacious women in Manteo, which today is home to dozens of women-owned businesses, ranging from insurance companies to restaurants to boutiques with women’s clothing or home decor. Some of Susan’s favorites? Bloom Boutique, Charlotte’s, Nest, Sam & Winston, Sisters Boutique & Gifts, and Sleeping In, Ltd.
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