QUIET AND PICTURESQUE cotton fields and gardens, fishing villages, and the sea-swept beaches of the Outer Banks fill the scenic still life of North Carolina’s northeast corner. Enjoy an education and fresh seafood at villages redolent of pre-Revolutionary times and visit the beach where the Wright Brothers first successfully launched their aircraft in 1903. Or attempt to solve the mystery of Roanoke Island’s ill-fated "Lost Colony" of 1587. The tour begins in Greenville.
GREENVILLE, ROBERSONVILLE, AND WILLIAMSTON
Music fills the summer air during "Sunday in the Park" concerts at Greenville’s town common on the banks of the Tar River. View North Carolina’s famous local pottery at the Museum of Art, then head outdoors to the East Carolina Village of Yesteryear’s 19 preserved buildings dating from 1840 to 1940. For a history lesson on Williamston and Martin County, pay a visit to the Federal-style Asa Biggs House, circa 1831. Tour the Morningstar Nature Refuge, home to trails and an observation tower. The refuge’s trails and facilities are open by appointment. Greenville-Pitt County Convention & Visitors Bureau, and East Carolina Village of Yesteryear, (800) 537-5564, www.visitgreenvillenc.com. Sunday in the Park, (252) 329-4567. Greenville Museum of Art, (252) 758-1946. Martin County Travel & Tourism and Asa Biggs House, (800) 776-8566, visitmartincounty.com. Morningstar Nature Refuge, (252) 792-7788.
WINDSOR, EDENTON, AND HERTFORD
Windsor is home to North Carolina’s answer to Britain’s Windsor Castle: This Windsor Castle was built circa 1858 and joins the circa 1803 Hope Plantation in the local historic home lineup. The Hope Plantation is home to three dwellings: the former residence of Governor David Stone; the 1763 King-Bazemore House; and the Samuel Cox House (a farmhouse which was built around 1800 and moved to the plantation in 1970). Also at the plantation, the history of local Native American and African-American populations is the focus at the Roanoke-Chowan Heritage Center. The Roanoke/Cashie River
Center is a pristine look at what the region was like before it was settled. The park’s observation deck and boardwalk trail provide an observation point of the area’s natural wetlands. Nearby, one of the nation’s last two-car inland river ferries, the San Souci Ferry, crosses the Cashie River for a free, four-minute ride initiated by honking your car horn at one side of the banks. Gardeners will enjoy Edenton, the setting of the Edenton Tea Party–a boycott of the East India Tea Company’s products by Colonial townswomen. Ideal for plant lovers, the 1758 Cupola House and its Colonial Revival garden heirloom plantings set an historic mood, putting visitors into the Colonial spirit. In Hertford, visit the state’s oldest brick house: the Newbold-White House, built in 1730.
Historic Hope Plantation, (252) 794-3140. Windsor Area Chamber of Commerce, (252) 794-4277. Roanoke/Cashie River Center, (252) 794-2001. Historic Edenton, (800) 775-0111. The Newbold-White House, (252) 426-7567.
Founded in 1757 on the Albemarle Sound, Elizabeth City is home to five districts on the National Register of Historic Places, including the largest grouping of antebellum commercial buildings in the state. The Museum of the Albemarle covers history, art, and artifacts of the region. Pick up locally produced artworks at the Pasquotank Arts Council Gallery and Shop.
Elizabeth City Area Chamber of Commerce and Mariners’ Wharf, (252) 335-4365. Historic Neighborhood Association, (888) 936-7387. Museum of the Albemarle, (252) 335-1453. Pasquotank Arts Council Gallery, (252) 338-6455.
OUTER BANKS: KITTY HAWK, KILL DEVIL HILLS AND NAGS HEAD
The Outer Banks of North Carolina, home to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, boasts some of the nation’s most lovely and historical sandy strips. Preview the region at the Aycock Brown Welcome Center. For the adventurous, Kitty Hawk Kites offers beginner and advanced programs in hang-gliding (solo flights rise no higher than 5 feet to 15 feet above the sand dunes). Pay your respects to true daredevils at the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills. Reconstructed buildings replicate the site of the first flight on December 17, 1903. The 150-foot Bodie Island Lighthouse has warned ships off Nags Head since 1847 and now features exhibits and a shop in its Keeper’s Quarters. Climb the 140-foot sand dune at Jockey’s Ridge State Park and be rewarded with a spectacular view of the surrounding islands and ocean.
Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, (800) 446-6262, www.outerbanks.org. Kitty Hawk Kites, (800) 334-4777. Wright Brothers National Memorial, (252) 441-7430. Bodie Island Lighthouse, (252) 441-5711. Jockey’s Ridge State Park, (252) 441-7132.
MANTEO, ROANOKE ISLAND
Manteo, on Roanoke Island, was home to the 1587 English colony of 116 people who mysteriously vanished, a puzzle that remains unsolved to this day. The town, intended to be Sir Walter Raleigh’s "The Cittie of Raleigh," is today home to the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site with a restored fort, a re-created furnished gatehouse in the style of a 16th-century orangerie, and lingering questions about what happened to the original inhabitants. Catch the Waterside Theater’s summer production of The Lost Colony, directed this year by Broadway star Terrence Mann. The musical by Pulitzer Prize-winner Paul Green first opened in 1937, making the play the oldest outdoor theater production in the nation. Then visit the 10-acre Elizabethan Gardens, a living memorial to the lost settlers. Designed in 16th-century style, it features a fountain, statuary, native plantings, and a gazebo. Also, enjoy living history interpretations, offered during the summer, aboard the Queen Elizabeth II, a 69-foot replica of a 16th-century square-rigged sailing ship, which represents the ships used by Sir Walter Raleigh to transport settlers to the New World. The boat and an information center can be toured year round. The island is also home to a large summer arts festival. For a glimpse into the region’s aquatic history, the North Carolina Aquarium features the creatures of the state’s rivers, marshes, and reefs.
Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, (252) 475-1500. Waterside Theater, (252) 473-3414. The Elizabeth II, (252) 473-1144. North Carolina Aquarium, (252) 473-3493.
ENGELHARD AND BELHAVEN
A scenic drive from Roanoke Island to Belhaven passes through the fishing village of Engelhard, settled about 1650, where commercial fish and shrimp boats anchor in its picturesque harbor on the Pamlico Sound. Six miles further down the road is the hamlet of Lake Landing set on Lake Mattamuskeet with an historic district beginning about three miles west of Engelhard. The houses and other structures date to the early 1800s. Stop by the Belhaven Memorial Museum to see Eva Blount Way’s eclectic collection. Currently housed in the top floor of Belhaven’s town hail, the late 19th-, early 20th-century display started as a button collection and expanded to include early American kitchenware and off-beat items ranging from a button collection and Civil War memorabilia to a flea circus and an eight-legged pig. Initially put on display as a World War II fund-raising effort, the exhibit has become a local curiosity that attracts fans of the weird and wonderful.
Hyde County Chamber of Commerce, (888) 493-3826. Belhaven Memorial Museum, (252) 943-6817.
DINING, SHOPPING, STAYING ALONG THE WAY
GREENVILLE: Woodside Antiques (252) 756-9929 Now and Then Designs, (252) 756-8470.
WINDSOR: Bunn’s Barbecue (252) 794-2274 King Street Bed & Breakfast (252) 794-2255.
EDENTON: Captains Quarters Inn (800) 482-8945 or (252) 482-8945 ELIZABETH CITY: Colonial Restaurant: (252) 335-0212 Cypress Creek Grill (252) 334-9915 Culpepper Inn: (252) 335-1993. Mama Kwans (252) 441-7889. NAGS READ: First Colony Inn: (800) 368-9390. MANTEO, ROANOKE ISLAND: Trapquil-House Inn: (800) 458-7069 Roanoke Island Inn (252) 473-5511; seasonal opens April Anna Livia’s Restaurant: (252) 473-3753
TAKING THE TRIP: From GREENVILLE take Route 13 for 3 miles to Route 903 and travel 16 miles to ROBERSONVILLE Drive in miles on Route 64A to WILLIAMSTON Take Route 17 for 18 miles to WINDSOR 23 miles to EDENTON 13 miles to HERTFORD and 16 miles to ELIZABETH CITY On Route 158 drive 49 miles to KITTY HAWK. Take Route 158.5 miles to KILL DEVIL HILLS 4 miles to NAGS HEAD, and 10 miles to MANTEO ROANOKE ISLAND, Follow Route 264 for 48 miles to ENGELHARD then 47 miles to BELHAVEN.