Home » 2004 Spring Break on Ocracoke Island

Roanoke Island, NC

Tuesday, April 27, 2004 - 9:00am by Lolo
460 miles and 8.5 hours from our last stop - 1 night stay


Roanoke Island was not in our plans, but neither was the loud squeal emanating from our right front wheel brake. We stopped at a Visitor Center when we hit Hatteras and were told that our best bet for a repair would be at Pugh’s Car Care Center on Roanoke Island. Yes, that’s right, Roanoke Island, the Lost Colony, where people have been known to go and never be seen again. Since we didn’t exactly have many choices, we hung a right near Nags Head onto a bridge over Pamlico Sound and onto the island that Sir Walter Raleigh had settled over 500 years ago. Things had changed a bit since then. There were now plenty of visitor services to satisfy every settler’s needs—including brake jobs.

We found Pugh’s right on the main drag in Manteo and threw ourselves at his mercy. Fortunately, they immediately assigned a mechanic to take a look at our brakes. I was really anxious to get this over with and get on our way. Our trip was already cut short by Andrew’s track meet and we didn’t have much time to spare. Also, the place was closing in an hour.

As the mechanic lay under our rig examining the problem, I could see that Herb was having a problem relinquishing control of the situation to a stranger. You see, Herb is very much a do-it-yourself kind of guy, who is really capable of doing even the toughest of mechanical jobs, but here he was without the tools or the parts to get the job done. So instead of doing it himself, he had to satisfy himself with pacing while someone else examined his rig.

The news was not good. Although the problem was quite fixable, it was not going to be completed that afternoon, but would have to continue on into tomorrow, cutting a precious day off our already shortened vacation. We tried to make the best of it. We found a nice little campground named Cypress Cove right down the road and spent a very pleasant evening fishing in their stocked pond. The kids even caught a few.

The next morning, bright and early, it was back to Pugh’s and hopefully a quick repair. I suggested sight-seeing while the repair was being done, but there was no way Herb was leaving. So, the boys and I took the bikes off the back of the RV and said good-bye to Herb’s feet, which were now sticking out from under the RV right next to those of the mechanic.

The boys and I rode our bikes a short distance down to the Manteo waterfront and then across a bridge to a small island, which was the site of the first English settlement in America. Today it is home to the Roanoke Island Festival Park, which does a great job of bringing that part of our country’s very early history back to life. There is a the Elizabeth II, a 16th century sailing ship, complete with sailors in period costumes speaking in Elizabethan accents, and an interactive museum where you can hands-on learn about what life was like in that first settlement 500 years ago. The island also has a nature walk along a boardwalk through the marshes and lovely views of the Manteo waterfront just a short distance away.

I did feel a bit guilty though about having a good time while Herb was back under the RV. We rode back to check on him, but they still had quite a bit of work to do, so we rode back down to the waterfront to walk around and do some shopping. The boys bought me two really pretty hand-painted wine glasses as an early Mother’s Day present. I call them my “Happy Glasses,” because for some reason looking at them makes me happy. Also, I hate to admit it, but I have fond memories of the boys and my time on Roanoke Island. Unfortunately, I’m sure Herb’s memories were a bit different.

About 4 o’clock they finally completed the brake job, and we very happy to be on the road again. The drive back across the bridge to Hatteras Island and down to Hatteras Village was very pretty. It’s amazing how thin the barrier islands are and what a rather fragile separation they are between Pamlico Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. At Hatteras Village we were lucky to hop right on one of the free North Carolina ferries to Ocracoke Island, allowing us to get to our beachfront campsite in plenty of time to toast the sunset.


Roanoke Island, located between the Outer Banks and the mainland, is famous for being the site of Sir Walter Raleigh’s Lost Colony.

Back in 1585, 100 men, women, and children settled here in what was to be England’s first permanent settlement in the New World. Shortly afterwards, Virginia Dare, the granddaughter of the colony’s governor, was born on the island, making her the first English child to be born in America. The following year, Governor White sailed back to England, intending to return later that year. However, he was delayed in England until 1590. When he did finally return to Roanoke, he found the settlers gone, the houses dismantled, and a fortlike palisade enclosing where the settlers had once lived. To add to the mystery, a large post with the bark peeled off contained letters spelling out the word “CROATAN.” Since there were no signs of violence or distress, White assumed the settlers had left to join the friendly Croatan Indian tribe. To this day, the mystery of where those first settlers had disappeared has never been solved.

Today that mystery is reenacted in the play, “The Lost Colony,” performed at the Waterside Theater from mid-June to late August. With its first performance in 1937, it is the United States’ oldest outdoor drama.

Other things to see and do on Roanoke Island:

  • Fort Raleigh National Historic Site – a reconstruction of the old fort as it stood in 1585
  • Manteo Waterfront – restaurants, galleries, and shops
  • Roanoke Island Festival Park – a 25-acre island across from the Manteo Waterfront with a 16th century sailing ships, an art gallery, and an interactive living history museum
  • Performance of “The Lost Colony” at the outdoor Waterside Theater
  • The Elizabethan Gardens near the Waterside Theater

Roanoke Island location map in "high definition"

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