The Village of Wanchese is at the southernmost end of Roanoke Island, opposite the town of Manteo to the north. Wanchese is a charming fishing village that retains its old-world charm and sense of identity. Far removed from the hustle and bustle of the beach, Wanchese is an idyllic retreat from the flashy part of summer vacations, but close enough to enjoy all the amenities.
The village takes its name from one of two Native American Indian chiefs that first met British governor John White's expedition in 1585. Chief Manteo was the other. Today, Wanchese remains a key ingredient in the Outer Banks economy.
The North Carolina Seafood Industrial Park is at the village's southeastern point, just a short drive from the Highway 158 intersection, down state road 345 leading right into the village. You'll see a sign on the left directing you into the park. It's worth seeing. Here, at the mid-point of the East Coast of the United States, is a major fishing hub. Shrimp trawlers, flounder boats, huge vessels go out for weeks at a time gathering fresh seafood from waters up and down the Eastern Seaboard and the coastal and inland waterways of North Carolina. Much of the fresh catch ends up on the specials menu at our local Outer Banks restaurants. Some gets shipped packed in ice all across America.
From Wanchese, most of the great attractions of Roanoke Island and Manteo are just a few minutes drive. Roanoke Island Festival Park, the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island, Elizabethan Gardens, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, and Bodie Island Lighthouse are all just ten to fifteen minutes away. Whether you stay in a quaint beach bed and breakfast or a rental cottage, you’ll have plenty of things to do in Wanchese.
The North Carolina Aquarium is home to a 285,000-gallon tank anchors exhibits filled with fish and creatures found here on the Outer Banks and the inland waters that make their way here – and Island Farm – a living-history museum full of lovingly-restored buildings and staffed by costumed interpreters who tell the story of life on the Outer Banks in the mid-1800s. The Mothervine, the oldest cultivated grapevine in the U.S., grows near the water’s edge, and though there’s no tasting room attached, wine enthusiasts, history buffs, and just about anyone with a green thumb will want to take a look at the thick, gnarled trunk of this centuries-old vine.
Venture to the south end of the island where the commercial fishing fleet and a few charter boats bring in their haul. While you’re there, grab something to eat and something to cook later from O’Neal’s Sea Harvest, a local favorite fish market and restaurant operated by one of the long-time Outer Banks families. There are small communities of devoted locals, a few places to gas up and grab supplies, a great grill tucked away in a gas station, and your last chance to grab some local seafood before heading home. You’ll also find the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge – a 152,000-acre wildlife refuge full of deer, black bears, migratory birds, alligators, and even red wolves – where you can look for critters along their wildlife drive, go for a kayak, or hike nearby.