Roanoke Island Aquarium And Elizabethan Gardens


Just minutes from the Outer Banks with plenty of sites and attractions to explore, it's easy to see why many beach vacationers opt to take a day trip to explore this small community. Whether a visitor wants to brush up on their history or check out the new exhibits in the aquarium, there are lots to see and do during a trip to Roanoke Island.

The North Carolina Aquarium

Located on Airport Rd, just 3 miles north of Manteo's town limits, the North Carolina Aquarium welcomes over 1 million visitors every year, and features a word of exhibits dedicated to the Outer Banks and Inner Banks' unique marine ecosystems.

The 68,000 square foot facility has a number of areas to explore, inside and out, from the outdoor fossil pit when visitors can did for pre-historic remains, to the amazing maze of rooms inside which features everything from hurricane exhibits to playful river otters and alligators.

The Exhibit Galleries feature residents of Coastal Freshwaters, Wetlands, and Open Ocean, and visitors can explore the "touch tank" to get a hands on encounter with horse shoe craps or Manta Rays, take in a seasonal children's program or presentation, or just watch the sharks go by in the 285,000-gallon Graveyard of the Atlantic exhibit.

The Aquarium recommends planning to spend at least an hour or two exploring all the exhibits and it's a good idea to check out the website or give them a call before your visit to see if there are any special programs or events planned during your trip.

The Elizabethan Gardens

On the North End of Roanoke Island, located on the exact same site where the colonists first landed, visitors can explore the majestic and beautiful Elizabethan Gardens.

One of Roanoke Island's oldest attractions, the Elizabethan Gardens was founded in 1951 as a project adopted by the Garden Club of North Carolina. Formally opened on Virginia Dare's birthday on August 18th, 1960, the gardens now attracts thousands of horticulturists, gardeners, and all around nature lovers, who enjoy a spring or summer tour to take in all its amazing beauty.

The site is one of the finest examples of gardens of the Elizabethan period, and every season beings a fresh bounty of flowering plants, shrubs and trees. During the spring, visitors can expect to see large clusters of blooming azaleas, rhododendrons, dogwoods, herbs and bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils. In the summer, the gardens are flooded with sweet scented roses, magnolias, hydrangeas, crape myrtle, and bedding plants. Annuals, impatiens and chrysanthemums take over the garden in the fall months, and even in the late fall and winter, the garden shines with camellias and daphne. Throughout the year, visitors can enjoy amazing antique statues and the world's largest bronze likeness of Queen Elizabeth I, as well as period buildings and structures.

The highlights of the garden that can be enjoyed throughout the year include a 16th century-style gazebo that overlooks Roanoke Sound, a marble statue of Virginia Dare carved in Italy by Maria Louisa Lander, an ancient live oak thought to be more than 400 years old, and the Sunken Garden with an antique Italian fountain as its central focal point. Visitors can also take in the Shakespearean Herb Garden, and the famous Queen's Rose Garden featuring pierced brick walls and a collection of The Queen Elizabeth Rose which was given to the gardens by Queen Elizabeth II herself. An on-premise gift shop and plant store allows visitors to take home souvenirs to plant in their own gardens.

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