A Visitor’s Guide to the Elizabethan Gardens

The Outer Banks is rich with history, and while you’ll find historic spots all around the barrier islands, the Elizabethan Gardens is, without a doubt, the most stunning.  

With its meticulously manicured landscapes, vibrant blooms, and rich history, this gorgeous garden is a perfect excursion for visitors of all ages. 

If you’re planning your next OBX getaway to a First Flight vacation home, you will want to add this stop to your agenda. To help you out, we’ve gathered all the necessary information before checking out Manteo’s historic Elizabethan Gardens. 

About the Elizabethan Gardens

Photo Credit: Jason Schronce
  • Address: 1411 National Park Drive, Manteo, NC 
  • Website: elizabethangardens.org
  • Hours: February through November, 9 am to 5 pm; December, 9 am to 4 pm & 6 pm to 9 pm; January, closed.

You’ll find 10 acres of meticulously groomed gardens in the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. This exquisite estate, known as the Elizabethan Gardens, is a harmonious blend of art and nature commemorating the rich history of the Outer Banks. 

The Elizabethan Gardens were completed in 1954. Their dedication was marked by planting two Magnolia trees representing “mother” England and “daughter” United States.

The gardens were designed as a historic tribute honoring the legacy of the Lost Colony of Roanoke. The colonists were Sir Walter Raleigh’s first permanent colony on Roanoke Island. They mysteriously disappeared without a trace, and their fate remains a mystery to this day.

Drawing inspiration from the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the gardens represent the Elizabethan-style architecture and horticulture of the 16th-century era. The garden is maintained by the Garden Club of North Carolina.

Things to Experience at Elizabethan Gardens

There are plenty of things to do at the Elizabethan Gardens. You may have different experiences depending on the time of year, so this is a spot worth visiting over and over again!

Take in the Seasonal Symphonies

The Elizabethan Gardens hold new sights with every season. From the burst of colorful blooms of the annuals in the spring to the autumn symphony of deep, warm hues, each visit is bound to look different. 

Visiting in the early summer, you’ll be rewarded with blooming azaleas and hydrangeas. Even the winter months hold new treasures as the grounds are transformed into a winter wonderland that comes alive at night. 

Attend Events, Concerts, and Workshops

In addition to WinterLights, held in November through December, the garden hosts many different seasonal events throughout the year.  

Be sure to check the calendar before visiting. You may be lucky enough to find something special, like a plant sale, a workshop on gardening, or live music during an outdoor concert!

Capture Stunning Photos

Photo Credit: stockfour

Your first photo opp appears as you enter the gardens from the gatehouse. You’re greeted by a magnificent Carra marble Italian fountain that begs to be photographed.

From the charming architecture to the colorful flowers and lush landscapes, you will surely capture the perfect image here. Amateur and hobbyist photographers are welcome to snap away, but professional photographers and videographers are required to pay a photography fee. 

Take a Guided Tour

Photo Credit: bbernard

A free mobile audio tour is available for all guests using a cell phone or device with internet access. You’ll find signs throughout the grounds with instructions on accessing the audio tour. 

Tour Guides are also available for group visits. To arrange a tour guide for your group, you’ll need to contact the Gardens two weeks in advance and pay a 20% deposit to reserve a guide. Discount admission to the Gardens is available for groups of 20 or more. 

Explore with a Furry Friend

What better way to get your steps in and walk your furry friend than doing so while soaking up the scenery in a beautiful garden?

Elizabethan Gardens is a pet friendly OBX excursion and welcomes well-mannered, leashed dogs for a small admission fee of $3. One dog is permitted per adult, and first-time visitors may be required to complete some paperwork and show proof of current vaccinations.  

Can’t Miss Exhibits at the Elizabethan Gardens

The Queen’s Rose Garden

Photo Credit: Jason Schronce

The Queen’s Rose Garden is the crown jewel of the gardens. Featuring over 2,000 rose plants representing a variety of colors and species; this garden was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth II in 1976. The two-acre garden even contains a rose bush sent by Queen Elizabeth II herself from her own gardens at Windsor Castle. 

Sunken Garden & Overlook Terrace

You’ll find the beautiful and serene Sunken Gardens tucked away in the middle of the grounds.  Along its walkways, you’ll encounter a stunning statue of the ancient Aphrodite and a babbling fountain flowing nearby.

Just beyond the Sunken Garden, you’ll find Overlook Terrace. Here, you’ll find a gazebo with stunning views of the Roanoke Sound.

Historical Statues

Aphrodite’s statue is one of many you’ll find in the formal gardens. Upon arrival, you’ll first spot an impressive statue of Queen Elizabeth I. 

You’ll also find a statue of Virginia Dare nestled at the foot of an ancient live oak. Known as the first child born in America to English parents, Dare mysteriously disappeared with the rest of the Lost Colonists.

Additionally, you’ll find many other statues scattered throughout the gardens, honoring historical figures and Greek mythology. 

Butterfly House

Photo Credit: Zydree

If you’re a fan of butterflies, you’ll want to plan a stop by the Butterfly House in the garden. Open seasonally, you’ll find beautiful butterflies nestled inside. You can watch them flutter around in search of sweet nectar and may even be lucky enough to have one land on you!

The gardens also schedule butterfly releases throughout the year.  Be sure to check the calendar and reserve a spot to ensure you are able to participate. 

Discovery Cottage

Tucked away in the back right corner of the gardens, you’ll find Discovery Cottage. This area is perfect for families with children looking for some hands-on activities. 

There are both indoor and outdoor exhibits for kids to enjoy. They can climb aboard a ship built for fun or tend house in one of the playhouses with living roofs composed of plants. Inside the cottage, you’ll find seasonal programs using hands-on activities to learn about the life of native plants and insects. 

There is also a great interactive fairy hunt for kids that they can participate in while wandering through the gardens. 

Visit the Gift Shop

You can take home a living souvenir of your visit to the Elizabethan Gardens. On your way out, be sure to stop by the Greenhouse Nursery, where you can see the plants grown on-site by the staff. Plants are also available to purchase at the nursery. 

The Royal Exchange Gift Shop, located at the Garden’s entrance, also has a large collection of unique gifts and memorabilia to commemorate your trip.  

What to Bring & Wear

There are a few things worth packing for your trip. While the paths are well maintained and often shady, being prepared is the best way to experience the gardens. Be sure to add these items to your packing list! 

  • Comfortable Shoes
  • Sun Protection 
  • Camera 
  • Water 
  • Mobile device for the audio tour

Step Back in Time at the Elizabethan Gardens

Photo Credit: Jason Schronce

If your idea of vacation fun includes enjoying history while admiring the floral symphonies of a gorgeous garden, you will want to visit the Elizabethan Gardens. Just a short trip from your First Flight vacation rental, and you’ll be transported back in time!