A Traveler’s Guide to Wanchese, NC

When the hustle and bustle of a busy OBX vacation starts to wear you down, you don’t have to look far for a quiet escape that is the perfect opportunity to relax and recharge.  Between the Outer Banks and the mainland, you’ll find Roanoke Island and the small fishing village of Wanchese, NC. 

This small coastal community offers a glimpse into the rich maritime history of the area and an opportunity to get lost in the beauty of the Outer Banks. While this sleepy seaside town doesn’t offer many showy attractions, but if you’re in search of some fresh seafood and an authentic coastal experience, you’re sure to find it here on a day trip from your First Flight vacation home

Here’s a look at some of the top things to do in Wanchese, along with activities nearby if you need excitement after your quiet escape.  

About Wanchese, NC

Photo Credit: John Wenzelburger via Flickr CC2.0

Nestled along the coast of North Carolina lies the small fishing village of Wanchese, a town rich in history and culture. Originally settled by Native Americans, Wanchese became a vital hub for early European colonizers, with its bustling fishing industry attracting settlers from around the world. 

Over the years, Wanchese saw its fair share of wealth and tumult, from pirate escapades to devastating hurricanes, but its resilient community persisted through it all. Today, visitors can explore the town’s fascinating past through its charming museums and historic landmarks. Wanchese’s legacy is a testament to the enduring spirit of the people who have called it home for centuries.

What to Do in Wanchese, NC

Explore the Wanchese Woods 

Photo Credit: NC Wetlands via Flickr CC2.0

If you’re looking for peace and quiet, you will find it in the serenely beautiful Wanchese Woods. This maritime forest is situated on the outskirts of the village. You’ll find several picturesque walking trails that allow you to connect with nature while strolling through the woods.  

These woods are home to various local wildlife and diverse plant life. Many species of birds reside in the woods, and you’re likely to be greeted by a chorus of birdsongs. The woods of Wanchese offer the perfect respite when you’re looking to get lost in nature. 

Discover the Wanchese Seafood Industrial Park

Photo Credit: outerbanks.org

At the Wanchese Seafood Industrial Park, you can witness firsthand the bustling fishing industry that has sustained this small town for generations. You can watch flounder boats and shrimp trawlers set off for the day’s catch or see the fisherman unloading the hauls when they return. 

You’ll observe firsthand as the fish are processed and delivered to local restaurants and markets. While seeing seafood prepared, you’ll also learn about the various species in the surrounding waters. As the only federal, state, and county-financed project for seafood processing and fishing industries, Wanchese Seafood Industrial Park delivers many fresh-caught seafood along the East Coast. 

Reel in a Big One on a Wanchese Fishing Charter

Photo Credit: Coast Guard News via Flickr CC2.0

True to its roots as a historic fishing village, Wanchese offers plenty of opportunities for fishing enthusiasts. You’ll find a plethora of fishing charters to choose from. Many of the charters are run by fishing families who come from a long legacy of fisherman and know many secrets of the sea to help you reel in your biggest catch. 

From in-shore charters to deep-sea fishing trips, you’ll find the fishing trip of your dreams here.  Most charter boats are commercial fishing boats and come stocked with supplies. You can hook and line fish for Amberjack, Grouper, Kingfish, Tilefish, Snapper, and more. You can catch a shrimping charter with OBX Crabbing and Shrimping Charters or search for blue crabs in the Oregon Inlet.

In addition to fishing charters, you’ll also find boats that go out on sunset and dolphin cruises. Paradise Dolphin Cruises departs regularly from the Wanchese Docks. You can watch the sun lower over the Atlantic while casting breathtaking colors amongst the clouds for a view you won’t soon forget. Or watch dolphins play in the ocean from the comfort of a pontoon boat. 

Indulge in Fresh Seafood Delights 

Photo Credit: sweet marshmallow

After you’ve spent the day observing (or taking part in) seafood processing, you’re bound to want to sample some of the delicious seafood the area offers. Numerous restaurants and seafood markers offer freshly caught fish and expertly prepared dishes. 

O’neal’s Seafood Harvest

O’Neal’s Sea Harvest is a local family-owned seafood wholesaler that offers a retail store offering fresh catches to cook back in your vacation rental and a restaurant where you can let professional can do the work. They offer daily specials that vary from season to season, so check out their Facebook to see what their specials are before visiting. 

Sooey’s Dockside

Located at the OBX Marina in Wanchese, Sooey’s Dockside is a backyard BBQ gone coastal. This dockside restaurant offers cold brews, good food, and great views of the adjoining Marina. Here you’ll find several barbecue options and some delicious fresh seafood eats! 

Wanchese Marina and Seafood Grill

You’ll find Wanchese Marina and Seafood Grill in the heart of Wanchese. This dinner is a favorite of local fishermen and offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It offers a steam bar with shrimp, oysters, clams, and snow crab legs. You’ll also find delicious seafood baskets filled with fried fish, shrimp, or clams accompanied by crisp fries and savory hushpuppies. 

Adventures Just Outside of Wanchese

Located on the southern end of Roanoke Island, Wanchese is just a short drive from Manteo, a mecca of activities and adventures. And, of course, a quick trip across the bridge leads you back to the Outer Banks. There is no shortage of places to explore, from Corolla to Kitty Hawk and Cape Hatteras. 

North Carolina Aquarium

Those wanting to learn more about the diverse marine life that inhabits the area waters will enjoy a trip to the North Carolina Aquarium. You’ll enjoy interactive displays and exhibits while strolling through massive aquariums filled with everything from colorful fish to powerful sharks. The aquarium also offers touch tanks with a hands-on experience with stingrays and horseshoe crabs.

Roanoke Island Festival Park

History Buffs will enjoy a visit to Roanoke Island Festival Park. This park offers a glimpse into life for the original English colonists arriving in America in the 16th century. 

In the harbor, you’ll find Elizabeth II, a full-scale replica of one of the original ships that brought early settlers to Roanoke Island. You can also explore the American Indian Town, an interactive village showcasing the life and traditions of the Native Americans who inhabited the land long before European settlers arrived. 

Island Farm

  • Address: 1140 US Highway 64, Manteo, NC
  • Website: obcinc.org

The Island Farm is a living history museum that showcases what life was like on the OBX in the 19th century. Visitors can explore the farm’s historic buildings and witness traditional farming practices through live demonstrations and interactive exhibits.

Slow Down in Wanchese

While the village of Wanchese may be small, it is the perfect place to escape the hustle of the busy Outer Banks and experience authentic coastal life. Located on Roanoke Island, it’s a short trip from your OBX vacation rental and the perfect day trip.