North Carolina : Safety by City
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Manteo, North Carolina, is part of the famed Outer Banks, tucked between the mainland and the barrier island on its own Roanoke Island.
Manteo’s historic roots run deep as one of the oldest North Carolina towns.
History and legendary stories reign here, as this was the home of the Lost Colony, a group of settlers who seemingly vanished into thin air in the 1580s.
Research The Lost Colony of Roanoke before you arrive, and you’ll better appreciate the historic sites you’ll see here.
As you stroll along the quaint streets, the echoes of its past whisper through the preserved historic sites like the Roanoke Island Festival Park, where history comes alive through interactive exhibits and a full-scale replica of a 16th-century ship.
At the same time, Manteo is a vibrant modern community that harmoniously blends tradition with contemporary living.
Its strategic location on Roanoke Island places it at the heart of the Outer Banks, offering a gateway to the pristine beaches, waterways, and outdoor adventures that define this coastal paradise.
In this article, we’ll delve deeper into Manteo’s rich history, explore its unique attractions, savor its culinary delights, and uncover why this charming town stands as a beacon of culture, adventure, and relaxation on the Outer Banks.
If you want to talk like a local, pronounce the name of the town “Man-ee-oh,” not “Man-TEE-oh.”
Warnings & Dangers in Manteo
OVERALL RISK: LOW
There's a low overall risk here, and so much to do that's different from traditional beach towns. Whether you're staying here as your home base or visiting for a day, you'll be safe in this small harbor town.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
The Outer Banks doesn't have a good public transportation system, so you'll either rely on a rental car, tourism shuttle services, or bicycles to get around. Having your own car is well worth the investment, so you can explore all the towns from Corolla to Hatteras.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
With just two purse snatchings over the past five years, the risk is low. However, you need to remember that tourist towns will always have a high potential, especially if you're lax on your safety precautions.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: LOW
Hurricanes are the biggest risk, and that season runs from November through June. Even offshore storms can cause dangerous water conditions and high surf. Thunderstorms and coastal flooding can happen at any time of the year. Flash flooding is a challenge with some roads in this area. You should never try to cross a flooded road, no matter how shallow it looks.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
This is a low risk with no more than three robberies a year going back a full decade. The low risk still means you should exercise caution when you're out at night or walking around alone, but you won't need a firm grip on your purse or wallet, either.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
There's no reason to worry about international terrorism on the Outer Banks. You can stay informed of a general overview related to terrorism in America by reviewing the most recent Terrorism Advisory Bulletin from the Homeland Security Department.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
Rental scams are the biggest risks, but you can keep the risk low by staying informed of the common tactics of scammers. Mainly, don't wire money to reserve a home and ask for proof of a valid rental permit. You should also insist on talking to the person on the phone or getting a video call tour; just be sure the person and place are legit.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
This is another low risk with a family-friendly atmosphere but still plenty of safe activities for a weekend ladies' getaway or a retirement trip with different generations of females.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The town of Manteo posts an annual water quality report on its website, and the one from 2022 shows full compliance and no violations. You should pay close attention to more time-sensitive water quality risks during flooding or tropical weather. Overall, the water is safe to drink, and the risk is low.
Safest Places to Visit in Manteo
You can use the town website and the tourism website OuterBanks.org to find all the things to do in Manteo and along the barrier island.
Manteo has a lot of historic hotels and inns, which could mean you can only book through the vendor’s site.
Also, most smaller inns will offer incentives not to use booking websites if you book through their own site.
Roanoke Island Festival Park invites you to step back in time to the 16th century.
Here, you can explore the Elizabeth II, a meticulously recreated historic ship, and engage with interactive exhibits that vividly showcase the area’s maritime heritage.
Don’t be surprised if they ask you to swab the deck or help steer the ship.
For those intrigued by enigmatic history, The Lost Colony offers a captivating outdoor drama.
It recounts the perplexing story of the Roanoke Colony’s disappearance, making it the longest-running production of its kind in America.
Reserve tickets early, as this is one of the premier events in all the Outer Banks.
Amidst the tranquility of Elizabethan Gardens, you’ll encounter meticulously landscaped greenery featuring native and exotic plant species.
It’s an idyllic spot for a leisurely stroll and an opportunity to appreciate the serenity of nature.
Families will find the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island a compelling destination.
Dive into an underwater world with touch tanks, informative exhibits, and exciting wildlife encounters, making it an educational and engaging outing.
Manteo’s waterfront is another must-visit location.
The scenic boardwalk along the waterfront offers shops, restaurants, and stunning vistas of Shallowbag Bay, providing a perfect backdrop for a leisurely walk.
Marshes Light, the iconic red lighthouse, serves as a symbol of Manteo.
A visit here not only offers picturesque photo opportunities but also provides insights into the region’s maritime history.
Downtown Manteo boasts a historic charm all its own.
Exploring the area’s quaint shops, galleries, and delightful eateries is a rewarding way to spend your time, and it’s an excellent place to find unique souvenirs.
Last but certainly not least, you should definitely consider the OBX Haunted Walking Tour of Manteo.
Between the “Lost Colony” and the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” off the coastline, many spirits are said to walk the streets and beaches.
You even get to use a paranormal energy detector.
Places to Avoid in Manteo
Manteo doesn’t have any crime-ridden neighborhoods or dangerous sections, so you can travel freely throughout the town (and the island, for that matter).
You do want to avoid going onto public property as many of the stately homes here are quite alluring.
Enjoy the marshes of Roanoke Island, but I can’t stress enough how important bug spray is here.
Especially during the height of summer, big bugs, and small “noseeums” can ruin a perfectly good day of exploring.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Manteo
- Manteo does have its own police department, and for a town of 1,200, the department does a great job of updating Facebook. You can follow their page @ManteoPD. The phone number to the main line is (252) 473-2069.
- Use the Dare County Emergency Management website to sign up for OBX Alerts through Smart911. This helpful, free tool allows you to get text messages about incoming weather, road closures, beach dangers, and other public safety concerns.
- The National Weather Service in this region comes from the Newport/Morehead City office. While hurricane season is the biggest time of year for storms, rough ocean conditions and dangerous storms can happen any time of the year.
- Manteo doesn’t have the traditional beaches you’d expect on the Outer Banks. It’s flanked by two sounds, and a bridge connects you to Nags Head. That bridge is not safe for walking or bicycling across. Take a quick taxi or rent a car to drive the 5.5 miles to Nags Head and beyond.
- Roanoke Island itself is very bicycle-friendly. While there’s not a law to wear a bicycle helmet, I wouldn’t consider riding without one. I don’t trust that cars around me will be safe enough to protect me while riding. It has nothing to do with experience. Children are required to wear a helmet.
- Free parking alert! Manteo has free parking on the street and in designated lots. If you park on the street, you should be prepared to parallel park.
- Watch your step when walking around the historic district. The sidewalks are made of bricks, which always makes me nervous since I’m prone to tripping. You should also note when the brick stops and meets with the pavement.
- Pay attention to one-way streets when driving around, as Manteo has several. At the same time, be aware that parking is on both sides of most streets, and that can make the lanes feel narrow.
- Please understand rip currents and the associated risks here. When you’re at the beach, there’s a seemingly endless ocean in front of you. Even calm waters can contain strong rip tides. Surviving a rip tide is largely dependent on you staying calm and following the guidance.
- Anglers need a fishing license from the state of North Carolina. You can purchase that ahead of time at the Go Outdoors North Carolina website. Be sure to get a coastal fishing license, as an inland license isn’t valid here.
So... How Safe Is Manteo Really?
Looking back at least a decade, Manteo hasn’t even ten violent crimes in one year.
More than half of those years had fewer than five.
Over the past five years, only about one stranger was a victim each year.
That means a low crime risk got even lower.
It’s exponentially more likely that you’ll get a bicycle stolen here than a vehicle, but don’t rest on that safety rating when it comes to locking your car each and every time you park it.
Don’t leave valuables in plain sight–not even a GPS system.
Of course, there are risks in the water if you aren’t versed in safety steps, especially if you’ll be doing more adventurous activities on the water with little experience.
You can always review the Dare County beach safety website and choose a guided tour on the water instead of going it alone.
All in all, Manteo is a fun, safe place to visit, and I’m quite jealous you might be going there!
How Does Manteo Compare?
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International visitors should start the visa process now, which could include a visa or visa waiver, depending on your home country and other personal specifics. If you don't have a passport, you'll need that, too.
Only the U.S. Dollar is accepted here. You can exchange currency at home for the lowest rates or at an international airport. Don't wait until you're on the island to take care of this, as options are hard to find.
Pack for beach casual clothing, but know this part of the coastline does get cold in winter. Summers are hot and humid. You should have sunscreen and bug spray on you at all times. Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring water shoes to protect your feet at the beach.
Norfolk International Airport (Virginia) is about 90 minutes away. Flying to Raleigh Durham means about a four-hour drive ahead of you.
When journeying somewhere that weather could impact, travel insurance is a must. Be sure to address health coverage as well if you're uninsured internationally. Also, verify rental car insurance will keep you covered in case of a mishap on the road.
Manteo Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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North Carolina - Safety by City
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