The Lost Colony Outdoor Drama

The Lost Colony Outdoor Drama ~ Roanoke Island, NC

One of the most beloved things to do on the Outer Banks, particularly for theater and history buffs, is Roanoke Island’s The Lost Colony. As North Carolina’s longest running outdoor drama, The Lost Colony Outdoor Drama on Roanoke Island, NC has been in production every summer since 1937 and has attracted visitors from all over the world for its stunning production under the stars recounting the mysterious tale of the first English settlers who disappeared into thin air. These settlers included the first English child born in America, Virginia Dare. Manteo, with nearby attractions including Fort Raleigh National Historic Park, Elizabethan Gardens, Festival Park, NC Aquarium and downtown shopping, is an ideal day trip for Cape Hatteras vacationers who don’t mind taking a day off from the beach, and taking a step back in time. Find them online at

The Lost Colony Quick Facts

  • The Lost Colony Outdoor Drama on Roanoke Island, NC was awarded an honorary Tony in 2013 for major contributions to American theater
  • The capital of North Carolina was named after Sir Walter Raleigh
  • Many areas of the Outer Banks feature the name of Virginia Dare, the first English born child and most famous member of the Lost Colony
  • Andy Griffith performed in the Lost Colony from 1947-1953 and resided in Manteo until his passing in 2012
  • The show got its start with one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs funding theater during the Great Depression
  • Tickets can be purchased from The Lost Colony website or on site at the box office.
  • The production is approximately 2 hours in length which includes an intermission
  • Bring along some bug spray and a paper fan to better enjoy the evening

History's First Mystery

The Lost Colony has drawn speculation and theories from countless historians, and hundreds of years later, no one can prove exactly what happened to this band of early North Carolina settlers. The story begins with the dawn of colonization in the late 1500s. Queen Elizabeth I of England commissioned Sir Walter Raleigh to set out for the new world and colonize new settlements. Initially landing on Hatteras and then heading north to Roanoke Island, Sir Walter Raleigh enjoyed a successful first trip, returning to England and telling tales of the friendly local Native Americans.

Encouraged by his initial explorations, Sir Raleigh appointed Sir Richard Grenville to set sail for the new world and start a new settlement with 600 men, women and children. The new settlement on Roanoke Island, founded in April of 1585, was close to where Sir Raleigh explored, and was dubbed Fort Raleigh. Six months after initially landing at the new colony, Sir Grenville returned to England leaving 107 men, women and children behind. 

Upon his departure, he designated a former solider, Ralph Lane, to be the new leader of the colony. Lane was a questionable character who was known to steal supplies from nearby Native Americans and was not the most popular member of the colony. It is thought that his leadership played a key role in the colony’s demise, as when Lane invaded the Native American village in Roanoke and murdered their chief, the Native Americans were no longer friendly to their new neighbors.

Less than a year after being put in charge, Lane abandoned the colony. Sir Grenville returned from England just a few weeks later, with three ships full of supplies for the settlement, but upon his arrival, he found that every man, woman, and child had disappeared. There was only one small clue of what had happened to the abandoned colony, carved onto a tree in the middle of the settlement: the word “CROATAN.” Croatan was the name of the neighboring Native American tribe, leading historians to believe that the colonists either joined, or were killed by the local Natives.

The Lost Colony Map

The Lost Colony Outdoor Drama is Born

This centuries old mystery is the storyline of the “The Lost Colony” outdoor drama production which has been performed in an outdoor pavilion called the Waterside Theater every summer since 1937. Summer visitors have a nightly opportunity to see the production that brings the curious mystery to life. Over the years, the show has included performances by famous personalities early in their careers, like Andy Griffith, Terrance Mann, William Ivey Long, and long time North Carolina Senator Marc Basnight, and has entertained over three million people from all walks of life since its debut.

While we may never uncover the fate of the Lost Colony settlers, the story remains one of the Outer Banks’ greatest mysteries, and most curious attractions. Contact us today at Surf Or Sound Realty to learn more about the best things to do Outer Banks and Cape Hatteras has to offer, or to simply rent one of our best Hatteras Island Vacation Rentals! We can't wait to hear from you soon!