OBX Days Gone By Map
In a few short months Dare County will celebrate its 153rd Anniversary, and while none of us were there (we assume) and remember those days there is plenty for us to look back on. Many places still exist that bridge the past with the present of the Outer Banks, such as Sam & Omie's Restaurant, First Colony Inn (on a second location), Gingerbread House Bakery, Cavalier Surf Shop and the Pioneer Theatre, but there are plenty of places we all miss. There are too many places to look back at them all and each person will have a different place that tugs a memory of the past so we gathered a few based on places we still hear and see talked about and some or all are sure to bring you back to days gone by.
Nags Head Hotel
We start our journey at the location that began tourism in Dare County, the Nags Head Hotel, not to be confused with the Nags Header Hotel that will come later. In a bid to escape the summer heat and malaria on the mainland the Nags Head Hotel was built in 1838 by mainland plantation owners and was the first real hotel to provide a place for tourists to stay. The original had 200 rooms but quickly grew to 250, a wharf was added to welcome ships, a dance hall was included and eventually boardwalks to the ocean. The hotel and wharf were the hub of Nags Head at the time with locals gathering to welcome newcomers to the island. In 1862 confederates burned the hotel down but another was built there until the sands of Jockey's Ridge slowly swallowed it sometime in the 1870's, some are skeptical but others believe it is still buried there.
Nags Header Hotel
In 1935, "The Finest Hotel on the Carolina Coast" according to its developers, and subsequently guests, was opened. The Nags Header stood 3 stories high on the highest oceanside lot from 1935 to 1978. The Nags Header was the first in the area to offer hot and cold water in each room, had a modern kitchen with refrigerators, and its huge porches and verandas offered a nice breeze in the times before air conditioning. The hotel also offered amenities such as a life guard, dinner with an orchestra, and guided tours. Sadly in the 1970's the hotel began to fall into disrepair and was eventually condemned by the town. Then on one October morning in 1978 black plumes of smoke could be seen across the northern Outer Banks as the Nags Header burned and was gone by that afternoon.
In the summer of 1947 the most modern hotel of its time on the Outer Banks opened its doors. The Carolinian had 64 rooms and 24 suites, 2 pools, 2 large air conditioned dining rooms, and The Anchor Room, which sat 500 and would host music acts for decades. The decks on the oceanside hosted the Best Body on the Beach Contest for years, MTV even showed up one summer, and the cellars of the hotel hosted comedy acts until the Carolinian was demolished in 2001.
In the early 1880's the Arlington Hotel was built on the soundside in Nags Head where it hosted visitors for 50 years. In the 1930's the hotel was moved to the ocean side of Nags Head and under different ownership, the Haymans of Outer Banks fame, the hotel was expanded and turned into a luxurious place for vacationers. The Hayman's sold the hotel in 1960 and it continued to run until 1973 when a February Noreaster caused it to collapse into the ocean.
Nags Head Casino
The Nags Head Casino opened its doors on the ocean side in Nags Head in 1930 but back then it served a different purpose. It was originally a dormitory for workers building the Wright Memorial Monument and then workers building up the dune line, but property owners at the time were not thrilled with having seasonal workers close by. The next year the building was sold and reopened as The Casino. The casino's top floor was a dance hall, its bottom floor was a garage and lunch counter, and there was also a bowling alley, arcade, and market. In late 1937, Ras Wescott purchased the casino and turned it into a place of legends. Wescott focused on family fun and began to bring in top music acts like Duke Ellington and Artie Shaw, later in the 50's Louis Armstrong even graced the stage. He took pride in the highly waxed dance floor and prohibited shoes, so for decades vactioners and locals danced the night away barefoot. In the 70's Wescott sold the building and it continued to host bands like The Four Tops and John Prine under the name Nephethe but it wasn't the same. The Casino began to fall into disrepair in the 80's and was demolished in 1985.
If you lived on the Outer Banks anytime before the 90's you most certainly know the name Mike Hayman and remember the Seafare Restaurant, it was dining at its finest. Mike Hayman bought the oyster bar his parents opened in 1959 across the street from their popular Arlington Hotel in 1967 and the Seafare quickly became a tradition and a landmark on the Outer Banks. The dark wood interior, fresh seafood, she-crab soup, and servers in bright red jackets was a must stop location for nearly 25 years until it caught fire in 1984. The Haymans no longer owned the restaurant and was now called the Seafarer but Mike Hayman watched it burn that night. The Haymans over the years also had Seafare III and Seafare Jr built around 1973 which was bought by Jolly Roger owner CarolAnn in 1999 and reopened as Carolina Seafare but sold and demolished a few years later.
Newman's Shell Shop
Built in the 1950's not many people remember that Newman's Shell Shop was not always a bright pink brick building, the original building caught fire and burned down. It was replaced with the iconic pepto pink building that stood on the beach for 5 decades before being torn down in 2004. Whether you wanted a shell, a sea monkey or to watch a hermit crab race, Newman's was the place to go for a souvenir.
Footsball Palace & Atlantis Beach Club
These two have been put together only because mere feet separated them not because they were the same business. The Footsball Palace and Atlantis did have a few things in common though, both were a good time, both saw their share of partying and mayhem, both had a back door that opened right out onto the beach where you could escape the heat inside and have some privacy, and both were demolished in 1996.
The Footsball Palace was built in 1948, but was Manns Recreation Center until the 70's; you could roller skate, grab a milkshake, bowl, and play games. The Footsball Palace continued the game tradition but added foosball, pool tables and drinking and the complaints started rolling in not long after from neighbors.
From 1979 to 1995 the Atlantis Beach Club was one of the hottest spots on the Outer Banks, the building had several clubs before but Atlantis is the one that will go down in Outer Banks history. The Atlantis was dark, cramped, hot, the bathrooms always had an inch of water but that didn't stop anyone from going including famous and up and coming music acts like Dave Matthews Band, Edwyn Collins, 311, and Widespread Panic. If you got too hot you just went out the back door to the beach.
In the mid-70's the Wharf Restaurant opened its seafood buffet on the beach road in Nags Head. For over 25 years people lined up around the building at 4pm to get in rain or shine. It was another staple of vacation in Nag Head. After the owner retired and sold the property the building was demolished in August of 2004.
Dowdy's Amusement Park
In 1963, the Dowdy family opened Dowdy's Amusement Park to bring family fun to Dare County. The park included bumper cars, the Tornado wooden rollercoaster, a ferris wheel and much more. For over forty years families went to Dowdy's but slowly the rides and park began to age. It closed in 2005 and the property was bought by the town of Nags Head and turned into another park named after the family and former attraction.
Jockey's Ridge Miniature Golf
In 1975, Jockey's Ridge Miniature Golf was opened at the base of Jockey's Ridge. Its collection of wild statues included a sea serpent, octopus, giant cobra, a ship, and a castle. Slowly the mini golf course was overtaken by the dunes and it was removed in 1988. The peaks of the castle still stick up out of the dune slowly being uncovered and used to educate visitors about erosion.
In 1978, right on the bypass in Nags Head Surf Slides opened. Four large water slides stood for decades and served up thrills for locals and visitors alike. Just about everyone has a story of them or their kids going down the slides on a mat. Surf Slides closed it doors sometime between 1999 and 2000 as the lot was vacant in 2000 but everyone still talks about those yellow slides on the highway.
Forbes Carpet Golf
In the 1960's Forbes Candies out of Virginia expanded their booming business to Nags Head. Their original location was on the beach road in Nags Head and also featured the Forbes Carpet Golf. The miniature golf had a huge variety of fun holes and statues, including its popular Nag which was moved with them when they relocated the candy shop to the bypass in the mid-2000's leaving the carpet golf in the past.
When the Vivianna Motel opened in 1961 it was one of the most architecturally unique buildings on the Outer Banks. Every room was an efficiency and the whole hotel was heated and cooled, a glass front lounge offered amenities such as television and there were ample porches. The Vivianna stood until 2000 when the current owner, not the original, sold the property with plans to move the motel, however they did not get the proper permits in time and the new owners eventually had the building demolished after trying to work with the old owner.
Oasis Seafood Restaurant
From 1950 to 1980 the Oasis Seafood Restaurant was popular for two things, lace cornbread and barefoot co-eds. College girls waited tables at the restaurant, my feet hurt just thinking about it but the customers loved it, right along with the lace cornbread. The restaurant changed hands in 1989 and was renamed The Dock, it was bought again by the original owners family in 1990 and changed back to the Oasis and then for the final time it changed hands again in 1993. In 2004 the new owners were working on the floors when a spark from a steamer caused the chemicals to ignite and the restaurant burned down.
The Reef, Spencer's, & Ships Wheel
The site that is now a parking lot on the causeway for fishing once hosted several amazing restaurants that people still talk about to this day. First it was The Reef in the 60's, then it became Spencer's Seafood Safari after its Manns Harbor location burned down in the 70's, and finally The Ships Wheel. There is a lot of debate online over who had the best lace cornbread, The Reef or The Oasis across the street but the final story I'm going with is they were one in the same as Mrs. Annie Gray made it at The Oasis but then started The Reef across the street with her husband. The causeway was two lanes at the time and the building was eventually torn down to widen the road. The Ships Wheel, as it was then, moved to the beach road next to Ebb Tide Motel, but they are both gone now as well.
Jumping over to Manns Harbor is the former location of Spencer's Restaurant before it burned down and moved to the causeway. The restaurant had previously been Polly's Kitchen, complete with a talking bird. And while there is plenty of debate over lace cornbread there is no debate that Spencer's had the best hushpuppies and that recipe is locked up tight. Someone even claimed Quaker tried to buy it, maybe they did.
The Sea Oatel and Dare O'lina Cove
In 1953, the Sea Oatel was opened on the beach road. The original had 20 units and boasted of its all tile baths and desk/dresser combination furniture. The motor court also had an onsite restaurant, the Dare O'lina Cove, not many restaurants had an ocean view and this was a happening spot. Eventually the Sea Oatel became part of the Quality Inn and like so many others on this list Hurricane Isabel in 2003 had a devastating affect, in 2005 the Sea Oatel was demolished.
Miller's Pharmacy, Mulligans, Beach Road Grill, Thumpers
In 1935 if you wanted a limeade, pimento cheese sandwich, or a vanilla coke then Miller's Pharmacy on the beach road was the place to go. To this day the internet still talks about childhood days spent there grabbing a favorite bite to eat or a malted shake. After decades of being Miller's Pharmacy, which closed sometime in the mid-80's, for a brief time it was an icecream shop but then became the original Mulligan's Grille, widely known for their burgers. In the mid-2000's, Mulligan's moved to bypass at the site of the former Bad Barracudas and the manager of the beach road Mulligan's seized the opportunity and opened Beach Road Grille in 2006. After Beach Road Grille closed Thumpers opened for a brief time before the land was sold and the building torn down in 2017.
A Restaurant By George
In 1976 George Crocker opened A Restaurant By George, its unique building and decor, delicious food, and hospitality made it the spot to be in the 70's and 80's. Everything Crocker did was over the top and the restaurant was no exception, everything was ornate, the bathrooms were like harems and the waiters wore safari helmets. In 1985 Crocker sold the restaurant to Mike Kelly of Kelly's fame and Frank Gajar of Port O'Call fame. They turned it into George's Junction Seafood Buffet and it eventually the contents were auctioned off and the building was demolished in 2004.
The Galleon Esplanade
For around 30 years the Galleon Esplanade provided one of the most unique shopping experiences you could have. The Galleon, built in 1962, was a courtyard filled with unique shops and treasures and even featured a waterfall and shop that was a galleon replica. The shopping center was another attraction built by infamous George Crocker of A Restaurant By George and eventually torn down in 1994.
Cabana East Motel
There was a time when summer vacations not only involved spending time with your family but also getting to know other families and guest where you were staying, the Cabana East Motel was no exception and even encouraged this by having a weekly picnic. For decades they served hotdogs and watermelons to guests and families enjoyed getting to know one another. The motel opened in 1962 and featured all oceanview rooms and most with private balconies on the Atlantic, it was yet another project of George Crocker who goes on to build the Galleon Esplanade and A Restaurant By George. The motel was demolished in 2003 joining the list of lost motels either due to Hurricane Isabel or the housing boom in the early 2000's.
It's no wonder that after starting his restaurant career working for Mike Hayman of Seafare and George Crocker of A Restaurant By George that Mike Kellys namesake restaurant was a success. From 1985-2017 Kellys was known for delicious dinners and being a great night spot. Whether you were there for a DJ, a great band, a womanless fashion show, or the St. Patty's Day Parade after party it was always a great time at Kelly's.
In the late 70's Windmill Point was built in an attempt to revive the dieing industry of grain mills. After that didn't catch on, it was converted into the Windmill Point Restaurant and SS United States Lounge. The restaurant stayed until 2007 and the building was burned a few years after it closed in a fire training exercise. The iconic windmill was moved to Island Farm in Manteo where you can still view it today.
The Ghost Ship
Modeled after the Carroll A. Deering, The Ghost Ship was a haunted attraction built in 1982. Not to be confused with ship at the Jockeys Ridge Mini Golf, the giant ship replica sat on the highway in Nags Head and guest could walk through the haunted attraction. For most of the 80's the ship and its haunted crew members scared visitors on the Outer Banks until it burned down in 1989.
Pebble Beach Motel
In the mid-60's the Pebble Beach Motel opened its doors on the beach road in Nags Head. The hotel was formerly called Jewart's Cottages but was sold when the owner moved to Arizona. The new owner added on a new set of efficiences and families from all over enjoyed the motel for nearly 40 years. In 2002, the Pebble Beach Motel was demolished adding to the growing list of motels lost in the early 2000's but people still reminisce about the summers they spent there.
White Marlin Motor Court
From 1966-1980 the White Marlin Motor Court was a colorful addition to Nags Head. The one room efficiencies were 16'x16' and hosted small families for over 10 years before being auctioned off and the land being used for condominiums. For a brief amount of time the steel buildings were in Colington but were ordered to be removed. Four of them can still be seen on the right as you cross into Currituck from Kitty Hawk.
For over 40 years the Tan-A-Rama Motel sat just south of Avalon Pier and was a mainstay of Kill Devil Hills. Its cheap rooms allowed families to enjoy the Outer Banks on a budget and its efficiencies provided needed housing for summer workers. Built in 1962 the Tan-A-Rama stood oceanside until it was badly damaged by Hurricane Isabel in 2003 and tore down a couple years later.
Barney's Concrete Curl & Wet N' Wild Bumper Boats
In the 1970's and 80's skateboarding started to gain popularity and in 1977 Barney's Concrete Curl was built just a few lots down from Avalon Pier. It became the first skate park on the OBX and the first place young skaters in the area started. At some point it was sold and the new owners filled the bowl with water and it became Wet N' Wild Bumper Boats, a fun past time for families until sometime in the 90's. For years though every winter the new owner would go to Florida, the pool was drained, and the place became Barney's Concrete Curl in spirit again.
If my memory serves me correctly, and it may not, Carolina Seafood was a bright purple and teal building at the time of its demise. The building was there from 1981 when it was originally opened as Calabash but it didn't take long for the owners to lease it out and Carolina Seafood took over.
There was a time when you spoke of students on the Outer Banks you were not talking about students from other countries. Every summer college students flooded to the beach to fill summer posititons in the tourism industry and along with those students came parties. Many places have been known as party spots over the years such as Snug Harbor and The Breakers but then there was also Pelican Shores; two rows of cottages filled with college kids. There were parties so big spilling out onto beach that no one bothered to do anything about it because how do you catch 100's of college kids.
Sea Holly Square
In the 1970's an open air shopping center filled with unique gift shops opened in Kill Devil Hills. Sea Holly Square was a favorite place for many to shop and endured the ebb and flow of the economy for 30 years. From t-shirts to icecream to current shops such as the Tarheel Trader, you could find it all at Sea Holly Square. In 2002 the square met its demise though and was torn down.
Croatan Inn, Papagayos & Quagmires
In the early 1930's the Croatan Inn was built in Kill Devil Hills right at the site of the wrecked schooner Irma. The hotel was one of the first in the area and the beach road there was just nearing completion. The guests of the Croatan Inn used to hang out on the wrecked vessel and still today if the water is clear and sand is shifted enough you can still see it. By the 1980's the Croatan Inn became the infamous Papagayo, a mexican restaurant with a back deck on the water. There is no shortage of people still sharing pictures and memories of Papagayo and wishing it was still there. In 1996, Papagayo became Quagmires, a super popular spot that just like its predecessor is still talked about. There weren't many oceanfront spots anymore and when Quagmires was demolished in 2006 it really was one of the last of its kind.
With the coldest beer on the beach, an ocean breeze, and a killer jukebox the Buoy 9 was a favorite dive amongst locals in the 80's and 90's. The bar earned itself a bit of a reputation as rowdy but that isn't what anyone talks about still, it's mostly the cold beer and the jukebox.
The Circus Tent
As a place youth could go to have wholesome fun the Circus Tent was founded in 1968 by Reverend Hank Wilkinson. The 100' long multi-colored tent was where you could go to get icecream and listen to the New Hermeneutics a christian group that 100's every night in the summer would come hear. The Circus Tent lasted until 1988 but the evenings spent there with your family have endured in peoples memories.
Frank Gajar opened the Port O'Call Restaurant and Gaslight Saloon in the early 1970's. He lavishly decorated it and started a gift shop like no other on the Outer Banks; filled with fine goods like cigars and Tiffany lamps. Over the years the restaurant and saloon became a hotspot for dining and night life on the beach with music acts such as Parmalee, Agent Orange and Marcy Playground hitting the stage. After the passing of Gajar in 2016 the restaurant closed for a brief time but was reopened in 2018 as Secret Island before being such down by the town.
When entering the Mex-Econo you reached for the door handle and were greeted with a mannequin hand as a door knob. That is just the beginning of the oddities of Mex-Econo from the decor to the people. Mex-Econo was opened in 1986 and it was an anything goes kind of place, it was quirky, fun and everyone who hung out there was family. There was always live music of all genres and even Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters hung out there when he was in town. Even though Mex-Econo closed almost 30 years ago, it was the kind of place you will never forget and the patrons don't. Since it closed there have been two reunions and I think a quote from someone I reached out to ask about a picture sums it up "Mex-Econo Lives".
Some of us were not quite old enough to make an appearance at Mex-Econo or Atlantis, and for us there was The Pit. Making it even more special was that one of the busiest nights of the week you didn't have to be 21 at all to get in, Teen Night at The Pit is something that almost every teenager around experienced in the 90's and 2000's. The Pit Surf Shop originally opened on the beach road in 1975 before moving into a log cabin on the bypass. The Surf Shop expanded and added a night club and they were known for their Teen Night, Mug Night, and Euro Nights until the night club closed around 2015. The Surf Shop portion of the business remained open until 2020.
Holland's Surf Shop
In the 50's legendary surfer Bob Holland began making trips to the Outer Banks to surf. He was a well known surfer that owned a surf shop in VA Beach, Smith and Holland Surf Shop, the two partners opened one in Kill Devil Hills but eventually traded ownership so they each owned one shop with Holland keeping the one in KDH. He renamed it Holland Surf Shop and his boys ran it for a few summers. Eventually he closed the shop and turned it into his familys cottage that still stands on the beach road north of Avalon Pier, but his legacy on the Outer Banks didn't stop there. He was responsible for helping bring the East Coast Surfing Championship to VA Beach and the Easterns to Buxton. He won contests from the 60's all the way to 1993 including 7 US Championships, the first East Coast surfer to do so, and 12 ESA titles and in 1996 he was inducted into the Surfing Hall of Fame in its inaugural year. Bob Holland surfed until he was 84 years old and passed away in 2017.
Vitamin Sea Surf Shop & Lit Records
In the late 70's Vitamin Sea Surf Shop was opened and the A-framed building has endured to this day. The surf shop changed hands before eventually closing and becoming several other businesses but the building has been restored and you can rent it to stay in as of now.
Above the Vitamin Sea Surf Shop for a while you would find Lit Records which started in 1996 and was open until 2006. This store had things you couldn't find anywhere else on the beach, for one snowboard gear but also music that you couldn't get at other places like the mainstream Outer Banks Music. The shop moved after a few years next door in another shopping center and then across the highway around 2004 before closing in 2006.
Vans Pizza & The Circle
The best pizza is a debate that will go on until the end of time but for a large number of residents and visitors to the Outer Banks the answer will be Vans Pizza. Another debate that has gone on is which building it was in, the one where Fuji is now or where 5 Guys is, and lets throw in a random argument for Bob's Grill for good measure. The aerial photo above shows Vans Pizza written on the awnings of the current Fuji building but it was also on the beach road where Dare Devils currently is. Bob's Grill was formerly Zero's Subs, those Grinders were delicious, and 5 Guys was The Circle who served many of us in the wee hours of night after everything else closed.
Sound Side Folk and Ale House
What was originally the Holiday Marina in the early 70's became Sound Side Folk and Ale House in the mid 70's and early 80's. They had live music and open mic nights overlooking the water, add in a sunset and what could be better. Sound Side was the first restaurant on the beach with a vegetarian menu and Grammy winning guitarist Doc Watson played there as well as folk musician Gove Scrivenor. Sound Side closed in 1985 but one of the owners went on to start another Outer Banks restaurant which you probably have heard of, Hurricane Mo's.
Started in 1954, The Sportsman was the first restaurant on the by-pass. The iconic place was the only restaurant open year round for many years and drew locals in with their $1 or $2 meals. There was another Sportsman in Kitty Hawk for a while but the one in Kill Devil Hills with the large wooden boat on its roof was the original and served the beach from 1954-1979 when it burnt in a grease fire.
For some entering Seamark Foods the smell was overwhelming, but for all the rest the smell of fresh seafood cooking was what brought them there. In 1993, Seamark Foods in Kitty Hawk opened it doors, it wasn't the first Seamark but it was my first job so this is where it was located to me. The original in Nags Head was opened in 1989 where the Fresh Market currently is. Seamark was known for its fresh seafood, its seafood bar, and its 3 day sale around the holidays.
The Beachcomber Lounge was one of the few entertainment spots on the north end of the Outer Banks during the 70's. They had live music inside and outside and for a little while around 71' it was a private club that surprised many people who went to dine not knowing it was a go-go bar. In the early 80's the Beachcomber Lounge went up for sale.
Journeys End Motel
In the 1950's once you crossed the bridge the first place to stay was the Journeys End Motel. These efficiency rooms were popular amongst families but later started to become a little rundown. In 1993 the restaurant at Journeys End actually became the original Rundown Cafe before they moved a few lots down and the building was demolished.
Southern Shores Motor Lodge
In beginning the Southern Shores Motor Lodge was part of the original Sea Ranch until it was moved to Kill Devil Hills after the Ash Wednesday storm. As you entered Dare County and hit the beach road you could stay at Southern Shores Motor Lodge on your left or Journeys End Motel on your right. The building still stands today across the street as an office for Southern Shores Reality.
Duck News Cafe
In the early 2000's Duck News Cafe and Spirits sat right where the Paper Canoe is today in Duck. It had one of the best water views and fantastic seafood plates.
Elizabeth's Cafe and Winery
Tucked away in the Scarborough Faire Shoppes in Duck was Elizabeth's Cafe and Winery. For 25 years the restaurant impeccably paired food and wine and was touted in wine magazines around the country. The cozy fire, temperature controlled wine cellar, lace table cloths, and highly trained staff provided a romantic fine dining experience to all who were lucky enough to venture in its doors.
Founded in 1995, Southern Bean Coffee Shop was a staple in Kitty Hawk. It started out at the Market Place in Southern Shores but then moved to the Dune Shops in Kitty Hawk until the untimely passing of its owner, Eric Gardner. Eric was a friendly smiling face you could count on with your coffee or smoothie.
On the corner of The Market Place shopping center during the 80's and 90's was Fast Eddies. According to the internet it was modeled after a restaurant that was modeled after Fudruckers, irregardless, it was a great place for a burger, onion rings, or a milkshake.
In the late 70's, Fisherman's Wharf opened right on the docks in Wanchese and you couldn't get seafood any fresher. For decades the restaurant was a local favorite until it sadly closed. It did reopen for a few years this time run by the oiginal owners son, but shut its doors for good a few years ago.
Queen Annes Revenge
From 1978-2007 the Queen Anne's Revenge served local seafood in Wanchese. The restaurant was hugely popular and also served as a site for events.
Nick-E Stained Glass Studio
We sadly can't tell you when it opened or when it closed but most of my life tucked away in Wanchese was a wonderful stained glass studio. It was run by husband and wife, Robert and Ellinor Nick, and was a trove of wonderful pieces.
Fernando's Alehouse & Green Dolphin Pub
If you eat at Ortega'z Southwestern Grill in downtown Manteo you could never imagine the history of the building. From a gas station, to the rowdiest bar, to an episode of Matlock, and even a murder alibi there is a lot of history there. The first restaurant on site in 1974 was Fernando's Alehouse and though all bars can be rowdy the fact that you could rent a locker and bring your own liquor made this one especially so. In the early 80's Fernando's became the Green Dolphin Pub, which it stayed as until 2007. In 1989 a scene from the Matlock episode, The Hunting Party, was filmed there and it has been mentioned in the Counterclock podcast. After the Green Dolphin closed the restaurant became Ortega'z which also was on the show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives with Guy Fieri.
In 1986, the Weeping Radish Restaurant and Brewery was the first microbrewery in the southeast and one of the first 100 breweries in the United States. The owner fought hard to change NC Laws to allow them sell beer directly to the customer impacting hundreds of businesses in the future and paving the way for Asheville to win the Beer City USA title 4 times. The Bavarian style buildings hosted Oktoberfest every year and people delighted in joining the festivities or strolling around the shops to the nearly connected Island Gallery and Christmas Shoppe. Since the time it opened it has stuck to Bavarian principles only brewing beer with 4 ingredients: hops, malt, yeast and water. In 2005, the Weeping Radish officially moved to Currituck so even though it is still in operation it makes our list as it is no longer in Dare County.
Walkers Diner and Duchess of Dare
In 1947, Doris Walker opened Walker's Diner in downtown Manteo. The place was an instant hit and so was Doris, she eventually earned the nickname Duchess from her regular customers. She later renamed the restaurant Duchess of Dare and it was the morning coffee, hash browns, and gossip hotspot in Manteo until 1995. Her clientel was so faithful they had assigned seats and she was so faithful that if you were in a regulars seat and they showed up you were expected to move.
It's hard to picture what Pirate's Cove looked like before the 1980's, but in 1984 it was a marsh hummock and the Drafty Tavern. On the last day of April 1984 the Drafty Tavern closed its doors to make way for the new development. This rowdy bar had a long history that started at the Manteo/Wanchese intersection, where CVS currently is, as the Midway Inn in the 30's or 40's. The Midway eventually became the Toot N' Tell possibly named so because the Lost Colony cast would pull up and toot their horns and lunch would be brought out to them. The Toot N' Tell was then moved to the foot of the Washington Baum Bridge and eventually the name was changed to Drafty Tavern in the late 50's. A few were happy to see it go because of its bad reputation but many were sad and came out to the 'Drink the Drafty Dry' party to swap stories and mourn another landmark gone.
Sir Walter Raleigh Statue
When we started this mapping project the main goal was to focus on places people miss but while doing research we discovered the Sir Walter Raleigh statue in Manteo is not one of those places, generally speaking. Standing at 24' tall the statue overlooked the town of Manteo from the mid-70's until 1990 and was described by most as "ugly". Adding to the unfortunate look of the statue was the fact that woodpeckers and termites took a liking to it. The statue did have at least one admirer though and after being beheaded and removed for safety reasons the head was gifted to Lynda Midgett, however the head rolled out of the back of the truck on the way to her house and broke apart. She had duck carvings and a few other things made from what she could salvage.
Waterfall Action Park
From 1980-2011 Waterfall Action Park served up thrills in Rodanthe such as water slides, go-karts, bungee jumping and putt putt. In 2011, Hurricane Irene caused a lot of damage to the park but it had begun to decline the previous few years already. The site is still there and is an on going eye sore topic.
Have you ever wanted to eat kangaroo or try a vegemite sandwich while drinking a Fosters and eating 10 cent shrimp? Well Down Under had all that along with a killer view of the Atlantic and Rodanthe pier. The restaurant became wildly popular with a line out the door until 1999 when the owners sold. The new owners struggled to capture the same magic and then in 2003 Hurricane Isabel devasted the property. The restaurant was moved sound side but it was never the same.
Stratford-at-Avon Movie Theatre
In the 1960's the Stratford-at-Avon Movie Theatre was built, and not long after the owner added on with putt putt and an a game/arcade called the Play Pen. Many people recall seeing their first movie at the theatre that lasted until the early 80's when it flooded.
Kona Kai and The Castaways
In 1986 the newly built Kona Kai Motel stuck out amongst the Avon cottages with its five stories, all white appearance, and palm trees. It later became the Castaway in 1992 until 2001 when it was torn down. The Castaway had a restaurant downstairs, The Blue Parrot, that was very popular and had 10 cent shrimp.
The Pilot House
In 1979 the Pilot House was the newest fine dining restaurant on Hatteras Island. The best part about Pilot House was that every seat had a view of the water and sunset. The original building burnt to the ground in 1986 but the restaurant was reopened in 87' until the mid-2000's when a developer bought the building and land. However the developer was blocked from building there due to it being in a flood zone and restaurant remains.
Built in 1962, the Frisco Pier stood soundly until Hurricane Isabel in 2003, like much of Hatteras Island Isabel caused massive damage to the pier. A local bought the pier and worked on rebuilding it but in 2010 Hurricane Earl hit and broke away large sections of the pier. The owners fought hard to save the pier, even offered to give ownership to anyone who could repair and save it, but eventually out of options they sold it to the park service in 2013. For the next 6 years and through many more storms the pier still stood and made a stunning backdrop for photographers but sadly in 2019 it was brought down by NPS.
We haven't found the exact date the Pirates Chest was open but if you were a kid in Frisco in the 60's it was the place you wanted to go. It started as the Post Office and Gift Shop and was an office space at time Hurricane Matthew hit and devasted the building.
Forget New England and forget Manhattan when in Hatteras you have Hatteras Style Clam Chowder and Channel Bass Restaurant had the best. Originally opened in 1958 it was sold in 1965, the new owners kept the name and made the Channel Bass a landmark and a place for regulars until they sold it in 2003. The restaurant wasn't the same after that even with an attempt to go back to the Channel Bass name it was eventually demolished in 2017.
Jiminy Cricket's Sub Shop
Pinball, pool, and the best subs many people say they have ever had is what Jiminy Crickets in Buxton was. Located in Buxton near the lighthouse it was an easy place to grab a bite after a surf session or day of fishing in the 70's.
A number of storms over the years had damaged the Marlin Motel in Hatteras, but it was Hurricane Matthew in 2018 that caused the final blow. Not to be confused with the Marlin Motor Court in Nags Head the Marlin Motel was a fixture on Hatteras since 1962.
Burrus Motor Court
The Burrus Motor Court opened in the mid 50's on Hatteras island. After surviving a half century of storms the motor court fell into disrepair after Hurricane Isabel.
Austin Creek Grill
With its stunning water views and acclaimed food Austin Creek Grill was a hit at Hatteras Landing. From 1999-2007 it was fine dining that people still talk about to this day. The location has been several restaurants since then but none have lived up to its standards.
Ormonds Clothing Store
We couldn't find any pictures of Ormonds Clothing Store which dressed people in Hatteras for all occassions for decades, but we did find this incredible photo of Ormond Fuller. Ormond Fuller started the clothing store and was a major part of the community from 1948 until her retirement in 1998.
Durant Station Motel
What was originally an 1878 Life-Saving Station later became the Durant Station Motel. As you entered Hatteras Village right on the ocean the motel sat until Hurricane Isabel destroyed it in 2003 along with the General Mitchell Motel two lots down. The site is now condominiums but the cupola from the Durant Station was placed on the clubhouse.
The Futuro House
I wish with less than 2 hours left before this map launches I wasn't adding this to the list but on 10/18/2022 the Frisco UFO burnt to the ground. In the 1960's the Futuro House was advertised in Play Boy Magazine as the bachelor pads of the future and in 1972 one was brought to the Hatteras oceanfront as a couples second home. It was been in Frisco at its last site since the 90's but it moved several times before. Along with various owners and locations the ufo was used for various things, a retreat, a gift shop, a hotdog stand, an office and as a tourist attraction.
Originally started as a way to drive tourists to the beach during the off season the Pirates Jamboree became a festival 1000's of people came to the Outer Banks for every April from 1955-1964. The festival took place all around the beach and Roanoke Island and had parades, dances, competitions, costume contests and a bit too much to drink. The increased rowdy behavior over the years is what eventually put an end to the festival.
This information is NOT to be construed or used as a "legal description." Map information is believed to be accurate, but accuracy is not guaranteed.
Dare County GIS Department 2022
We have tried our best to track down the original owner of each photograph if you believe a photo is yours and would like credit or like it removed please contact the Dare County GIS Department.