Fort Raleigh National Historic Site

Fort Raleigh National Historic Site: Uncovering America’s Lost Colony

Nestled on the northern shores of Roanoke Island, North Carolina, the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site holds the secrets of one of America’s oldest mysteries—the Lost Colony. This historic site preserves the location of the first English settlement in the New World, established in 1587, only to vanish without a trace three years later. Today, Fort Raleigh offers visitors a unique window into the early attempts at English colonization, the interactions with indigenous peoples, and the enduring legend of the Lost Colony.

A Journey Back in Time

Fort Raleigh National Historic Site invites visitors to step back into the late 16th century, exploring the grounds where the first English settlers attempted to carve out a new life in an unknown world. Through a combination of historical exhibits, walking trails, and the preserved earthen fort, guests can immerse themselves in the story of these early colonists and the Native American tribes they encountered.

The Lost Colony Outdoor Drama

One of the highlights of a visit to Fort Raleigh is “The Lost Colony” outdoor drama, performed in the Waterside Theatre during the summer months. This symphonic drama brings the story of the 117 men, women, and children who vanished, leaving behind only the word “Croatoan” as a clue to their fate. The performance is a powerful tribute to their story, blending history, mystery, and artistry under the stars.

Exploring the Site

Fort Raleigh National Historic Site encompasses several points of interest, including the earthen fort believed to have been constructed by the English settlers, the Elizabethan Gardens, and the Freedom Trail commemorating the Roanoke Island Freedmen’s Colony. The visitor center offers insightful exhibits on the history of the Roanoke voyages, the science behind historical research and archaeology, and the culture of the indigenous peoples of the area.

The Elizabethan Gardens

Adjacent to Fort Raleigh, The Elizabethan Gardens are a living memorial to the Lost Colony. Visitors can wander through ten acres of Renaissance-style gardens, complete with statuary, Elizabethan-era plantings, and a stunning waterfront view. It’s a peaceful place to reflect on the history and mysteries that surround Fort Raleigh.

Engage and Learn

Fort Raleigh National Historic Site is not only a place of historical significance but also a center for education and engagement. Ranger-led programs offer deeper insights into the site’s history and its cultural impact. Special events and educational programs throughout the year provide opportunities for visitors of all ages to engage with the past in meaningful ways.

Plan Your Visit

Fort Raleigh National Historic Site is open year-round, offering a fascinating glimpse into America’s early history. Admission is free, making it an accessible and educational destination for families, history enthusiasts, and anyone interested in the origins of English America. Whether you’re captivated by the mystery of the Lost Colony, interested in the history of early colonial interactions, or simply looking for a beautiful place to explore, Fort Raleigh welcomes you.


Fort Raleigh National Historic Site is a testament to the courage, curiosity, and complexity of America’s earliest settlers and the indigenous peoples they encountered. It stands as a reminder of the mysteries that shape our history and the importance of preserving and studying our past. A visit to Fort Raleigh is not just a step back in time; it’s an invitation to ponder the stories and legacies that have shaped the nation.