This national historic site commemorates and preserves the first English attempts at colonization in the New World (1585 to 1587) and helps visitors gain a better understanding of other Roanoke Island histories including the Carolina Algonquian, the Civil War Battle of Roanoke Island, the Freedmen's Colony of Roanoke Island and Reginald Fessenden's Roanoke Island experiments with wireless voice radio.
Pay a visit to the visitor center and bookstore where exhibits, a short film and park staff will help you understand the history of this area. During the summer months, park staff offers a regular schedule of ranger programs. Outdoor paths through the historic grounds provide visitors a view of the restored earthworks, originally built during 1585. The Thomas Hariot Trail winds through the wooded area between Roanoke Sound and the earthworks, making about a quarter-mile loop. Hariot’s discoveries of the New World are noted on signs along the trail. Nearby this site was the location of the Freedmen’s Colony of Roanoke Island, where escaped slaves found refuge during and after the Civil War. On the park grounds, you will find wayside exhibits that discuss the Freedmen’s Colony and a marker that designates the park as part of the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, a nationwide program of sites that addresses the Underground Railroad story. There's also a longer hiking trail, the Freedom Trail, that leads out through the forest and out to the Roanoke Sound where there is another Freedmen's Colony marker; look for the trailhead in The Elizabethan Gardens' parking lot.
A visit to Fort Raleigh National Historic Site is free. In summer the visitor center is daily. Check the website for offseason days and hours. Adjacent to the parking lot, a picnic site is available with tables under shady trees and a spacious lawn for kids who love to run and enjoy the great outdoors. Both The Lost Colony’s Waterside Theatre and The Elizabethan Gardens are on the grounds of this national park unit.