Quality of Life in Northeast North Carolina Draws Tourists, Residents
Waterside Theatre on Roanoke Island in Manteo, NC
Visitors to Roanoke Island, NC watch the production of the Lost Colony — America's longest running outdoor drama and one of the country's most intriguing unsolved mysteries. The play portrays the New World's first English settlement, the members of which mysteriously disappeared.
“People come from all over to live in our neighborhoods," Charlotte Underwood, tourism director for the Elizabeth City Area Convention & Visitors Bureau and chair of Northeast Tourism (NET).
Attracting a wide range of people with varying interests – both residents and tourists, young families as well as retirees – Northeast North Carolina's appeal continues to grow.
According to Anita Johnson, vice president of project development for North Carolina's Northeast Commission, it's because of the lifestyle the region offers.
“Because we don't have a dense population, we get to avoid traffic jams, so we have less stress in our daily routine," she says. "Living in a small town, you see people over and over again, which enhances the sense of community and creates personal connections.”
Room to Live and Play
Affordable, beautiful homes, located on the water or on one of the many golf courses in the area, lure newcomers. The region's proximity to I-95 makes it a popular stop for snowbirds and families headed to Florida, and many who visit the area end up moving into one of its residential communities, including Albemarle Plantation, Scotch Hall Preserve, The Pines at Elizabeth City and Kilmarlic Golf Club.
“They are tucked away, so you don't always notice them from the highways,” says Charlotte Underwood, tourism director for the Elizabeth City Area Convention & Visitors Bureau and chair of Northeast Tourism (NET). “People come from all over to live in our neighborhoods.”
In addition to gorgeous views along rivers, sounds and the Atlantic Ocean, the water provides the opportunity for fun activities that can't be enjoyed just anywhere.
“You can jet ski, canoe, kayak, sail, fish or dive,” Underwood says. “Whether you prefer freshwater or saltwater, we have plenty of things to do on the water.”
The Outer Banks
“People on Ocracoke Island are very relaxed, and when you go there for a vacation, you become relaxed also,” Johnson says. “It's not crowded, and it's a little less populated. You don't see skyscrapers or big hotels; it's just natural landscaping and beautiful scenery.”
Some of the best board surfing, fishing and beachcombing on the East Coast can be found along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Known for its historic fishing villages and iconic lighthouses, the shore along the barrier island was recently recognized as one of the nation's top 10 beaches by Dr. Beach.
Roanoke Island is also a popular vacation spot on the Outer Banks and close to several cultural attractions. Visitors can see one of the country's longest-running outdoor dramas, The Lost Colony, at the Waterside Theatre, and explore the Elizabethan Gardens, which stand as living memorials to Roanoke's lost colonists.
Candlelight walking tours through Historic Manteo are also offered, as well as shopping and dining in a quaint downtown filled with museums and art galleries.
Nice Doing Business Here
As tourism grows, so do businesses. From bed and breakfasts to adventure companies, entrepreneurs in the region cater to tourists. HQ Kites & Designs USA, a wholesale distributor of outdoor recreational equipment, toys and garden décor, relocated to Currituck County from Chesapeake, Virginia, and has found success.
“Our company had a record year for sales and profits in 2010,” says Chris Shultz, Vice President of HQ Kites & Designs USA. “We are seeing more interest in outdoor recreation, including kiteboarding, snowkiting and kite landboarding.”
Another bonus to setting up shop the region? Attracting employees doesn't exactly prove difficult.
“There are tremendous natural and wildlife resources here to enjoy; boating, fishing, hunting, surfing, kiting,” Shultz says. “We find the area to be attractive to young professionals and those who are looking to escape from the rat race.”