North Carolina is famous for its Outer Banks. While the string of islands is known for its great beach getaways, there’s beautiful garden history, too. You can find The Elizabethan Gardens tucked away on Roanoke Island, and even the first English colonists would feel right at home there, with the garden’s amazing attention to detail. After all, it was built with the idea of capturing the spirit of the original settlement. So if you’re into history as well as gardening, there aren’t many better places to go!


The blooming Digitalis poses for a picture. (Don’t forget to pack your camera!)

Photo Credit: Amy Rhodes

Female statue

You can find beautiful sculptures hidden throughout the ever-changing garden.

Photo Credit: Amy Rhodes

Red poppy

A red poppy stands out in a sea of white asters.

Photo Credit: Amy Rhodes


Ancient urns with intricate detail add texture and depth to The Elizabethan Gardens.

Photo Credit: Amy Rhodes

One of The Gardens’ most beautiful spots is the Queen’s Rose Garden. (It stars the Queen Elizabeth Rose, which Queen Elizabeth II gave to the garden herself!) After being romanced by the gorgeous bloomers there, stop to listen for the soothing sounds of water. The echoing splashes lead you straight to the Sunken Garden, which features an antique Italian fountain. And you’ll marvel at the ancient live oak – it’s believed to be over 400 years old! Let your sense of smell take over, and follow the aromas to the Shakespearean Herb Garden. It’s like stepping back in time.

There are many cozy places to relax at The Gardens, too. Some of my favorites are at the 16th century-style gazebo that overlooks Roanoke Sound, as well as the quiet benches hidden throughout the property. I like to sit and adore the beautiful marble statuary tucked into this breath-taking place.

The Gardens is operated by a small staff of dedicated enthusiasts who care for over 500 different plant species, including native coastal plants, historic herbs and a revolving display of seasonal annuals. And you’ll find much more than plants there. The Gardens offers something for everyone – from educational workshops and historical celebrations to musical and theatrical performances.

You can visit any time of the year, and when you do, be sure to stop in the 16th-century-style gift shop, where you can find plant sales and gardening goodies for all ages. You might even find some plants you admired during your visit – including perennials, native shrubs, hydrangeas, herbs and roses – all grown on-site.

If you’re a shutterbug, The Elizabethan Gardens is a perfect spot to spend hours capturing magnificent floral beauty. There’s also tons of wildlife, including birds, butterflies, dragonflies and an occasional lizard or two. Architecturally, the site’s a treasure for the eyes. You’ll find Old World warmth in the beams, hinges, brick walls and creamy Italian marble worn with time.

So if you’re looking for a garden where you can learn about history, as well as gardening, make sure The Elizabethan Gardens is on your sightseeing list! (If you can tear yourself away, you’ll enjoy a visit to the rest of the Outer Banks to boot.)