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Wanchese, North Carolina
Entrance to Wanchese Harbor
Entrance to Wanchese Harbor
Location in Dare County and the state of North Carolina.
Location in Dare County and the state of North Carolina.
Country United States
State North Carolina
County Dare
Named for Wanchese
 • Total 5.5 sq mi (14.2 km2)
 • Land 4.7 sq mi (12.1 km2)
 • Water 0.8 sq mi (2.0 km2)
7 ft (2 m)
 • Total 1,642
 • Density 298.5/sq mi (115.6/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 252
FIPS code 37-70920
GNIS feature ID 0996765

Wanchese is a census-designated place (CDP) on Roanoke Island in Dare County, North Carolina, United States. It was named after Wanchese, the last known ruler of the Roanoke Native American tribe encountered by English colonists in the sixteenth century. The population was 1,642 at the 2010 census. Today, Wanchese is the center of commercial fishing and boatbuilding on the Outer Banks.

The residents of Wanchese are governed by the Dare County Board of Commissioners. Wanchese is part of District 1, along with Manteo, Roanoke Island and Manns Harbor.


Wanchese is located at 35°50′42″N 75°38′22″W / 35.845046°N 75.639544°W / 35.845046; -75.639544, and on the southern end of Roanoke Island.

According to the United States, the CDP has a total area of 5.5 square miles (14 km2), of which, 4.7 square miles (12 km2) of it is land and 0.8 square miles (2.1 km2) of it (14.26%) is water.


Archeological evidence shows that Wanchese was the site of the first fishing village on Roanoke Island. Indigenous people inhabited the area 1500 years ago, and their various cultures used this site for fishing for 1100 years. They also collected oysters and shellfish from nearby beds in the Sound.

What is called the Tillett Site (after the last owners) had been occupied originally when it was still part of the mainland, during the entire Archaic Period (8000-1000 BC). After the sea levels rose and it became an island, the saline conditions of the Sound became established, giving rise to the later indigenous fishing culture, including that of the historic Roanoke tribe.

Three later periods of occupation were identified:

  • Mount Pleasant component, beginning around 400 and ending around 800;
  • Colington component, the prehistoric manifestation of the Carolina Algonkian culture, from 800 to 1650; and
  • Historic period component, related mostly to the Green family use of the site as a farmstead from c. 1884 to 1910/20. There was also fishing in this area.

During the first two periods, the Tillett site was a seasonal settlement. The Roanoke came to it from the mainland to fish and collect shellfish. At the time of English exploration, the Algonquian-speaking Roanoke tribe used the site for seasonal fishing. Their main town was on the western shore of Croatan Sound.

After English colonization, the site continued to be used for fishing by the Anglo-American peoples. In the 1980s, it was to be redeveloped for a major commercial fishing port and seafood processing facility.


2020 census

Wanchese racial composition
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 1,342 88.17%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 14 0.92%
Native American 2 0.13%
Asian 4 0.26%
Other/Mixed 63 4.14%
Hispanic or Latino 97 6.37%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 1,522 people, 683 households, and 488 families residing in the CDP.


Residents are zoned to Dare County Schools. Zoned schools include Manteo Elementary School, Manteo Middle School, and Manteo High School.

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