Dare County


Established in 1870 from parts of Tyrell, Hyde, and Currituck, Dare County was named after Virginia Dare, the first English child born in America.

The county seat of Manteo is named after the Indian Chief of Roanoke Island, who befriended Sir Walter Raleigh and the colonists of what is now known as the Lost Colony, an 1857 settlement of 117 men, women, and children on Roanoke Island who mysteriously disappeared. The play based on their mysterious disappearance, eponymously named The Lost Colony, is one of the longest-running outdoor dramas and has been in production for 81 years. Andy Griffith, who was known to spend time in Manteo, was part of the Lost Colony production for many years.

Comprising approximately two-thirds of the state’s coastline, tourism has sustained Dare’s economy since the turn of the 20th century. The population of Dare is roughly 37,000 residents, but during summer tourism months the county inhabits anywhere from 225,000-300,000 people.

Dare is also home to the Wright Brothers’ first successful flight. Originally from Dayton, Ohio (where misguided buckeyes still try to claim they were first in flight) the Wright Brothers chose Dare to test their airplane after reading about the wind patterns in the county, as well as the wide expanse of coastline with few inhabitants. In 1903, the Wright Brothers flew the first heavier-than-air machine in Kitty Hawk. The National Park Service still maintains its memorial there.

Dare and its lighthouses have made several appearances in pop culture. The Nicholas Sparks book Nights in Rodanthe, which was turned into a film in 2008, is set in the Hatteras community of Rodanthe.

While Senator Basnight represented the county as arguably the state’s most powerful Democrat for more than 25 years, Dare County has grown increasingly conservative and has trended Republican in recent elections. In 2022, Ted Budd won more than 57% of the vote. Donald Trump also won comfortably in the county, securing 57% in 2020 and 58% in 2016.


County Seat: Manteo
Biggest Cities:

Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, Southern Shores, Nags Head, Wanchesa, Manteo, Duck

Media Market: Norfolk, VA

Elected Officials

County Data