Experience Purple Martin Majesty
Find the Roost
The William T. Umstead Bridge (also called "The Old Manns Harbor Bridge") crosses Croatan Sound between Roanoke Island and the village of Manns Harbor. From the Outer Banks, use the newer Virginia Dare Bridge to cross over to Manns Harbor, then bear right until you reach the NC Wildlife Resources Commission boat ramp. Across the highway, on your left, there is a small parking lot. Or you can park at the boat ramp.
The martins roost is most active at sunrise and sunset from mid or late July through mid-August. This is a safe and fun place to see the phenonmenon. The CCPMS in 2009 worked with local government and tourism agencies to design and build the pier into the sound from the west end of the bridge. On land donated by the Fearing family, the wheelchair-accessible BeBop memorial pier accommodates fishing, birdwatching and enjoying the sound and marshland.
Crystal Dawn sunset cruises to the Manns Harbor roost were cancelled in summer 2020 because of restrictions due to the coronavirus. Also, the population of martin families at the roost was unusually small. We hope to resume some education activity at the roost during its active season of July and August and will publicize events as scheduled. The speed zone will also be activated during the roosting season if the population of birds warrants it.
The CCPMS schedules sunset talks at the observation pier during the height of the roosting season, weather permitting. Learn about why the birds are here, where they come from, what they do while here, how long they stay, and how you can participate. The sessions for 2020 were cancelled because of COVID restrictions. You can make special arrangements (at least 3 days notice) to visit by contacting us: