Pedro de Quexoia leads a Spanish expedition from Santo Domingo that explores the coastal region.
Florentine explorer Giovanni da Verrazano explores for France along what is now the North Carolina coast.
July: A Spanish colony directed by Luís Vasquez de Ayllón settles along the Cape Fear River. The colony has more than 500 men, women, and children, including African slaves. After more than 300 settlers die of starvation and disease, the survivors abandon the colony in October and return to Santo Domingo.
A Spanish expedition led by Hernando de Soto explores the western portions of present-day North Carolina, looking for gold. De Soto and his men visit Indian communities and probably introduce smallpox and other deadly European diseases to the native populations.
Spanish explorers establish Saint Augustine in present-day Florida. This is the first permanent European settlement in America.
August 24: Spaniards looking for the Chesapeake Bay land on the coast of present-day Currituck County. Led by Pedro de Coronas, they explore for a few days without encountering any natives and eventually return to the West Indies.
Spanish explorer Juan Pardo, seeking gold, leads an expedition through what is now western North Carolina. Pardo visits the Catawba, Wateree, and Saxapahaw Indians.
Sir Walter Raleigh sends explorers Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe to North America in search of potential colony sites. At Roanoke Island the explorers meet Native American chief Wingina and find the site excellent for settlement. They return to England with two Indians, Manteo and Wanchese, who learn English and are used to create publicity for Raleigh’s colony.
The first English settlement in America is founded at Roanoke Island, and Ralph Lane is appointed governor. The Roanoke Indian people, some of whom initially welcome the colonists, begin to see the English as a drain on food and other resources.
Ralph Lane leads an expedition into the interior of North Carolina in search of gold and other precious metals. Roanoke Indians warn inland tribes about the English, but Lane makes an alliance with the Chowanoke, who hope to use the English against their enemies the Tuscarora. Chief Wingina plots to get rid of the English settlers, and Lane has him killed.
Sir Francis Drake arrives at Roanoke Island and takes most of the colonists back to England, leaving an exploring party. Possibly Drake also leaves Africans and South American Indians that he captured from the Spanish. A relief ship arrives at Roanoke Island and, finding none of the colonists, leaves 15 men to hold the area for England.
Raleigh sends explorer and artist John White to Roanoke Island as leader of a new group of settlers—the second English attempt to settle there. The colonists find bones of the 15 men left behind in 1586. White enlists the help of Manteo to build relationships with the Roanoke and Croatoan Indians. Most of the native peoples decide to let the colonists fend for themselves.
Governor White leaves Roanoke Island for England to acquire supplies for the colonists. With England and Spain at war, White cannot make an immediate return to the colony.
August 18: Virginia Dare becomes the first English child born in the New World.
White finally returns to Roanoke Island to find the colony deserted, with little evidence of what happened to the colonists. He attempts to sail to Croatoan Island in hopes of finding some of them, but severe weather prevents him from reaching the island, and he never returns to the area. The Roanoke settlement is known afterward as the Lost Colony.