Our first day of exploring the Inner Banks was originally to be spent in Englehard, which is nearly an hour drive from ‘home’…Washington. When I had posted on Facebook the details of our trip, a FB friend suggested that we plan a stop in Belhaven, NC…as she called it, ‘the town that time forgot.’ I had never heard of it, but that’s no surprise since I wasn’t aware that there was an ‘Inner Banks.’ After a few moments of research, I realized that Bellhaven was only about 30 minutes away from Washington and right on the way to Englehard, it was a no-brainer to add it to our itinerary.
Given the short distance, we decided to dispense with breakfast and made plans to find a place in Belhaven to stop. With trusty google maps in hand, we saw that there were sufficient choices of places serving breakfast in Belhaven so with coffee in hand, we made our way on to the road headed for Farm Boys Restaurant. Located right downtown and right on the waterfront, Farm Boys is a pretty unique little spot for grabbing a meal from breakfast to dinner. It is, for the most part, a great take-out restaurant. There is no place to sit inside but the outside is a fabulous, sprawling deck with picnic tables overlooking the Pungo River. It’s good food, plain & simple! The deck comes alive in the evening on occasion with live music and often with open mike nights as they had the previous evening. We missed it. 🙁
Belhaven is not much different than most other small towns in the Carolinas or the entire US for that matter. As families move out to the suburbs, downtowns begin to crumble and sink into emptiness and despair. Belhaven did have its share of vacant buildings and storefronts, but what was there was still alive and vibrant! Take for example the building in our breakfast view just across the street from us. It was receiving a brand new coat of bright & bold turquoise paint from top to bottom. We noticed many other buildings in town showing off other bright pastels! The painting crew had been there since 5:30 AM painting by the glow from the street lights in order to try to avoid the blistering noon sun.
One of the painters was happy to strike up a conversation as he noticed me strapped down with camera gear. He, of course, was local to Belhaven, having lived there all his life. He walked me around the corner to tell me the story of what he had done during the remodeling process of the 3 story, multi pastel building facing the waterfront. He was gracious enough to offer to bring me up to the top of the building if I thought I’d like to have some photos of the waterfront from there. As if….I’d ever turn down an offer like that…even with my fear of heights and falling! We made our way up the 3 flights to the flat rooftop with barely a foot of wall holding me back from the world below! He proceeded to give me a fascinating 360° tour of the town and its hurricane history. I nervously snapped whatever photos I could get without trying to look down but I was not only happy with what I got, but thrilled that a stranger would go out of his way to literally and figuratively, show me the town!
My views from the top:
Those pastel storefronts were so inviting, of course we had to play tourist and visit each one of the shops. We took a real liking to a lovely little shop called Winbrandt Creations and its owner/artist, Heike Winfield. Her works were stunning…many of them with mixed media pieces with a distinct mermaid and sea life flavor. While I’m always enamored by an artist’s work, original pieces of art are normally well beyond our budget. I was beginning to think that my budget was getting tossed into the Pungo. After admiring so many pieces, I finally asked to have one piece taken off the wall and from that point on, she was ours. Carefully laid her in the back seat of the car to bring her to her new home.
At this point, we had already spent more time than we had initially planned on spending in town, but there was just too much more to see so we began our walk around the town and discovered that the rest of the town was just as beautiful….. as were the rest of the people we met. It was another flashback to the 50’s and the 60’s. Walking down the handful of streets in the ‘downtown district’ was another visit to small-town America, where it was safe to walk and your neighbors greeted you on the streets with smiles. This, no doubt, was Pleasantville! I hope that these next photos might help to bring you there as well. (Click on any of the images to view full size)
Before we could leave town, however, we were urged to drive down along the waterfront to the edge of town for what we were told was a tranquil spot to sit at the water’s edge and gaze upon the river as it flowed out to Pamlico Sound. I was well worth the extra stop.
Sadly our time in Belhaven had come to an end but we were so happy that we had decided to take the suggestion to visit the town to heart. I’m sure it’ll be on an itinerary in the future, but now it was time to make our way across the coastal plain out to Englehard and the shrimpers! Watch for our next post coming very soon.