It was a short while ago when we became aware that most of the shrimp that we were feasting on was not coming out of the waters right off of our shore but rather coming from the Pamlico Bay area just up north along the NC coast. Given our love for shrimp & shrimp boats, it became apparent that we need a trip up to the “Inner Banks” to see first hand just how much shrimping was being done up there. Weren’t we surprised!!
The two areas we heard that would be where’d we want to be, were Engelhard, NC & Oriental, NC. Based on that information, we set out to plan a long weekend trip with Englehard in mind as a focal point. After researching places to stay and discovering that there was virtually only ONE choice in Engelhard (and it was closed!), we decided that Washington would be our home base from which we’d branch out and begin our adventures and discoveries. We knew nothing of Washington except that it appeared to be a pleasant, little town on the banks of the Pamlico River and within short distances from both Englehard & Oriental.
Here is a map showing the Inner Banks area and the towns that we visited.
We began our latest adventure on Friday morning and after driving for about 3 hours through some lovely NC farmland, we landed in Washington and our first impression was pure delight…and it only got better from there. There were a number of lovely B&B’s in Washington, but given our plans for extensive travel, we chose to stay at one of the local ‘chain’ motels in town. We checked in and proceeded to discover what Washington had in store for us.
Oddly enough, Washington was founded in 1776 as the 1st town named after George Washington. It is essentially an ‘urban’ town in the midst of rural northeastern North Carolina with around 10K residents. Were it not for its riverfront setting, it would look like most other urban small towns with what was originally a vibrant central downtown shopping district. As most similar towns have fared in terms of urban decay and deterioration, so has Washington, however, it is abundantly clear that this town is experiencing a renaissance. An extensive walkway takes you along the Pamlico River passing docks, moorings, restaurants, condos, museums and more!
Here is a gallery of some of the sites along the riverbank.
One of the very exciting riverbank attractions in Washington is the North Carolina Estuarium – Where The River Meets The Sea. Because the Pamlico River flows into the Pamlico Sound and eventually into the Atlantic some 50 miles away, there is a measurable degree of salinity in the river but no tidal flow given that distance to the ocean. This makes it an ideal spot to build a museum and educate the population about the symbiotic relationship between the river and the sea. This museum does a wonderful job at that! At the museum, you can view over 100 exhibits:
- Aquariums with crabs and other estuarine life,
- Fun and fascinating artworks,
- Hands-on, interactive displays,
- Artifacts from life on the Pamlico River,
- Explorations of hurricanes and sea level rise,
- Pamlico River boat tours, and
- Special programs on natural and cultural heritage.
Here is a gallery of some of the exhibits inside the museum:
The ‘downtown’ retail & commercial center of town is just adjacent to the Riverwalk and to walk down Main St you’d think that you had stepped back to the 50’s. There is truly a warm, home-town Southern feeling on the street. Downtown clearly has had its struggles and the wounds still show to a degree with the empty storefronts & boarded windows. Don’t let that fool you though….this town is ALIVE! Former banks are now restaurants; theaters now are art galleries and concert stages. Much of the town has already seen a rebirth and nearly the rest of it is on that path. Most of the architecture is fascinating in its simplicity. Many of the storefronts are bright and inviting and the merchants will welcome you with wide open arms and happy faces. It is clear that Washington need not be a ‘home base’ as we used it but rather a destination where one can relax, shop, stroll, take in the scenery and oh yes….dine out! We’ll get to that soon but first, here is a gallery of some of what Main St, Washington, NC holds for you.
If you visit & stay in Washington, we’d strongly suggest staying at one of the B&B’s right in town such as the Pamlico House B&B or the Lumiere Inn as that will afford you scenic views of the riverfront and walking distance to downtown and the wonderful dining and drinking establishments. As for dining, since we did not spend a lot of time in town itself, we still did manage to enjoy dinner both nights that we stayed. Each night’s experience was exceptional!
We visited On The Waterfront our first night in Washington where we began our dining experience out on the patio deck overlooking the Pamlico with a dozen of Billy’s Famous Char Grilled Oysters and we could have eaten dozens more! We also shared some delicious Ahi tuna Ahi dipped in sesame seeds, seared to perfection, and served on a bed of seaweed salad drizzled with soy sauce and ginger. We continued eating with Grilled Portobello mushrooms stuffed with a house made risotto drizzled with a balsamic reduction accompanied by pan seared sea scallops for Pat and a Carolina Clam Bake for me: Red skin potatoes, corn on the cob, shrimp, scallops, Andoullie sausage and little neck clams steamed and served with lemon butter and parsley. Don’t pass it by if you’re in town!
Our second night was at least equally satisfying at a stunning restaurant on Main St that unless you pop in, you’ll never realize the sheer beauty and uniqueness of Down On Mainstreet. Since we had been traveling and photographing all day that day, we returned ‘home’ with a powerful appetite! We proceeded to simply fill our table with food we could feast on until we couldn’t any longer. Our menu of treats was:
- Pamlico Petals – Spicy Onion Petals quick fried crispy brown and served with spicy petal sauce
- Buffalo Shrimp – Golden fried Shrimp in your choice of our famous buffalo or boom boom sauce. Served with ranch & bleu cheese dressing
- House-made potato chip – A basket of our fresh cooked, crispy chips served with ranch dressing
We polished that off with some shrimp po-boys served with some amazing fried cheese grits! Thankfully Main Street is a wonderfully, casual restaurant, we could stretch out a bit before we tried to get up from the table. Aside from the food, the ambiance and the price…the service was simply exceptional; well beyond our expectations. When in town, you must make a stop here! If I hadn’t been eating everything but the walls, I’d have taken some photos of the unique interior. Next Time.
Next up will be stories and photos from Bellhaven, Englehard and Mattamuskeet Lake.