The last stop on our Inner Banks adventure was Oriental, NC, sitting on the banks of the Neuse River with a population of about a thousand. We had vaguely heard of this town with an oriental name…but were never quite sure of precisely what its deal was! After a bit of research, we discovered that it was the self-proclaimed “Sailing Capital of North Carolina.” The connotation we drew from that was lots of sailboats and such and that was ok with us. We put it on our itinerary for our last day, especially since we were able to plan our drive back through Oriental, rather than retracing our drive into the Inner Banks. There’s nothing I dislike more than taking a long drive out somewhere and then turning around and seeing the same sights on the way back. This option gave us a whole new, unknown route with everything new to us.
Knowing that it would be a long travel day, we said goodbye to our new friend, Washington NC, and made our way down Highway 33 and 55 towards Oriental, a drive that should take us a bit more than an hour. Once again, traveling near the coastal plain of the Inner Banks was a real treat. Quaint little towns, lovely family farms, rolling hills and the expectation of another waterfront town. Once we got into town, we headed straight for the waterfront to see what awaited us. To say that we were surprised would be the understatement of the weekend! We first thought that we would find a wide open marina, filled with sailboats, catamarans, and other pleasure boats. The reality was, however, quite different! We drove across the Hodges St bridge at the terminus of Raccoon Creek, perhaps no wider than 100 yards with virtually nothing but shrimp boats lining both sides of the Creek, double & triple parked all the way out to the breakwater, perhaps 1/4 mile away. This was sensory overload at it’s finest! We parked by Fulcher’s Point Pride Seafood (oddly enough Garland Fulcher Seafood was just across the harbor…not sure if there’s a relationship), a huge processing plant near the mouth of the creek and proceeded to make our way around the harbor.
As we got closer to the creek, the view was like nothing I had ever seen. I thought we saw massive shrimp boats over in Engelhard, but they paled in comparison to what was in front of us. For the first time, I saw steel hull shrimp boats that looked more like ocean liners than shrimpers. Their shiny, bright red hulls just jumped out of the water!
While it was difficult to take my eyes off of these gorgeous vessels, it was not very difficult to notice that one of ‘our’ girls was in this lineup! Right in front of us sat the lovely Miss Andrea Dawn from Varnamtown, NC! Imagine my surprise to see another one of my favorite gals all the way up here in Oriental. (We saw High Rider, also out of Varnamtown in Engelhard the previous afternoon) I encourage you to read a little more about Danny Galloway’s shrimp boat by clicking here. It’s a fascinating story.
As if I wasn’t surprised enough to see our neighbors up here in both Engelhard and Oriental, as we walked over the bridge to get a look down the harbor, who do I run into but My Girls, Timmy Hewett’s beautiful shrimper out of Shallotte, NC who will normally see docked on the ICW in Holden Beach at Old Ferry Seafood. It was like old home weekend!
We continued our way around the harbor searching for vantage points along the way to get a better look at the plethora of shrimpers up and down the creek. At one point I got lucky to maneuver into the Oriental Yacht Club which had an awesome covered deck that extended out into the harbor. I’ll let this gallery of additional photos tell the story of the beauty that we witnessed in Oriental that fine Sunday morning.
Sadly, our time was slipping away and we were unable to do any exploring in the town itself, away from the harbor. With over 3 hours of driving ahead of us, we needed to call it a day and start making our way back home. Given the geography of the Inner Banks area around Oriental with its inlets and harbors, it can be a challenging drive. Luckily for us, however, North Carolina has the best ferry system that we’ve ever encountered. We were able to drive less than a half hour out of Oriental to Minnesott Beach where we were able to catch the *FREE* ferry across the Neuse River over to Havelock, saving us many miles of driving, not to mention providing us with a quiet, pleasant ride across the water!
We hope you enjoyed our weekend as much as we did! We can’t wait to get back up to the area, preferably with a bit more time. If you’re considering visiting the area in the near future, be aware that there is a wonderful music & arts festival taking place in Oriental the 1st weekend in October. You can get details about the Ol’ Front Porch Music Festival here. We plan to be there at least for the music but perhaps as a vendor at the Village Market.
If you’d like to see the rest of the series of our Inner Banks tour, here are the other articles & galleries: