March 16, 2013 The Chowder Cook-off on the grounds of the Oriental Marina and Hotel is serious business to professional chefs from local restaurants and home-grown chowder perfectionists happy to display their creations to the tasting public. Volunteer firemen are among the most serious cook-contenders, working all hours and guarding their...more about Oriental Chowder Cook-off
Six creeks and the Neuse River surround Oriental, N.C. This watery beauty means marinas, sailing schools, marine services, fishing guides, marine supplies, boat rentals, charter services and great seafood restaurants dot the the county. Fishing trawlers still leave the harbors weekly and come back with loads of fresh seafood, and Oriental Harbor hosts hordes of transient sailors stopping by for a break from navigating the Intracoastal Waterway.
Oriental's waterfront Lou-Mac Park is the center of the community, hosting the annual Croaker Festival fund-raiser, the Spirit of Christmas caroling and boat parade, fine art and craft shows, local chili and chowder cooking contests, impromptu music-making, fishing from the pier, beauty pageants for people and dogs and summer outdoor church services open to any passer-by. The Visitor Center in the county seat, Bayboro, and the Fossil Museum in Aurora provide interactive history and unique learning fun for all ages.
Visitors to Pamlico County comment on the relaxed pace, the friendly greetings and the time nearly everyone takes for appreciation of quiet beauty. We think you'll like it too.
Quiet, pretty, with less than a thousand year-round residents, Oriental is backed up against the Neuse River to create one of North Carolina's most unique tucked-away places. Located 10 miles north and east of the Minnesott Beach free ferry to Cherry Branch, Oriental is situated amid the six creeks: Smith, Camp, Raccoon, Green, Whittaker and Pierce. A 10-foot channel connects Oriental waters with the Intracoastal Waterway, and forests of masts fill the harbor and various marinas around the town.
People in Oriental enjoy contributing their talents where ever a need rises. Within the village, a brisk walk or bicycle is the favored mode of getting from one place to another. Still, while the pace is relaxed, Oriental offers plenty to do. With 900 residents here and 2,700 boats, Oriental was dubbed the "Sailing Capital of North Carolina" by the first real estate company to start development of land near the fishing villag. Attracted to that notion, more and more sailors arrived, the town grew and that moniker survived. Because it's on the Intracoastal Waterway, Oriental is a convenient and popular year-round port for sailing vessels. In winter, when yachts from the north are southbound, they stop in Oriental for a couple of days; in spring, headed back north again, they linger longer. An estimated 5,000 to 6,000 ICW travelers visit every year.
Business in Oriental reflects its people. Sail makers, chandlers, marine supplies and consignment shops, boat building and docks offering marine supplies, equipment and repairs outnumber automobile repair shops. In the last few years, galleries, art studios and crafts shops have opened along with restaurants, bed and breakfast businesses and suites and condominiums. Residents are happy to discuss Oriental as the perfect getaway for relaxing, browsing, casual dining and enjoying the friendly people and the water.
Unlike many other coastal communities experiencing new-found popularity and increased demands for housing and services, Oriental is planning gentle expansion. In 1910 the town's population was 2,500. Today, year-round residents number about 900. In recent years, new neighborhoods and marinas have sprung up around the town, offering waterfront lots, boat ramps and recreational areas,. But the town says no to fast food places, chain motels and superstores of any description.
Oriental is named after the USS Oriental, a Yankee cargo ship that sank in stormy seas off the Outer Banks in 1862. Some years later, Rebecca Midyette, wife of the town's founder Louis Midyette, came across the ship's name board hanging on the wall of a private residence in Manteo, North Carolina. Mrs. Midyette liked the name, and after talking it over, the residents of Smith's Creek (the original name of the town) renamed their village Oriental. In 1899 Oriental was incorporated and the first post office was established with Louis Midyette as the first postmaster. A scale replica of USS Oriental has been paraded at town festivals and is usually found sailing the broad windowsill at the front of Oriental's History Museum on Broad Street.
The visitor traveling N.C. Highway 55 east to Oriental from New Bern will pass through the towns of Grantsboro, Alliance and Bayboro. Bayboro is not only the county seat of Pamlico County, but also is the county's oldest incorporated town (1881). In Grantsboro, just before the first of the two traffic lights in the county, is the Pamlico County Heritage and Visitors Center. Also the home of the Pamlico County Historical Association, the building is open Monday through Friday from 1 to 4 PM. Because it is staffed by volunteers whose availability sometimes varies, a call to (252) 745-3008 is recommended before stopping.
It's a good idea to get an Oriental town map at a village real estate office or a Pamlico County map at the Visitors' Center before beginning to explore. Points of land between creeks without bridges can become confusing, especially to those accustomed to streets laid out in grids. Free street maps and other information are available at most of the real estate companies in Oriental, and the helpful staff at Oriental Town Hall, 507 Church Street, (252) 249-0555, will also supply free information.
Oriental is also home to the Pamlico News, 406 Broad Street, (252) 249-1555, a weekly newspaper distributed each Wednesday. Bayboro hosts the offices of The County Compass, (252) 745-3155, a free weekly newspaper on stands throughout the entire county each Thursday. Both publications are available by subscription and maintain websites. Coverage of Pamlico County government and events is also provided by the daily New Bern Sun-Journal.