With a population between 400 and 500 people, Arapahoe is primarily known as a farming town. Offering a limited number of businesses, such as Belangia’s Super Market (one of just four full-service grocery stores within the 350 square miles of Pamlico County), other small businesses include talented craftsmen in wood furniture, metal sculpture and jewelry, and the well-known Gary’s Seafood Restaurant, a florist and entrepreneurs in seafood management, home improvement and various service industries.
Arapahoe is one of several Pamlico County towns divided by highways. The town’s incorporated limits stretch several miles on either side of N.C. 306, one of two major roadways in the county. N.C. 306 leads south to Minnesott Beach and the ferry, offering daily trips to the Cherry Point side of the Neuse River. To the north, 306 goes to the Grantsboro intersection with N.C. 55, where travelers can proceed north to the landfill and ultimately to N.C. 33 or go east on N.C. 55 toward Bayboro and Oriental, or west to New Bern, about 25 miles away. A paved and well-traveled N.C. 2005 (Kershaw Road) intersects with N.C. 306 near the Arapahoe Post Office, providing alternate routes to Oriental and Bayboro and curving west to New Bern.
The town is expected to gain hundreds of new residents in the future with the building of several new developments. Chief among the new housing projects is Arlington Place on the south end of town. It could bring in as many as 1,200 new homes, along with boat docks. Other projects in or near the town include Shine Landing, with nearly 100 lots including some on the water; Shareheart Community, a development of small village condos along Dawson Creek and Cribbs Cove; and Dawson Creek, with about 100 housing lots.
Arapahoe has long had a strong sense of community, and when consolidation closed the town’s elementary school in the mid-1990s, residents came together to build the Arapahoe Charter School. The school has consistently ranked among the top charter schools in the state since its inception in 1997. The school provides kindergarten through middle school for nearly 400 students, in small classes. Charter schools are in the public school system, although under state charter guidelines they are self-governed on the local level.
A large spring-to-fall enterprise in the Arapahoe area are four youth camps. The YMCA–affiliated Camp Sea Gull for boys and Camp Seafarer for girls, along with Methodist Camp Don Lee and Christian Church Camp Caroline keep the Arapahoe Post Office very busy during the season.
Legend has it Arapahoe was first known as “Cross Roads,” with several versions of how it became Arapahoe. One is it was named for Indians in the area, who traveled a sand ridge trail south to the river that later became the footprint for N.C. 306. Another story is the town was named for a racehorse owned by a prominent citizen. Either way, the town was settled early in the 18th Century. A post office was established in 1886 and the town was incorporated in 1920.
Because N.C. 306 and the old Indian trail follow the sand ridge left by Silurian Period oceans, Arapahoe and Grantsboro are among the highest points in the 350 square miles of Pamlico County, at 39 feet above sea level.