Overview of Area in Oriental/Pamlico County, NC

Situated on the banks of the Neuse River, Oriental, NC has been beckoning visitors (and sailors) for generations. Population grows in summer sailing season, but has remained in the area of 900 full-year residents for several decades. Many active retirees enjoy first a visit and then a move to this quaint village of small shops, casual restaurants and warm and welcoming atmosphere. This section gives an overview and history of the area as well as information on the demographics and economic situation locally and throughout Pamlico County.

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Coastal Image Photography by Carolyn Temple


Being near the water often leaves you begging for perfect weather and in most Southern coastal Carolina towns, that's exactly what you'll find. Being no different from that trend, Pamlico County boasts temperate climates and plenty of sunshine, however, it does retain marked seasonal changes. During the summer months, daytime temperatures reach into the 90s and mainly fluctuate within the 70 - 90 degree range, though they can climb into higher 90s. The warmest month of the year is July, with an average maximum temperature of 89.9 degrees and a 63% humidity index. During the winter months, temperatures tend to be in the 40s but can fluctuate up or down by about 15 degrees. The coldest month is January, with an average minimum temperate of 35.8 degrees. Below zero marks have been reached every so often, but never for long. 

It should be kept in mind that June 1 to November 30 are considered the Atlantic hurricane season, and the North Carolina coast can potentially lie in a storm’s path.

Overview and History


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.


Alliance, a 2-square-mile town on both sides of N.C.  Highway 55, is the municipality between Grantsboro and the Pamlico County seat of Bayboro. The town, incorporated in 1965, has a mile-long stretch of retail businesses, restaurants and shops lining N.C. 55 and a main and residential street running parallel to the highway, but hidden from its view. Taking the fork left, just after passing the Pamlico Square shopping mall brings the driver coming from New Bern over a one-lane bridge and along broad fields into the old residential and service area of Alliance. There are homes, churches, barber and beauty shops, the busy Senior Service Center and the Human Services complex along the way to a curving exit back to the highway

Alliance was named for the Farmers Alliance Movement. Several decades ago, it was the central site for most of the utilities in Pamlico County and, as a result of well invested funds from franchise taxes it received back then, the town does not require property taxes for its nearly 800 residents. Alliance provides residents with streetlights and maintains its own roads. Fire service is provided through the Triangle Voluntary Fire Department. The town has a unique form of electing town leaders. Five board seats are open and the highest vote-getter in each election assumes the job of mayor, a position currently held by Frank Willis. 

Several Pamlico County agencies are based in Alliance, including the Cooperative Extension Service, Soil and Water Conservation and Farm Services. According to the Pamlico County Historical Association, what is now the town was, in the 1880s, two school districts - Oak Grove and Logger Head, which later became the community of Camperville. The postal service has operated in the community since 1890 when Albin B. Campen was appointed the first postmaster. Years later when farmers united and formed the Farmers Alliance, the people from the two school districts came together and named the community Alliance. Though the town has a business district, farming has historically been the chief industry, and today, agricultural fields are still prevalent inside the town limits and on bordering lands.


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.


At the heart of Pamlico County is the county seat of Bayboro, one of nine municipalities spread throughout a 350-square-mile county of farmlands, forests, creeks and wide rivers. Bordered by Bay River and the town of Alliance, this 1.5 square mile town is is surrounded by woods, farm fields and swampland. The town businesses include restaurants, a seasonally active hotel catering to hunters, some convenience stores, newspaper office, farm  and marine supply stores, banks and a bookstore. 

Charlie’s Restaurant, located across from the high school, has been a meet, greet and eat center for years in Bayboro. Breakfast at Charlie's is ritual for many retirees and the business provides a community meeting room with or without meals for families and for groups and organizations. Another common stop is Forest Farm Supply, key to an agriculturally oriented region. Because of limitations to expansion, town land is precious, and most of the prime real estate is already taken up by non-taxable government entities.

The majority of Pamlico County’s local government is anchored by Courthouse Square at the intersection of N.C. highways 55 and 304. That complex includes the Administration Office, courthouse, Health Department, Water Department, Building Inspector, Tax Office, Parks and Recreation and a relatively new $8 million Law Enforcement Center. The local Bay River Metropolitan Sewer District is also headquartered in Bayboro.

Three of the four schools in the county system — high school, elementary and primary schools — are located within the town. Pamlico Community College operates a satellite cosmetology center, small business center and Job Link office adjacent to the high school. The County Library, with a public entrance and parking off N.C. Hwy. 55, is also part of the school complex.

Business and town leaders believe the town has potential to attract more than drive-through traffic to waterfront destinations such as Oriental. The town has a revitalization plan to complement the widened N.C. 55, along with hopes to enhance a town-owned park on the Bay River to attract water enthusiasts for canoe and kayak activities. 

The town of more than 700 residents, named for the Bay River, was settled in the 1800s, and incorporated in 1881.


Located at the intersection of Pamlico County’s two main highways, N.C. 55 and N.C. 306, no town in Pamlico County is expected to reap more commercial growth than Grantsboro. In light of its room to expand, accessibility and increased highway traffic, Gransboro is also a convenient hub of activity between two of Eastern North Carolina's leaders in tourism as it is located15 miles from Oriental to the east and from New Bern to the west.

It was incorporated in 1998, mainly as a response to rumored annexation plans by the adjacent town of Alliance. The town has had but one mayor in its 22-year history, Clifton Stowe, who presides over a five-person town board for the population of nearly 800 people. Perched on a sand ridge, Grantsboro shares with Arapahoe claim to being the highest point in the county. Being 39 feet above sea level is a distinct advantage both for staying dry during hurricane and Nor'wester and for insurance purposes.

According to the Pamlico County Historical Association, Grantsboro was named for William Grant, a New York bachelor who came as an itinerant peddler to the area. He built two store buildings, bringing his clientele to him, and the community of Grantsboro was on its way to commercial development. 

Already home to two of the four full-service supermarkets in the county, Food Lion and Piggly Wiggly, Grantsboro has four fast-food restaurants, a convenience store, and a variety of discount and food shops located within the shopping center anchored by the Food Lion. 

A growing government and cultural complex greets visitors entering the county from the New Bern area. It includes the town post office, Grantsboro’s new town hall and the Pamlico County Heritage and Visitors Center. The museum project has been the successful work of the Pamlico County Historical Association, which has raised more than $800,000 through donations, grants and fund-raisers to build the 6,000-square foot museum showcasing the county’s history of forestry, farming and fishing. In addition to the main structure, plans call for development of a Heritage Village, complete with a 1900s farmhouse and school house, a blacksmith shop and a grain mill along with a fish house and a fishing trawler. 

Economic Profile

Oriental is incorporated as a village with a population of 900, which increases greatly during the summer. The land area at 10 feet above sea level covers 1.15 square miles and the village includes .23 square miles of water for marinas, beaches and private waterfront. Oriental's population amounts to about 6.8% of the Pamlico County population of 13,144, with a disproportionate number of retirement-aged people having migrated from New York and New Jersey and other Northern states to enjoy sailing and sunshine in Oriental and in the luxury development on Pamlico Sound called River Dunes. In fact, 90 per cent of the current town population moved into Oriental subsequent to 1999.

The crime rate is very low in Oriental and the volunteer rate is very high in literacy programs, Hope Clinic, the hospital, Guardian ad Litem, First Responders and other organizations. 

Oriental household median annual income stands at $61,000, with median single family home values of $389,000, reflecting a village population quite different from greater Pamlico County. Oriental's tax rate is $.20 per $100 valuation while the county rate is $.65 per $100 valuation. 

Pamlico County, with a greater population having been born and raised within its borders, reflects 16% of its people below poverty level, with 75% of of the population having graduated high school and 14% having achieved a bachelor's degree. Workers who do not commute to Cherry Point or New Bern are logging, fishing and farming families or build or service boats, or work in one of the 1,156 county businesses. The county government is the largest single Pamlico County employer.

Business dollars in the economy come from, in the order of greatest to least: retail sales, construction, professional services, accommodations and food sales. Of the Oriental adults in the labor force at all, the greatest number work in professional and scientific capacities.

Demographics and Statistics

According to 2010 Census figures, Pamlico County population and annual income continued its trend to fluctuate downward when economic conditions drove breadwinners and young adults to better job markets in areas of greater population density. The same variance in rising figures begins to show in 2008 and the same bouncing back to gradual increases is projected.

Individual city population figures show Alliance with 776 souls, Arapahoe - 556, Bayboro - 1263 [significantly up], Grantsboro - 688, Mesic - 220, Minnesott Beach - 440, Oriental - 900, Stonewall - 281 and Vandemere - 254. The balance of the 13,000 total Pamlico County people lived outside the incorporated cities. Population density is 39 people per acre: 76% White, 20% African American, and Hispanic, Asian and Native American people in fractions of one percent. Nearly 30% of the people are 65 or older. The median age is 43. Just less than 75% of the population was born in North Carolina.

Figures show Median Household Income at $53,319 and Per Capita Income at $22,628. Regular primary, elementary, middle and high schools are in Bayboro. The active Pamlico County Community College is in Alliance and the excellent Arapahoe Charter School operates elementary grades in Arapahoe. County high school graduation rate is 81 percent. County citizens holding Bachelor's degrees equal 15 percent of the population. There are three private clinics serving the county and one public health facility, centrally located in Bayboro.

The working-age population was 60% in 2008. The labor force numbers 5,275 (non-farm) with an 8.99 percent rate of unemployment. Active employers in the county include seafood processing, agriculture, boat design, building, service, and repair. County administration and government are the largest single employer while tourism represents a dependable and growing business sector.

The county has 68 operating farms, 91% family owned with an average size of 770 acres. There are 1,200 firms in the county in boat manufacture, fish processing, construction, retail, food and accommodation, marine supply and support, and equipment service businesses. Artists and crafters, writers, communication support and professionals in medicine, law, accounting, education, entertainment and administration provide a variety of services in the county.

Pamlico County crime rate is negligible with annual incidents reported at 250, most of which involved larceny. The voting rate is 71 percent.

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