Oriental: The Sailing Capital Of NC
The town of Oriental, always embraced by visitors, is known to some as ‘Mayberry with a river beside it.’
The classic TV show embodied fellowship and goodwill, which thrive in this eastern North Carolina community, nestled on the shore of the mighty Neuse.
And, ‘Oriental?’ Why that name? Certainly curious, to say the least.
The Steamship Oriental was a Union troop transport ship that ran aground off the Outer Banks. Years later, town fathers spotted the weathered, but elaborate placard from the vessel’s bow. Impressed, village officials adopted a new name -- a distinctive moniker for this tranquil, scenic spot since 1899.
The Dragon that may have graced the fabled nameplate has become the unofficial symbol of this quaint, but off-beat village. Fun, ferocious, fire-breathing critters proliferate, but the one aside the Oriental Visitors Center is downright friendly.
A self-guided walking tour, produced by the local museum, features a whopping 37 historic homes and sites.
At Oriental, more than a half dozen major tributaries blend, all flowing into the Neuse. Visitors are awestruck by the river’s breadth. Indeed, the Neuse off the shoreline of Oriental – where the vast Pamlico Sound begins – is the widest point of any U.S. river.
Be forewarned, however. Fictional Mayberry was a booming metropolis compared to modern-day Oriental. Barney and Andy would be proud of the town’s two-man police department. However, Floyd’s barbershop has no exact counterpart, unless you count considerable jawboning among early morning patrons at The Bean coffee shop.
One must-see location in Oriental is the funky ‘bottle house’ behind A Different Twist jewelry store on Broad Street.
The official town slogan is Sailing Capital of North Carolina, a bold boast to be sure. Visit soon and just try to count everything that floats. More boats than people call this area home. Only the county tax assessor claims to have enumerated them all. He pinpoints more than 2,700 boats, three times the estimated population.
Massive fishing trawlers that still line our cozy harbor. The working waterfront of Oriental remains vibrant, although endangered.
As newcomers soon learn, an incredible lure is our abundant fishing. Local fishing guides have big drums to beat -- make that the magnificent red drums. And, in late July, the local Rotary club hosts the catch-and-release tournament for the elusive tarpon, a feisty gamefish of great renown. Indeed, this monstrous species loves the warm, brackish water of the Neuse. With their aluminum foil-like scales, tarpon kick up such a ruckus when hooked that “jump-offs” are a coveted category during the awards presentations.
Speaking of fish, don’t forget Croaker Festival. During the first weekend of every July, the town quintuples in size to accommodate a homecoming of sorts for everyone who has ever visited.
Those who stick around for the rest of the summer get an automatic invite to the legendary watermelon feast, always scheduled for 4 p.m. on the second Sunday in August. Beloved Oriental natives Fay and John Bond, now in their 80s, have hosted this legendary event for more than 40 years.
“If it should happen to rain,” jokes Fay, “all you have to do is wait 5 minutes, then come.”
There’s stuff to do all year long. The ‘Get Loose on the Neuse’ free concerts at waterfront Lou Mac Park appeal to all age groups. And, lustrous luminaries that grace our streets during the Spirit of Christmas celebration are a sight to behold.
Hurricanes here can be a spectator sport, thanks to the webcam at TownDock.net. Check out the rising waters anytime via cyberspace. Then, read all about it in the town’s weekly newspaper, the venerable Pamlico News.
By Jeff Aydelette
By Jeff Aydelette
added: December 22, 2008
updated: December 22, 2008