Pamlico Scenic Byway - Coastal Scenic Drives
From the Washington waterfront, this scenic byway follows the Pamlico River to the Pamlico Sound and to the junction with Croatan Sound. The Pamlico River begins at the Beaufort County line at the junction of the Tar River and Tranters Creek, west of Washington. Pamlico was the name of an Indian tribe who once lived in the area. The river, first explored by Europeans in 1584, extends for 33 miles from Washington to the sound. The Pamlico Sound is 80 miles long and 15 to 30 miles wide. It covers more than 1,800 square miles and has a maximum depth of 21 feet. The sound drains water through the Ocracoke and Oregon inlets from the Albemarle Sound and the Neuse and Pamlico rivers to the Atlantic Ocean.
The town of Washington, located at the head of the Pamlico River, was originally called Forks of the Tar River. In 1776, the town founder changed the name to Washington to honor his friend George Washington. Washington, therefore, has the distinction of being the first town in the United States so named. As the Beaufort County seat, Washington has a unique 18th century plan though few of the original buildings still exist because of fires during the Civil War. From the intersection of U.S. 17 and Main Street in Washington, begin the byway by following the waterfront east on Main Street to Stewart Parkway. Turn right on Stewart Parkway as it curves around waterfront warehouses and becomes Water Street. Turn left onto Harvey Street and right back onto Main Street. Pass by the municipal park on the Pamlico River while continuing east. It is 1.4 miles from the U.S.17 stoplight to N.C. 32 on the eastern edge of Washington Park.
Follow N.C. 32 for 5.6 miles to the Broad Creek Bridge and intersection with (Harvey Road) S.R. 1331. Turn right and continue across farm lands for another four miles to the intersection of S.R. 1331 with N.C. 92 and U.S. 264 at the community of Jessema. Follow N.C. 92 for nearly six miles to the town of Bath.
Settled in 1690 and incorporated in 1705, Bath is the oldest incorporated town in North Carolina. Virginians and French Protestants settled the area around Bath when the town was called the Town of Pamticoe (an early version of Pamlico). Located on what was called Town Creek and now Bath Creek, Bath is the home of the oldest church in North Carolina, St. Thomas Church, built in 1734 (pictured above). Royal Governor Charles Eden had a provincial capital at Bath while Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, made his home on nearby Plum Point. Bath is now a state historic site with several restored buildings open to the public. Take a walking tour of the town to truly appreciate the flavor of this 18th century town.
After touring Bath, cross Back Creek and continue along N.C. 92 for about five miles to the intersection with N.C. 306 where it becomes N.C. 99. From here the road turns north to skirt Jackson Swamp to the northwest and the Pungo River to the east. Follow N.C. 99 for seven miles to the bridge at Pungo Creek. The creek and the river both derive their names from Machapunga, an Indian name given them as early as 1733. From here it is 3.5 miles to the Pantego Creek and Belhaven town limits.
At the traffic light in Belhaven, turn right to follow U.S. 264 Business through town. Located on the site of an Indian village called Aquascogoc, Belhaven, settled in 1890 and incorporated in 1899, derives its name from the French words ‘belle’ and ‘haven’ – meaning beautiful harbor. The town is a major stopping point for boats traveling the Intracoastal Waterway. Join U.S. 264 and continue east for about 5.5 miles to the Pungo River Bridge at the community of Leechville. Continue for another 4.5 miles to the Intracoastal Waterway bridge which presents an impressive view of the waterway for miles to the northeast.
Continue along U.S. 264/N.C. 45 for four miles to Scranton, named for a lumber mill owner who came from Scranton, Pennsylvania. Just past Scranton enjoy an unusual stretch of road where drainage canals and trees on either side form a unique and protective seven-mile tunnel with views of vast fields and tree farms on either side. While passing through the community of Rose Bay, travel parallel to the Swan Quarter National Wildlife Refuge which covers the Pamlico Sound coast around the Swan Quarter area.
Turn right, 2.5 miles after Rose Bay, onto N.C. 45 and follow it into the town of Swan Quarter. Settled before 1836, it is the Hyde County seat and a fishing community. Continue through town on N.C. 45 to reach the Swan Quarter/Ocracoke Ferry and the Outer Banks Scenic Byway. Or, continue this route leaving town by way of Main St. (S.R. 1129) which leads back to U.S. 264 just east of Swan Quarter. The farms on either side of the road are on lands reclaimed by draining the surrounding swamps. This is now illegal, because the swamps are an important part of the natural cycles to clean water for both humans and the animals that are part of the food chain.
Continue east on U.S. 264, but be cautious of the elbow curves at Swindell Fork about one mile from S.R. 1129 and another two miles further. At the second curve the road begins to follow the southern shoreline of Lake Mattamuskeet, a natural freshwater lake of about 30,000 acres discovered in 1585. Its name is derived from the Indian word for “moving swamp” or “shallow lake” (and appropriately so since it is only five feet deep). Near the community of Lake Comfort is the intersection of U.S. 264 with N.C. 94 where the Alligator River Route begins.
From the intersection of N.C. 94 and U.S. 264 it is 8.5 miles to Lake Landing. This area marks the state’s largest rural historic district. Watch closely for older buildings all along this stretch. Look carefully to the right for the octagonal house, also known as the Ink Bottle House. In addition to the historical aspects of this section, observe the vast farmlands that attract numerous hunting clubs. Between the communities of New Holland and Lake Landing you will be able to see Lake Mattamuskeet to the left. The community of New Holland, settled in 1910, was named for the development company that tried to drain Lake Mattamuskeet. Lake Landing was site of the Hyde County courthouse from 1820 to 1836.
Watch for another sharp curve near the community of Amity on U.S. 264, about four miles east of Lake Landing at the intersection of U.S. 264 and S.R. 1311. From here the road turns away from the lake’s shore. It is one mile to the village of Engelhard. Located on Far Creek between Lake Mattamuskeet and the Pamlico Sound, Engelhard was first named Far Creek Landing. In 1874, Engelhard was given its current name in honor of the publisher of the Wilmington newspaper.
Need a restroom, food or fuel? Engelhard is the last stop until Manns Harbor, about 40 miles away.
As you leave Engelhard, look to the east to see the Pamlico Sound. Continue on U.S. 264 through the wetlands and maritime forests of the Alligator River National Wildlife refuge. From the Far Creek bridge it is 11.5 miles to the Dareand Hyde County line.
From the county line it is 13 miles to Stumpy Point Bay and the fishing village of Stumpy Point. Founded in 1733, the village is about two miles from U.S. 64. The bay was originally a lake, but now opens into the Pamlico Sound. A major portion of the commercial fishing fleet that comes through Oregon Inlet is based here (the rest are based in Wanchese on Roanoke Island). The U.S. 64 intersection with U.S. 264 is another 13 miles from Stumpy Point.
Note the nearby U.S. Army and Navy bombing ranges along U.S. 264. Also, be sure to watch for the almost extinct red wolves along the last portion of the route while traveling through the Alligator River Wildlife Refuge. The yellow flashing light at the intersection of U.S. 64/264 marks the end of this scenic byway.
For more historical and recreational attractions, visit Roanoke Island and the Outer Banks.
Length: 127 miles
Driving Time: 3 hours
Counties: Beaufort, Hyde, Dare
courtesy of NC Department of Transportation
added: September 15, 2009
updated: September 25, 2009
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