Tucked in near the Inner Banks region of North Carolina, the small town of Oriental is big on boating. Located on the Intercoastal Waterway (ICW) at mile maker 182, Oriental is known as the “Sailing Capital of North Carolina” with nearly 3,000 boats calling this tiny port home. Wide and protected waters with steady winds make for wonderful days for just about any kind of boating.
The town of Oriental was named after a steamer that was built in 1861 but foundered near Cape Hatteras just a year later. Local lore also has it that Blackbeard (pirate Edward Teach) lived just north of here. Lumber, fishing and farming were the base of the economy in the 1900s and you can still see commercial fishing and shrimping trawlers at the docks today.
Things to Do in and near Oriental
Oriental’s year-round population is only 1,000 but that number swells in the summertime with tourists looking for quaint waterfront towns with great eateries, antique stores, galleries and activities. Wintertime brings the snowbirds who are often on boats heading down the ICW and bound for warmer waters. The cruising community, especially around the Town Dock, is sizeable and friendly as northern boaters are drawn to the protected waters of Pamlico Sound.
Nestled on the Neuse River with loads of smaller creeks nearby, Oriental is a hub for water activities. Kayaking, canoeing, sailing regattas, paddleboarding, and coastal beach hopping on a bike are a big draw. If you’re an angler, grab a rod and head out onto the Sound to fish for giant and puppy drum, trout and tarpon.
Off the water, you can take a historic walking tour or visit the Oriental History Museum. Laze the day away watching boats come and go from Lou Mac park, have a picnic at the Neuse River Recreation Area, listen to live music and sample food trucks at the New Village Brewery or browse beautiful art at the Village Gallery. On Saturday mornings, stock up at the farmers’ market with fresh local provisions. Then in the afternoon, toss down a towel on John Bond Town Beach and curl up with a good book.
If you need repairs, a full-service boatyard for both power and sailboats is Sailcraft Service which has the town’s largest Travelift. For the latest news on upcoming events, festivals, weather and even hurricane boat prep tips, check out TownDock.net, a great website that will enhance your local knowledge.
Waterfront Living and Great Eats
The central harbor provides anchoring with good holding ground and for those with an air draft under 45 feet, you can drop anchor in Smith or Greens Creeks behind the bridge. Most of the restaurants have dinghy docks so venturing in for dinner from your boat on the hook is easy. Oriental enjoys excellent restaurants and coffee shops and is well known for local seafood.
Grab a frothy latte at The Bean and enjoy a pastry on the porch with a view of the local shrimp fleet. Tuck into fish and chips or peel-n-eat North Carolina shrimp at Barcos Food Company. The cocktails are creative and you can sit on the dining porch or in the garden. For a burger and a brew, try The Silos. For amazing pies, head over to Brantley’s Village Restaurant, a real local’s hangout.
Oriental Area Marinas
Right in the heart of downtown, the Town Dock is a hub of activity and it can accommodate a few boats up to 48 hours for free but there’s no electricity or water available. For full-service slips, transient boaters can visit one of the local marinas which can be hailed on VHF Channel 16 and booked via Snag-a-Slip. Most of these marinas have laundry and shower facilities and are walking distance to grocery stores, marine chandleries and even a sail loft.
Oriental Harbor Marina – right on Racoon Creek, this marina has 110 slips, a restaurant and lounge right on the premises, and offers WiFi. It’s a popular gathering spot for dedicated anglers.
Blackwell Point Marina – well protected and close to all the action, this small marina offers an onsite health club and bike rentals.
Whittaker Creek Yacht Harbor – if you need a restful stop or maintenance services, this is the place to tie the dock lines.
Numerous other marinas are located just 35 miles away at New Bern including Northwest Creek Marina which is a full-service facility with a hotel on the property.
Perhaps the best thing about Oriental is its proximity to so many other amazing boating destinations. Fifty miles to the northeast is the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, 15 miles east is Cedar Island Wildlife Refuge, and 10 miles to the southwest is the Croatan National Forest and Game Land.
If you’re interested in a more urban boating vibe, head 35 miles around the bend up the Neuse River to New Bern (the birthplace of Pepsi Cola) for more restaurants, galleries and nightlife.
A Place to come Back to
The salty community of Oriental tends to capture hearts with its winding creeks, lively waterfront, and friendly marinas. Don’t be surprised to find yourself charting a course to this charming boating paradise time and time again.