Relaxed Pace in Coastal North Carolina

We love the charm and pace in the small North Carolina coastal towns, so we matched the pace with liesurely and lovely cruising through some of our favorites.
November 5 – 8, 2019
Belhaven to Oriental to Beaufort, NC
Days 23 – 26

Our last morning in Belhaven was damp and drizzly. We walked the pups around the now-familiar residential neighborhoods. It is very quiet and peaceful, with just the occasional fellow-dog-walker out doing their thing and waving hello.

Happily, dogs are welcome at the excellent traditional local hardware store, so we wandered in and Bruce replenished some boat cleaning supplies. We also had to make a stop at O’Neal’s Snack Bar and Gingerbread Bakery. Southern hospitality is alive and well: the ladies behind the counter were delightful and the local gents were all gathered around the tables for morning coffee-and-gossip. We were warmly welcomed, although the pups had to wait outside. We love the inside-glimpse into towns that the local coffee shops offer. And it’s a good excuse for a little pastry.

Pepper and Mattie wait outside O’Neal’s Snack Bar to see what kind of treat Dad will return with.

Back at the boat Bruce did some scrubbing on our swim platform, which seems to show the ICW brown much faster than anywhere else on the boat. He has been experimenting with different cleaning and waxing products to see brings the best results.

When we got under way towards Oriental, conditions were gray but quiet so we had an easy run down the Pungo River, into the Pamlico River and then Goose Creek. Goose Creek is a lovely ride, surrounded largely by nature preserve. There were a number of other ICW travelers out on the waterway so we were not alone, but everything was quiet and civilized.

We had a flat morning excellent for travel, in spite of the overcast conditions.

The trip down Goose Creek takes you by the R.E. Mayo, which is a well-known stop along the ICW. Shrimp boats line the wharf, and there is dock space for recreational vessels that want to come alongside to buy seafood straight from R.E.Mayo. We have never stopped there, but someday we will have to. Just to say we did. And to get some shrimp.

Shrimp boats lined up at R.E Mayo.

Leaving Goose Creek, the ICW runs along the Bay River and then into the broad Neuse River. The wind began to pick up from the south and things got a little wet and bumpy, so we put the throttle down to shorten the ride. We love Esmeralde’s ability to get-up-and-go when we want her to. We got into Oriental quickly and slid easily into our slip at the low-key Oriental Inn and Marina. It’s a funny, friendly little place with a tiki bar and restaurant on-site, and everything within town right at our doorstep. Motel guests, fellow boaters, and locals all hang out on the lawn to enjoy the pleasant pace. It’s a nice spot to chat and relax.

Just hang’n in Oriental.

We have always enjoyed or visits to Oriental. People are friendly, the neighborhoods are pleasant to walk around, there is a West Marine and a Piggly Wiggly (which will pick you up and bring you back after shopping) about a mile away, and several local shops and restaurants to choose from.

The best resource is the eclectic Inland Waterway Provisions Company right next to the Oriental Inn and Marina. Marine supplies, clothing, Christmas ornaments, souvenirs, and a great selection of fresh organic local vegetables and eggs, and natural foods. My kind of place! And Well-behaved dogs are welcome. Win-win.

For dinner, we finally got to try a local favorite, M&M’s Cafe. It had been closed our previous two visits because of hurricane damage, but this time we got two seats at the bar and had a fun evening chatting with locals and some other ICW travelers. The food was actually better than expected: I had a salad with some house-smoked salmon, Bruce had a pasta with shrimp and scallops, and the pecan pie got the Bruce Best Ever Award, which is not given lightly.

Also open again after a long closure from hurricane damage was The Bean. I’ve mentioned before how much I like going to local coffee shops to test a little local culture, color and flavor. The Bean was no exception, and dogs are even allowed inside! The local policeman was there, of course, and an unusual collection of retirees, locals, boat bums, fishermen and high school kids behind the counter.

Oriental has recovered quite nicely from major hurricane damage a year ago, when most of the town was closed up from flooding, houses were being gutted, sidewalks were cluttered with debris and parks and sea walls were roped off with caution tape. This year things were tidier, cleaner and happier. We enjoyed it.

After two days in Oriental, we pulled in our lines and headed off to Beaufort (“Bow-Fort”). It was a beautiful warm, sunny day, a great day to be on the water. We crossed the Neuse River and cut into the lovely Adams Creek. Everything was very civilized until we approached Morehead and Beaufort, where you start to see a lot of large sport fishing boats going fast and the speed of things on the water increases significantly. A little less relaxing.

A lot of folks like to go to the Homer Smith Docks & Marina on the north side of town. I hear they give you a free bag of shrimp when you arrive, which is a nice bonus. However, we like to be on the town-side of things, so we continued on into Taylor Creek and the town’s extensive municipal docks. Also, we were expecting a strong blow out of the north, and we wanted the relative protection of being on the south side of town rather than the exposed north shore.

Beaufort is a lovely town. We were tied up at the town docks by 12:30. It can be exciting getting into a slip when the current is running strong, but we managed the task without incident. The staff is friendly and helpful.

Beaufort is larger and more commercial than Oriental. Front Street is jammed with shops, restaurants, a maritime museum, fishing charters, and ferries and boat tours to the nearby barrier islands and nature preserves. Behind front street, the residential neighborhoods feature lovely historic homes. It is a delightful place to explore for a day or two. Bruce was limited by his Achilles’ tendon injury, but I had a wonderful run down the length of Front Street and back through the residential areas.

We had dinner at Aqua, an off-the-beaten-path restaurant that a friend had recommended. It was quite good. We sat at the bar where the bartender Nadia helped us sort out cocktail and wine choices, as well as menu recommendations. So good!

My Shrimp over a grits cake at Aqua was AMAZING.

A strong cold front kept us in Beaufort and extra day. We were tucked in secure at the town docks, in the lee of the northerly. It blew 20 – 30 where we were, and was gusting 30-40 outside. A good day to hang, and we had lots to do.

After a cold, damp, windy walk with the dogs across town to check out the Homer Smith Marina (glad we weren’t there – it was boisterous in the wind), we retreated to the boat to get things done. Bruce focused on the engine mounts. He had decided on replacements, so he ordered the mounts as well as parts and tools for getting them installed. They were to be shipped to Charleston, where he would do the job. I worked on miscellaneous administrative chores and cleaned the boat, then went for a nice chilly, blustery run along Taylor Creek. All the charter boats and ferries were closed up for the day because of the weather. It was a nice run: I had the roads pretty much to myself.

For dinner we opted for something simple at Black Sheep. Bruce had pizza and I had a really good Mediteranean platter. We sat at the bar and chatted with a couple of sailors who, like us, were waiting out the blow before continuing on to Key West. They were sailing a Beneteau that had belonged to a college friend of theirs. He had always wanted to take the boat to the Keys, and when he got sick, he asked his pals to do it for him after he died. So that’s what they were doing. Very sad story. The name of the boat: Saphire. We will look them up when we get to Key West.

After a brief cold walk with the pups, we turned in. The next day we would be on the move again.

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