Friday, January 25, 2008

The City at the End of the Highway: Oriental, NC

Today's destination: Oriental, NC. This nautical cross between Bath and Edenton is located at the end of Hwy 55 on the elbow of land situated between the Pamlico River (south of Bath) and the Neuse, where it runs into the Pamlico Sound.

Though Oriental is out of the way, it's worth the travel time to get there. According to the "Visit Oriental, NC!" site, this upscale villa was established in the 1870's, making it a young pup compared to other NC coastal cities. This is obvious in the architecture (some of the trees look older than most of the houses) and the set up of the city, which seems to have been built along the water instead of centralized around a downtown area.

If you've ever seen an article or program on Oriental, you probably know beautiful, pastel coastal houses overlook the Neuse, deep and blue in this region, where yachts, sailboats, and ships rest in the marinas or glide lazily along the water. But I didn't get the impression this place is pretentious. During our first stop in Oriental--the General Store located at the Oriental Harbor Marina—a gentleman who kindly provided an overview of the city told us everything in Oriental is casual. He pointed to my outfit (a beige turtleneck sweater under a brown, fitted corduroy jacket, blue jeans, and for some reason, my hiking shoes) and told me I was overdressed. In other words, it's North Carolina's version of Pawleys Island.


And a dragon keeps watch in a lagoon.


From what we saw and heard in the few short hours we were there, the people of Oriental seem bent on enjoying life, which means appreciating the vast water supply sitting at the tips of their toes. One can see rocking chairs, porch swings, and a variety of unusual wooden chairs and benches crammed on porches and scattered in yards and waterfront parks. I'm told they often have wine tastings (Croakertown, one of the shops in the area, hosted a wine tasting that evening.) Kayaking is also a favorite pastime.

As I mentioned earlier, Oriental is located where the Neuse meets the Pamlico Sound, and if you look at a map, you'll see three creeks snaking their way into the land nearby. At least one shop rents kayaks. We're going to give it a shot in the spring.

For more photos, check out our Oriental Gallery on Smugmug.

For more information on Oriental, go to http://www.visitoriental.com/history.html

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