Boating in Oriental, North Carolina
Though the name brings to mind visions of far away places, Oriental is about as down-home friendly as you can get. This waterside village, just off the MM 182 of ICW near the mouth of the Neuse River, is a cruising boater's paradise filled with folks who love visitors, especially sailors, and built their businesses around accommodating them. Step ashore in boat shoes and you can bet you'll get a welcoming hello in this neck of North Carolina.
As for its name, it's right in line with the town's nautical heritage. Mr. Lou Midyette was fishing one day in 1870 when a storm blew through, forcing him to take shelter at the center of five creeks. Looking around, he considered this was a fine place to settle down. He returned with his wife and family and the town of Smith's Creek began. A few years later, Rebecca Midyette, Lou's wife, was visiting a friend in Manteo when she spotted the name board for the USS Oriental, which sunk in a storm off the Outer Banks in 1862. She considered it a great name for her home town, and residents agreed. The town of Oriental was formed in 1899. In the years since, it has developed a fine reputation as a must-stop for yachtsmen on the move, some of whom stop and go no farther. There are 2,700 boats that call this place home and just 875 residents.
Things to See and Do
No doubt you'll wander towards Town Dock to see who else has come to town, but make your first visit to www.towndock.net, a salty site that showcases all of the goings on in town-marine weather, events, and even a live webcam. It was started in 2002 by NPR journalist Melinda Penkava and her husband, Keith Smith. Log on to see what's new and enjoy a few good reads by their regular columnists.
When you are ready to go ashore, you'll enjoy a stroll through town. This is also a busy artists haven, and the storefronts and galleries will appease your eye. When you're ready to rest, take a seat in one of two Adirondack chairs at Lou Mac Park and enjoy the view of Pamlico Sound.
If you'd like to be on the move, check in with Paddle Pamlico (252-249-1850), as they offer occasional guided outings, including kayak fishing trips. You can also rent bicycles in town. If you'd like to go fishing, call upon Capt. George Beckwith at Down East Guide Service (252-249-3101, www.pamlicoguide.com).
Plan to attend one of several annual events that draw a crowd, particularly the early July Croaker Festival (www.croakerfestival.org), numerous regattas and the Sprit of Christmas celebration.
Restaurants and Provisions
The ever festive Toucan Grill & Fresh Bar (252-249-2204, www.toucangrill.com), located at the Oriental Marina and Inn (252-249-1818) is the social center around the town docks, and the most convenient place for a meal. Right in the heart of the waterfront area, the Bean (252-249-4918) sends a beacon to those who scream for caffeine-or the Sunday New York Times or Washington Post. On a stifling June morning we found that their mocha shake sipped on the shop's shady porch was the perfect elixir for beating the heat. At night, follow the crowd to the sounds of acoustic night outside on the porch.
M&M's Cafe (252-249-2000) dishes up a handful of melt-in-your-mouth specials about four blocks from the town docks. Breakfast is served from 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., lunch is from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and dinner is from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. The Oriental Steamer Restaurant and Tavern (252-249-3557) is on Route 55 and receives rave reviews regularly. Within walking distance of Whittaker Creek, Scoots Pizza (252-249-2707) tosses the dough from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
For provisions, travel to the Town n' Country (252-249-1317) on Highway 55. It's more than a mile from the town docks, but it's a shorter trip from the marinas on Whittaker Creek. About two blocks from the town docks, the Inland Water-way Provision Company (252-249-1797) sells snacks, beer, wine, charts, boating guides, and a variety of needed or most wanted nautical items. There's also a West Marine Express (252-249-3200) store on the outskirts of town. The Village Hardware & Marine Supply (252-249-1211) near the town hall caters to the needs of boaters, too. The generous folks at Oriental's marinas are usually more than willing to lend you a courtesy car or cart should you find any trip to be too far.
Use ChartKit Region 6, page 16 and Maptech electronic and NOAA paper charts 11541 (1:40,000) and 11552 (1:40,000).
Navigation and Anchorages
Oriental is located at SM 182 on the north shore of the Neuse River. Your approach to Oriental is straightforward no matter which direction you're coming from. The Neuse River is rather wide and deep-just don't get too close to shore. Heed the markers; there may be uncharted ones, so be on the lookout.
From the east, pick up Fl G 4s 15ft 5M "7" at the north end of Garbacon Shoal and head west-northwest for about two miles to either entrance to Oriental. From the west, the entrances to Oriental are about 5 miles from Wilkinson Point, Minnesott Beach.
The channel to the western entrance (at the confluence of Greens and Smith creeks) is marked by Fl G 4s 15ft 4M "1". The channel to the eastern entrance (Whittaker Creek) is marked by Fl R 2.5s 15ft 3M "2."
The northeastern route to Oriental is via Whittaker Creek. The channel carries five feet and is marked at its beginning by Fl R 2.5s 15ft 3M "2." Some shoaling exists around G "3" and Fl G 4s 15ft 4M "5," so give them a wide berth. The first marina you'll see is Whittaker Creek Yacht Harbor, a transient facility with amenities. Deaton Yacht Service offers repairs in and out of the water for sail and power boats. Many local craft are docked in Whittaker Creek; space is limited in season, so call ahead to secure a slip.
Greens Creek and Smith Creek
Just southwest of Whittaker Creek is Fl G 4s 15ft 4M "1", marking the entrance to the confluence of Greens Creek and Smith Creek. Follow the well-marked channel past the breakwater and to the east you'll see Raccoon Creek, a local name (not on the charts) for the protected harbor. The shore is lined with shrimp boats and the hospitable Oriental Marina & Inn (252-249-1818). The charts report 8.5 feet, but we ran into shallower water. Hail Oriental Marina for up-to-date information on approaches.
There's a small town dock at the head of the creek with a 48-hour limit, but no electricity or water. During the spring and fall, space is limited here, so you will want to arrive early or call ahead. An anchorage is located just inside the breakwater- be sure to stay out of the channel.
On the southwest side of the bridge is Pecan Grove Marina, where you might find shelter in a storm. The small, protected harbor might handle a few additional boats, so call ahead.
To the northwest under the 45-foot-high fixed bridge, you could explore the creeks in small craft. Water heights are affected by the wind, which may reduce the clearance of the bridge. Past the bridge, Smith Creek continues to the north and Greens Creek snakes off to the south. Watch for shoaling as you approach the bridge
About four miles upriver from the ICW, Matthews Point Marina (252-444-1805) offers transient slips and amenities inside Mitchell Creek. Approach and dockside depths are about six feet. Enter via Clubfoot Creek's marked channel and turn west to the docks at the entrance of Mitchell Creek; watch the shallows east of the point.
Across the Neuse River, to the east of Oriental, River Dunes (252-249-4908) delights visiting yachtsmen. Bennett Landing (877-289-2670) is the kind of place where you'll want to stay a while.
Shoreside and Emergency Services
Raleigh Durham 919-840-2140
Hobucken 252-745-3131 or VHF 16
Police, Fire, Ambulance:
County Cab 252-745-8294
Sea Tow 800-4SEATOW or VHF 16
TowBoatU.S 800-391-4869 or VHF 16