A sunken Civil War ship inspired the name of the town of Oriental, a hidden treasure along North Carolina's Inner Banks.
From Charlotte, it's about 51/2 hours (310 miles), one way.
Take Interstate 85 east to Durham and connect with Interstate 40; take I-40 East beyond the Raleigh area to U.S. 70 (near Garner) and take U.S. 70 to New Bern, then continue 25 miles northeast on N.C. 55 to the village of Oriental.
To see and do
At five miles across, the mouth of the Neuse River is the largest of any river in the U.S.; it flows into Pamlico Sound, the second largest sound on the East Coast. Nestled among the confluence of the two, at mile maker 182 of the Intracoastal Waterway, is the small town of Oriental. Founded in the 1700s as Smith Creek, it was renamed after the U.S. ship Oriental sunk off the Outer Banks during the Civil War. Rebecca "Aunt Becky" Midyette saw the ship's nameplate during a trip to Manteo and thought it would be a more fitting name for her small yet vibrant community.
The area was once oriented toward commercial fishing and agriculture; while still important in the local economy, tourism and boating are now the most visible enterprises. Consider this: Oriental has a population of less than 900, but more than 2,700 sailboats are registered here, there are half-dozen marinas within the town limits alone and a wide range of lodging choices for guests.
The town is appropriately called "The Sailing Capital of North Carolina," but it takes more than boats to float the town's tourism industry. Oriental's website confirms that big events are held almost every month. Favorites of Oriental's Tourism Board chair Jackie Wall include the family-oriented Croaker Festival - held the first three days of July and offering a parade, music, arts, crafts, food and fireworks - and December's Spirit of Christmas. She says both bring out the best in smalltown living for locals and visitors alike to enjoy.
Festivals are great to experience, but Oriental's true charm comes from its many low-key, year-round activities such as plays, music, the arts and outdoor pursuits such as sport fishing, hunting, canoeing, kayaking and cycling. Flat roads, creeks and marshes and rural terrain offer great options here.