Featured Image: Bow to Stern Boating. After a week of sailing school, kids will be taking their grandparents out on the water instead of playing video games, owner Jim Edwards says. Oriental’s calm waters are the perfect place for kids and adults alike to find their sea legs.
Everywhere you look in Oriental, there’s water. Streets wind around creeks that spread out like fingers from the Neuse River. Behind almost every house, boat masts and riggings can be spotted among the trees, sprouting from hidden waterways. Here, boats outnumber people three to one.
Known as “the sailing capital of North Carolina,” this tiny waterfront town draws boaters from up and down the East Coast and beyond. They stop for repairs on their way down the Intracoastal Waterway — and some never leave. This is a boater’s paradise, after all: calm waters sheltered from the open ocean, a laid-back lifestyle, and plentiful fish.
But while residents here — permanent and temporary — share a common love of the water, more than boating sets this community apart. Cottages from the 1920s and ’30s are home to quaint shops and cozy inns. Music performances draw locals and visitors to lively restaurants, a waterfront park, and the historic Old Theater. And fun-loving residents show off their sense of humor with quirky community gatherings.
Wander the curving roads around the village, and you’ll discover what so many sailors have found here: a tranquil place to dock, recharge, and set sail.
M&M’s Cafe. Chef Dave Sargent’s cozy restaurant is Oriental’s go-to place for upscale seafood. Clockwise from top left: Dishes like pesto pasta with shrimp, fish and chips, and shrimp and grits pair well with hush puppies and veggies or slaw.
205 Water Street, Oriental, NC 28571
(252) 249-2000 or facebook.com/mmscafeorientalnc
The Bean. This charming coffee shop has long been a community favorite for hot drinks, ice cream, smoothies, and baked goods. Enjoy your cup of joe on the front porch overlooking the harbor, or stop in after a show at the Old Theater for one of owner Eric Kindle’s homemade desserts.
304 Hodges Street, Oriental, NC 28571
(252) 249-4918 or beanonc.com
The Silos. While traditional Italian dishes and BOGO pizza are major draws to these two former grain silos, many people come here for the music. Guitars and vinyl records hang on the walls, and owner Chris Daniels (top right) kicks off weekly open mic nights. Behind the restaurant, the Red Rooster Bar features an outdoor stage for concerts.
1111 Broad Street Ext, Oriental, NC 28571
(919) 372-5921 or silosnc.com
Lou-Mac Park. If you want to know what Oriental is really about, settle into an Adirondack chair at this half-acre park on the Neuse River. Named for two of the town’s founders, Lewis Midyette and L.F. McCabe, the space is ideally situated for fishing, boat-watching, or sharing a quiet moment. Despite its small size, the park is also home to many of Oriental’s festivals and community events.
504 South Avenue, Oriental, NC 28571
Village Gallery. Eight gallery rooms are dedicated to colorful displays of paintings, photography, jewelry, pottery, and glass at this fine-art cooperative. Resident and exhibiting artists, such as painter Sally Anger and potter Patch Wilkinson (pieces pictured at right) rotate each month, with a reception to welcome new exhibitors every first Saturday.
300 Hodges Street, Oriental, NC 28571
(252) 249-0300 or villagegallerync.com
Marsha’s Cottage. Bring in your favorite scarf, blouse, or piece of jewelry, and Marsha Paplham and her team will style a new look around it. Paplham’s cottage shop offers women’s apparel, jewelry, and accessories, plus a wide front porch with rocking chairs for husbands and kids to relax in while the ladies shop.
204 Wall Street, Oriental, North Carolina 28571
(252) 249-0334 or marshascottage.com