The “sailing capital of North Carolina” is a friendly, far-flung community nestled within the tranquil inner banks of the Neuse River, along the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. Part of Pamlico County, Oriental was originally occupied by Native Americans, and stories about its settlement vary. The consistent theory is that sailor Lewis B. Midyette accidentally discovered the area while riding out a gale on his way home to Dare County in the 1870s. After anchoring his boat, he went ashore to explore and was captivated by the area’s beauty, especially the many creeks that converged, creating an expansive waterfront. Midyette returned home to persuade his family and neighbors to move back with him to the picturesque bit of land and make it their new home.
Originally, Oriental was known as Smith’s Creek. The name “Oriental” was established after Midyette’s wife, Rebecca, discovered the nameplate from the sailing steamer Oriental, which washed up to shore after wrecking in 1862 off Bodie Island. The town’s rich land proffered an economy of lumbering, farming and fishing; its harbor became a popular docking spot for transportation steamships and those conveying cargo along the Neuse River.
Now, the beautiful village is a popular destination for sailors and fishermen, especially, who can practice their trades year-round. The slow-paced, stress-free energy of the town is also popular for tourists looking to escape the everyday and enjoy the beauty of the Pamlico Sound. Two-and-a-half hours from Raleigh, Oriental’s promise of a carefree vacation and a breath of fresh air is worth the drive.
The Silos Restaurant
The Silos is a playful, fun-loving eatery serving pastas, premium sirloin steaks and signature Old World pizzas plus an Italian deli menu featuring all the traditional classics. Located inside two abandoned farm silos off of Broad Street, the restaurant is a popular hangout to enjoy live music outdoors on weekend nights at the Red Rooster Bar behind the restaurant. silosnc.com
Toucan Grill & Fresh Bar
For an exquisite dining experience on the waterfront, look no further than the Toucan Grill. The menu features local seafood served fried, sauteed, baked, grilled, stuffed or within a filling pasta dish. Fresh seafood served alongside one of many diverse wines makes for a memorable meal in a beautiful setting you won’t soon forget. toucangrill.com
Brantley’s Village Restaurant
With 34 years in business, Brantley’s is dependable and inviting, with a family atmosphere and breakfast, lunch and dinner menus full of delicious Southern classics. On Saturday nights, Brantley’s offers one of the most lauded seafood buffets in Pamlico County. On the regular menu, expect traditional eggs and country ham for breakfast, house-made deli sandwiches for lunch and a daily selection of Southern specials for dinner, including fried catfish, twice baked potatoes, soft shell crab and grilled tuna with steamed vegetables and black beans and rice. facebook.com/Brantleys-Village-Restaurant-538345269540905
This is the place to get your caffeine fix. Enjoy harbor views and a variety of drink options, including lattes, cappuccinos, milkshakes (with or without espresso), fruit smoothies and their specialty, “Norma Backwards,” made with chilled coffee, ice cream and a secret ingredient they’re not sharing. The Bean also serves a selection of baked goods, pastries and ice cream. beanonc.com
The New Village Brewery & Taproom
The New Village is Oriental’s only brewery, making its one-barrel taproom a must-visit for beer lovers. The brewery serves only North Carolina craft beers, including a rotating selection of house brews. The New Village creates an inviting atmosphere for a casual hangout with friends or a chance to meet locals or visitors from near and far. squareup.com/store/the-newvillage-taproom
Oriental’s History Museum
Discover Oriental’s rich history through its town museum, open every weekend. Check out a porthole from the “Oriental” steamship, a dugout canoe, model skiffs, historic log books, signs from the original Red Lee’s Oriental Grill and other local memorabilia. Or, take a historic home and garden walking tour for a deep glimpse into the old ways of Oriental life. pamlico.com/oriental-hisory-museum.html
Neuse River Fishing Charter
Cast your line with Captain Gary Dubiel on a fishing charter trip along the Neuse for a chance to catch one of the estuary’s many striped bass, redfish or spotted sea trout, among other species. The guided charter tour allows fishermen and women of all ages to learn more about the widest river in America, which, because of its mix of fresh and saltwater, is home to a variety of rare fish species. specfever.com
Lou Mac Park
Though this “mini park” is a half-acre in size, it showcases miles of the Neuse River’s expansive beauty, a favorite spot for watching sunsets and sunrises. Relax on the famous “dancing chairs,” rumored to dance under the stars all night and land in a different spot each morning. There’s also a fishing pier and river launch spot and a wooden boardwalk for a relaxing stroll along the waterfront. pamlico.com/lou-mac-park.html
The Inn at Oriental
Many of The Inn’s rooms include an outdoor deck, offering a morning wake-up call of fresh, river air. With rooms only $109 a night and a prime location just a few blocks from the harbor, The Inn is the perfect option for a tranquil stay. innatoriental.com
Oriental Marina & Inn
You can’t stay any closer to the water than at the Oriental Marina & Inn, a motor-style hotel just steps away from the river, shops, galleries and restaurants in the heart of the village. If you’re arriving by boat, the marina offers dockage and access to the Pamlico Sound, as well as to paddleboarding or kayaking along the three creeks that converge at the harbor. orientalmarina.com
Neuse River Suites
The newest hotel in Oriental offers suite-style rooms with breathtaking views of the Neuse River and plenty of outdoor space to relax along the waterfront and enjoy sunrises, sunsets and everything in between. riverneuserentals.com