North Carolina is packed to the brim with charming small towns that seem to have been plucked straight from your favorite novel (some actually are). But the Coastal Plains are home to some of the most unique small towns, with salt in the air, water views, and plenty of boats. While some listed are merely a road and some Cypress Trees, they’re all home to unique attractions, and one is so obscure you can’t even find it on a map. If you’re planning a beach trip, make sure to add these 10 towns to your day trip itinerary.
Oriental is home to 898 people and thousands of boats. The colorful shrimp boats are quaintly decorated and the whole town radiates saltwater charm. So much so, you're guaranteed a side of hushpuppies with almost every meal. Stop by Ms. Sils for a famous cream pie. To make a whole weekend of it, the Croaker Festival is held on July 4th and is Oriental's largest festival.
While located fairly inland, Washington still retains coastal charm. Walk along the water or stop by the North Carolina Estuarium (fun for kids and adults). Established in 1770, Washington is a laid back place filled with unique history and beauty.
3. Morehead City
Located on the Bogue Sound, Morehead City is home to the iconic seafood restaurant - The Sanitary, founded in 1938. While you have to pay it a visit (and grab a shirt while you're at it), leave some time to take a stroll along the docks and walk off that delicious meal.
When one thinks 'beach vacation,' typically black bears don't come to mind...but Columbia is a prime place for spotting truly 'wild' wildlife. For wildlife photographers (or photographers alike) grab that zoom lens and get ready for LOTS of bears. Due to the cypress trees, swampy landscape, and location between the Alligator and Scuppernong rivers, it's safe to say the bears feel more at home than some residents here.
5. Last Chance
Last Chance might as well be a figment or our imaginations, as this unincorporated town in Hyde County is (almost) impossible to find. You won't find it on road signs, or your general map. For the oyster lover, it's the perfect place to go and grab a bunch for a roast. There's not much else to Last Chance - besides the unique name, which derives from the fact it was the 'last stop for a drink of moonshine.'
6. New Bern
If you haven't been to New Bern, it's a place I highly recommend (really, add it to the top of your list). Between history, river views, and great cuisine - check out my comprehensive guide to New Bern
While Swansboro is just a bridge drive over from Emerald Isle, it's a town with a feel all its own. Stroll down Main Street, do a little shopping, a little waterfront drinking, and of course, you MUST stop by Yana's for breakfast or fried fritters.
Aurora is the type of place where even getting there is an adventure. Fairly isolated, the 518 residents see plenty of tourists for one main reason: fossils. Aurora used to lie under the water, and because of this, it is a prime place for fossils and shark teeth of epic proportions. Visit the Aurora Fossil Museum to see them for yourself.
Located in rural Beaufort County, Pantego is home to around only 180 residents, mainly those of Dutch immigrants who called the area home in the 1900s. Their legacy still blooms today in the form of the gorgeous peony flowers. These gorgeous flowers are sought after for wedding bouquets or just sweet arrangements. Visit The Terra Ceia Farms to pick up your own bouquet, bulbs, or blooms of gorgeous peonies.
10. Sneads Ferry
On the New River, Sneads Ferry is a place that Forrest Gump would happily shrimp in with Jenny (the boat, of course). Big, small, medium, jumbo - shrimp are SO popular here, the town has a two day festival in August to honor and celebrate these little guys. Safe to say, I think I know where I'm getting my fresh shrimp (and seafood) from this summer.
Talk about unique, it seems each one of these towns has a shining gem or awesome (and/or delicious) reason to visit. Have you been to any of these towns before – or call one of them home?