Morehead City to Beaufort – Distance: 2.3 miles
Begin in Morehead City, where you can tie up at Morehead City Yacht Basin, set in a protected cove off the ICW. Marinalife members receive 10% off transient dockage and $0.10 off per gallon of fuel. The spotless facility offers a courtesy car, perfect for provisioning at the nearby Harris Teeter or Food Lion. a five-minute walk from the marina is Floyds 1921 Restaurant, which serves excellent Southern cuisine and offers free dessert for marina guests. Their Key Lime Pie is to die for!
It’s a short cruise to Beaufort, regularly ranked in polls as one of America’s coolest small towns, and the third-oldest settlement in North Carolina. It will not disappoint. Tie up at Beaufort Town Docks. Spend the day strolling along the harbor’s waterfront boardwalk, where artifacts from the notorious pirate Blackbeard’s sailing vessel Queen anne’s revenge can be viewed at the north Carolina Maritime Museum. Window-shop at the many galleries, and stop by the Beaufort Historic old Burying Ground, established in 1731.
For lunch, head to Front Street Grill, which has great views of Carrot Island across Taylor’s Creek — bring your binoculars to catch a glimpse of the wild horses and ponies that roam the island. At the end of the day, drop by Backstreet Pub for a pint and great live music, or head to royal James Cafe´ for the best burgers in town.
From Beaufort to Oriental – Distance: 25.6 miles
For a tranquil escape from life’s hustle and bustle, cruise to River Dunes, a planned maritime community with 400 slips not far from Oriental. The trip from Beaufort is within protected ICW waters to the open waters of the Neuse River. Although a short crossing, transiting the Neuse River in strong easterly or westerly winds can make for a wet and uncomfortable cruise.
River Dunes, on the western shores of Broad Creek, welcomes mariners via a long canal entrance surrounded by stately homes, manicured lawns and colorful gardens. Newly constructed state-of-the-art docks await you, along with peace and quiet. Marinalife members receive 10% off transient dockage. Kick back, read a book, take a walk or bicycle around the community. Enjoy a swim in the heated pool, soothe your muscles in the hot tub, grab lunch poolside, then take a nap on a shaded lounge chair under a private cabana. Later, hit the steam shower before heading to dinner. Afterward, wander through the nearby Harbor Village, or watch the sun set from an Adirondack chair in front of a fire pit. Everywhere, natural wonders surround you.
The River Dunes Harbor Club, housed in a resplendent Southern-style mansion with wraparound porches and wicker rocking chairs, overlooks the marina. Inside, transient visitors will find a quiet reading room with a fireplace and a great room for gathering to watch TV or play pool.
From Oriental to Belhaven – Distance: 29 miles
Leaving River Dunes, mariners must travel a short distance on the Neuse River to Pamlico Sound, then around Maw Point Shoal into the mouth of the Bay River, then proceed north through the Hobucken Canal, exiting into the Pungo River to reach Belhaven. Strong northeast winds on the Neuse River section can make for a wet cruise. Southerly winds produce following seas.
Our final port of call is Belhaven, a small coastal town whose livelihood is dependent on traveling mariners. Belhaven is located on the ICW along the banks of the Pungo River and Pantego Creek and has become a favorite overnight for snow birds heading south to warmer climates or for those heading north back to their home ports. Docking is limited. Visiting boaters have the option to stay in town at Belhaven Marina, which can accommodate vessels up to 65 feet. Or just north of Belhaven is Dowry Creek Marina, offering fuel, clean shower and restroom facilities, a swimming pool, laundry facilities, a courtesy car and a mariner’s happy hour at 5 p.m. every night. Marinalife members receive 10% off transient dockage.
Once you’ve tied up at Dowry Creek, it’s a short 15-minute drive to town. Pamlico Street runs north from the harbor and intersects with Water, Main and Pungo Streets to create Belhaven’s quaint town center. For a must-stop shopping experience, visit Riddick & Windley Hardware, established in 1938. Also don’t miss the Belhaven Memorial Museum. The town’s history began with fishing and hunting, and it’s not surprising that crabbing, shrimping and fishing continue to support the community’s economy. Generations of families have fished the waters surrounding Belhaven, and that bounty graces the tables in nearby restaurants. Fish Hooks Cafe´ is a local favorite known for crab-stuffed flounder. Georgie’s Sport & Oyster Bar has a dizzying selection of seafood cooked any way you like.
Belhaven’s small-town Southern hospitality is the perfect way to wrap up a full weekend of coastal exploring.