Welcome to Downtown Oriental, NC! This charming coastal city is located in the Little Banks region of North Carolina and is home to a variety of shops and restaurants. This town might be small, but it packs a mighty punch with plenty to entertain its visitors. Whether you’re looking for a place to relax or something fun to do, Downtown Oriental has something for everyone!
Once you’ve settled into your cozy vacation rental home, it’s time to get out and explore downtown Oriental. Here are our top picks for the best things to see and do in this vibrant community:
1. Lou Mac Park & Marina
This beautiful park and marina is the perfect place to enjoy a sunny day. Visitors can stroll along the scenic walking trails, check out the sailboats and yachts, or go for a swim. This Oriental marina is also home to a variety of shops and restaurants, making it the perfect place to spend an afternoon exploring.
Take a break by relaxing in the “Dancing Chairs” at the park. These rocking chairs are a local favorite and offer a great place to rest and take in stunning views. Legend has it that each night these chairs come to life and dance, going back to “sleep” as the sun rises.
This small yet impressive marina provides some of the best views in the city. Spend an afternoon there or simply pass by in your car. Either way, it’s not to be missed.
2. Neuse River Recreation Area
This recreation area is perfect for visitors who love spending time outdoors. The Neuse River Recreation Area offers a variety of activities such as hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, and picnicking. There’s also a playground for the kids to enjoy.
You can visit this natural area for a quick hike and picnic or even stay for a camping trip. Many visitors make time to visit Flammers Beach here, which provides stunning views of the river and can be accessed by a well-built stairway.
Fishing is another popular activity in the Neuse River Recreation Area. You can expect to catch plenty of saltwater fish including Gar Flounder, Bluegill, Bass, and Sunfish.
3. Visit the New Village Brewery
The New Village Brewery in Downtown Oriental is a must-visit for any beer lover. This family-owned brewery offers a variety of handcrafted beers that are perfect for enjoying on a sunny day.
Visitors can take a tour of the brewery, taste some delicious samples, and even purchase growlers to take home with them. The New Village Brewery is the perfect place to relax and enjoy a cold beer while sitting in one of their front porch rockers after exploring Oriental.
On Friday nights, be sure to catch visiting food trucks, live music, and other events if you’re looking for something to do.
4. Enjoy High-Quality Seafood at Barcos Food Company
Barcos Food Company is a local favorite and is known for its delicious seafood. This restaurant is the perfect place to enjoy a casual meal with friends or family.
Visitors can order fresh seafood dishes and other menu items with an international twist. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and brunch on Sunday, you’ll love grabbing a meal or two at Barcos during your visit to Oriental.
After trying Barcos, be sure to try a few of our other favorite restaurants nearby.
5. Grab Souvenirs at Nautical Wheelers
Nautical Wheelers was once a house that is now renovated into a vibrant shop that carries a wide range of souvenirs, t-shirts, and other maritime items. It’s a great place to pick up anything you may need on your trip from fine wine to specialty clothing options for the whole family. The store features items from local craft vendors as well as well-known national brands. You can basically find everything from adirondack chairs to earrings, boat shoes to wine glasses in this quaint and equally impressive establishment.
Nautical Wheelers is also the perfect place to find gifts for your friends and family back home. You can also purchase a souvenir for yourself to remember your time in Oriental.
6. Visit Oriental’s History Museum
Discover the region’s history with this tour of the Ortiental History Museum. The museum contains a dugout canoe, as well as part of the ship’s porthole – for which the town was renamed – and other local artifacts. There are also monthly historical lectures at the museum, as well as an in-depth neighborhood tour.
Admission to this museum is free, and it is handicapped accessible, so all are welcome to learn about the town and its culture at this location. If you’re coming with a large group, tours can be arranged as well. Simply reach out to the museum for more information.
7. Sip Fresh Coffee at the Bean
The Bean is a local coffee shop that is the perfect place to grab a quick cup of coffee or stay for a while and relax. This coffee shop offers a variety of freshly brewed coffees, as well as pastries and sandwiches.
The Bean is the perfect place to catch up on some work or read a book. Visitors can enjoy the beautiful harbor view as they sip on their beverages and settle in to enjoy the relaxing atmosphere and tranquil breezes from the water. Don’t forget to bring Fido – as The Bean is a pet-friendly establishment that welcomes your furry friends.
8. Visit the Bow To Stern Boating Center
Are you looking to fulfill a lifelong dream of learning to sail? Or maybe you just want to spend a day on the water? Either way, the Bow To Stern Boating Center is the perfect place for you. Afterall, Oriental is the Sailing Capital of North Carolina, so what better place to learn than here?
The boating center offers sailing lessons for all levels, as well as boat rentals. Visitors can also enjoy kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding.
9. Try Your Hand at Pickleball
Pickleball is a popular sport in Oriental and the perfect way to get some exercise while you’re on vacation. This sport is a cross between tennis, badminton, and ping pong and can be played by people of all ages.
The Pickleball courts are reservation only and there is a maximum of 18 people on the court, so make sure to contact the town recreation center in advance to reserve your spot.
10. Check Out Art at a Local Gallery
Oriental is home to a number of art galleries that showcase the work of local and regional artists. These galleries are the perfect place to find unique gifts or simply admire artwork. They also host events, auctions, and other functions throughout the year including a variety of art-related classes.
Some of the most popular galleries in Oriental include Down East Canvas, Art Works Oriental, and the Village Gallery. These spaces give local artists a chance to get their work out into the community and provide visitors with a chance to view some beautiful artwork inspired by this unique coastal town.
11. Enjoy Some Live Local Music and Food at The Silos
The Silos is a local restaurant that hosts live music on the weekends as well as events like Open Mic night during the week. Their Red Rooster Stage is located right behind the restaurant and provides an open-air setting for listening to some great local talent.
If you’re looking for a place to grab a bite to eat before the show, The Silos offers a menu of American classics such as burgers, fries, and wings. They also have a full bar with a wide selection of beer and wine. The Silos also has a pool table and dart boards, so there’s something for everyone at this popular spot.
12. Take a Walking Tour
While there is plenty to do in the town of Oriental, the town is small enough that it’s easy to explore on foot. Start at the waterfront and wander through the downtown area, popping into shops and stopping for a bite to eat along the way.
You can also find brochures at the Museum that will guide you through 3 historic walking tours. Here are some self-guided tour options:
- Broad Street Historic Walking Tour: Enjoy a 1.2-mile walking tour along historic Broad St, past the marina, and back to the Museum, which is free. The brochure for the tour explains 37 distinctive locations and spots in detail.
- Mildred Street Historic Walking Tour: This 1.5-mile circular walking tour will take you down Mildred Street, past the marina, and back to the Museum where you started. The 25 special places and sites along the route are described in the accompanying brochure, which also includes a map.
- Midyette Street Historic Walking Tour: The Midyette Street Walking Tour takes you on a 1.6-mile circular walk down Midyette Street to Smith Creek and back through town to the Neuse River, giving visitors an overview of the area with interesting stops along the way. The tour booklet includes 24 unique sights and locations.
13. Shop in Style at Marsha’s Cottage
If you’re looking for comfortable yet stylish and colorful clothing, Marsha’s Cottage is the perfect place to shop in the village of Oriental. This popular boutique offers a range of clothing and accessories for women with a focus on quality items and great customer service. This long-standing women’s store provides a full range of unique clothing with a custom flair.
If you’d like, bring an item of clothing that you love with you so that they can help to pair it with other items in their store. They also offer a range of sizes, so you’re sure to find something that fits well and looks great.
14. Explore the Community Labyrinth
Right across from the popular Lou Mac Park is a community labyrinth, an outdoor space that is free and open to the public. The labyrinth is a great place to relax, unwind, and clear your mind.
Head to this attraction when you need to slow down and find your zen. It’s sure to provide the calming effect you are looking for. Labyrinths have been shown to improve mental clarity and improve focus,, and this one is no exception. If you need a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, this is the perfect spot to find it.
The Bottom Line
This historic harborside small town is an Intracoastal waterway on the inner banks with sweeping water views, delicious seafood, local art, and plenty more attractions. Make sure to spend some time downtown Oriental, NC when you’re in the area – you won’t be disappointed!