What are the towns and communities in Down East NC? They include Bettie, Otway, Straits, Harkers Island, Gloucester, Marshallberg, Tusk, Smyrna, Williston, Davis, Stacy, Masontown, Sea Level, Atlantic and Cedar Island but in this article we are going to explore each community and it’s importance to Carteret County NC in case you ever want to travel to the coastal lowlands of Eastern NC near the Outer Banks.
Additionally, at the end of this article we will update information regularly as we learn about things to do in these communities, attractions and destinations, and events happening in the local area while also providing some background on the heritage, history, and culture of the area.
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So, your travel plans are to head to the ferry that takes you to Ocracoke, or you simply want to see and learn more about the Down East NC community and you are on Highway 70 in Beaufort. Soon, you will come to a stop light near East Carteret High School where you will take a right. Once you turn, you are officially in the area this article addresses.
The first body of water and bridge you come to is North River and after that you enter the first community of Bettie which is largely a residential community with a few convenience stores.
After Bettie is Otway, and it too is largely a residential community with a few commercial stores and bed and breakfast lodging. In Otway, you will cross over a small bridge that goes over Ward Creek.
After leaving this town, you will continue on Highway 70 until you have the option to continue straight or turn on to Harkers Island Rd.
If you turn right, you will go through the residential community of Straits where you have the opportunity to take a left on to Straits Rd, then a right on Pigott Rd to enter the community of Gloucester. If you continued straight on Harkers Island Rd instead of turning on Straits Rd, you would soon go over a drawbridge that crosses over near where North River and Back Sound intersect. Once crossing the drawbridge, you are officially in the town of Harkers Island NC.
This community is the largest in the area, and has the most to offer a visitor or tourist in the way of commercial businesses, things to do, and attractions. It is also a major travel destination for the Core Sound Museum, people who want to take a ferry to Cape Lookout and Shackleford Banks, or to simply view the lighthouse from the small park where the road ends.
Now, let’s go back to where we turned right off Highway 70 and keep going straight.
The next town you will enter is called Smyrna and it is largely a residential area mixed with a few convenience stores, schools, and churches. In the town of Smyrna, you will come to a dead end where you will take a left to continue on Highway 70 (runs through all of Carteret County) or take a right on to Marshallberg Rd to go to (through Tusk) the community of Marshallberg NC that is a residential community. If traveling in a straight line from Marshallberg to Harkers Island, you would have to cross Gloucester.
Now back to Highway 70 in Smyrna where you had the opportunity to turn right or left. If you turn left and continue on Highway 70, you will soon come to the residential communities of Williston and Davis which are both close to Jarrett Bay. Continuing, you will come to the residential area of Stacy on Nelson Bay.
Continuing through Stacey East from Williston and Davis, you will cross a bridge at Nelson Bay near Masontown and come to the intersection of Hwy 12 and Hwy 70. If you choose Hwy 70, then that will take you to Sea Level and Atlantic.
Sea Level is largely a residential town but does have a small medical center called PruittHealth Microsite. This site along with Carteret Health Care are the only medical facilities in the county.
Atlantic NC is a mix of residential and commercial businesses and restaurants. Additionally, there is a Marine Corps auxiliary landing field called MCOLF Atlantic and a ferry service that can take you to Portsmouth Island.
Back to the intersection of Highway 70 and Highway 12, if you veer left on to 12, then you will dead in at the Cedar Island ferry terminal that takes you to Ocracoke Island. Cedar Island is the easternmost community in Down East NC.
All local areas mentioned in this article are located in Carteret County NC.
All areas are somewhat remote, and have strong ties to commercial fishing, farming, decoy carving, shellfish harvesting, boat building, and other trades.
People who live in the area have a very strong heritage and culture related to working the land, waterways, and family. Families that have lived in the area going back to the late 1800s have a dialect called the “High Tider” (pronounced “Hoi Toider”) accent that has Elizabethan English roots.
Prominent Down East waterways in each of these towns and communities include North River, Jarrett Bay, Nelson Bay, Back Sound, and Wade Creek all of which are fed by the Pamlico Sound and Atlantic Ocean.