Down East Communities
"A Downeaster is best defined as one who prefers salt fish for breakfast, but mostly it is a state of mind, where the people like wooden boats and build them in back yards, beneath big live oak trees. Downeasters are the hardworking people who make up the backbone of the land, independent, strong, and proud, the salt of the earth…Downeast…where you watch the sun rise boldly from the sea, feel sand between your toes, and inhale the pungencies of fish and brine, of marsh and pine, you may, by watching closely, find a land of dreams that is no fantasy land, but DOWNEAST."
Excerpt from "When the Water Smokes" by Bob Simpson
Down East includes the communities of Atlantic, Bettie, Cedar Island, Davis, Gloucester, Harkers Island, Lola, Marshallberg, Otway, Sea Level, Smyrna, Stacy, Straits and Williston.
Living Down East means living the true Crystal Coast lifestyle by rejoicing in the area's long history of maritime tradition. Wonderful examples are the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and the Heritage Center on Harkers Island. Private ferries take visitors and locals to Cape Lookout National Seashore for the very best shelling and fishing to be had anywhere! The Cape Lookout Lighthouse is one of North Carolina's seven famous lighthouses. Having a very distinct black and white diamond pattern, it makes for much conversation. The Lighthouse has been a navigational aid to seafarers since 1859. It is a local legend and trademark of our Crystal Coast area. The rustic charm and the food prepared in this area is some of the best in the country.
Atlantic: Atlantic is located about thirty miles east of Beaufort on Core Sound and was incorporated in 1905. The history of Atlantic includes farming, windmills, boat building, coffin maker, net making, Ice plant, fish factories, Oyster factory, and of course local Seafood catch.
Bettie: Located between North River and Ward's Creek, Bettie is a farming and fishing community where descendants of the first settlers still live and farm. This is some of the richest farm lands in Carteret County with the primary crops being cabbage, Irish potatoes, corn and soybeans.
Cedar Island: When crossing the Cedar Island drawbridge on Highway 12, you enter one of the Carteret County's most scenic areas of water and marsh. This is locally known as the thoroughfare, sometimes shortened to "ther'fer". Cedar Island/Ocracoke Ferry operations can take passengers and cars across Pamlico Sound to Ocracoke, Hatteras and the North Banks. Cedar Island is a little more than 40 miles from Beaufortand in many ways is still isolated. Cedar Islanders still drive to "town" for groceries and most commute to Morehead City to work.
Davis: Davis is located across the waters of Jarretts Bay round the southern point of Davis Island into Core Sound. Please note that the township of Davis covers one of the largest land areas in the eastern part of the county. It is four miles at the widest section and with the exception of a few hundred acres that cover the village and a few acres known as the Ridge, the balance of the area is covered by Open Grounds and Tidal Marsh.
Gloucester-Straits: Close to reaching its 300th birthday, Gloucester-Staits is listed by the Carteret County Historical Research Association as being the fourth oldest settlement in Carteret County. Farming and seafaring was the first livelihood for most families, although tobacco was widely cultivated. This area has three waterways: Sleepy Creek, Whitehurst Creek and Dick's Creek. Gloucester today is a pleasant community and over the years area residents have dealt with the sea as a livelihood and others simply for food.
Harkers Island: Harkers Island is protected by the barrier islands of the Shackleford Banks to the south and the Core Banks to the east. The body of water directly south of the island is Back Sound. To the east is Core Sound, to the north is the Straits and to the northeast is the mouth of the North River. The Straits are shallow but navigable by those with local experience. There are two small bays on the north side of the island: Westmouth Bay and Eastmouth Bay. Harkers Island Road, designated as State Road 1335, connects the island to the mainland by Harkers Island Bridge, a steel draw bridge built in 1968 to replace a wooden bridge built in 1941.
Harkers Island now has almost two thousand permanent residents and many more that live here during the summer and fall fishing seasons. In addition, there are many others who, though they may live somewhere else, still call the Island home. In fact, it has been said that no one ever leaves Harkers Island forever. Even for those who visit here, the Island will leave a lasting impression and will always keep you coming back to an extraordinary place among out of the ordinary people. The Poet Rachel Field once wrote: "If once you have slept on an island, you'll never be quite the same ..." If that island happens to be Harkers Island, then the poet must be without doubt correct!
Marshallberg: Marshallberg is located on a peninsula with Core Sound on the east, the Straits on the south, Davis Creek on the west, and the mainland on the north. At the turn of the century Marshallberg was a point for cooking and packing hard crabs, tomatoes, and other food items. Boatbuilding then came to the area. Core Sound skiffs, Core Sound work boats, pleasure yachts and even small electric powered lake boats were produced. Currently, all but one of the grocery stores have closed, the theater has been torn down, and the restaurant is gone. The elementary school was consolidated with Smyrna. The Two original churches were torn down and replaced with modern structures. The post office will be moving soon to a more modern facility.
Otway: Otway is located between Bettie and Smyrna. Saltwater fishing, boating, hunting, camping and gardening are among the list of hobbies for this area. The pristine natural beauty of this area is a retired couple's dream, a working-person's fantasy, and a vacationer's delight.
Sea Level: Sea Level (or "Sea level") is an unincorporated area in northeastern Carteret County. It rests on the banks of the Core sound and has a population of roughly 450. Sea Level has one of the lowest elevations in North Carolina. A Great deal of the community floods very easily and US 70 is the major road through the community. Sea Level is the location of North Carolina's most southern boundary.
Stacy: Stacy is located in the eastern part of Carteret County, between Oyster Creek and Nelson Bay and jetties out into Core Sound. The land is mostly at about sea level but some ridges go up to four or five feet above sea level. The main industry of Stacy was boatbuilding.
Williston: Little industry remains in Williston today. At one time it was home to several fish houses, boat building operations, stores and even its own school. It was self sufficient. Life there may have been strenuous, but it was a good honest life. Life in Williston today is as relaxed as it was hectic during those humble beginnings.
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