Defining Down East in Carteret County
Carteret county North Carolina is known as “the Crystal Coast.” A segment of it is frequently referred to as “Down East.” That region roughly begins where Highway 70 makes a turn next to East Carteret High School. Some of the communities included in the area are Bette, Ottway, Harkers Island, Sea Level, Marshallberg, Atlantic and Cedar Island. Of course this is only a partial listing of the small towns that make up this section of the county.
Traditions and a Brief History
This portion of the county was somewhat isolated for many years. Surrounded by sounds, creeks and marshes, boats were the only way to access these communities. As such the residents maintained a different accent, the “down east brogue, compared to the rest of NC. There accent and speech patterns were very similar to those of early English settlers. As such linguists often visited and studied the local language. Similarly, pirate reenactors frequently visited the area to learn to add a touch of realism to their speech.
Being surrounded by water it is not surprising that there is a long tradition of fishing and boat building in the area. Harkers Island boats, for example, is well known for their distinctive bows. Commercial fishing and boat building are still active industries for Down East residents. However, eco-tourism, sport fishing and other tourist activities are becoming more and more important to the local economy.
The Cape Lookout National Seashore Headquarters is located on Harkers Island. It includes a hiking trail, some displays inside the building, as well as a departure point for ferries to the light house an barrier islands across the sound. The park was recently recognized as an International Dark Sky Park, adding astro-tourism to local industries. Next door to the headquarters the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum is found. It features displays of local decoy carvers as well as local traditions, arts an crafts. Further east on Cedar Island is a North Carolina Ferry terminal. Here large car ferries carry visitors to Ocracoke Island and the famous Outer Banks.
Late Autumn Photo Explorations
In late October and early November I made the drive to explore the area for some photo opportunities. I was particularly hoping to find a few quaint, small boats at anchor or deserted in some picturesque locations. The trips did not disappoint. I also visited the Willow Pond hiking trail at the Waterfowl museum.
As a Crystal Coast Resident this wasn’t my first visit to eastern Carteret county. The following are some older posts about those adventures.
Why do we all like photos of ruined old boats run aground? Maybe they’re a metaphor for life. Sometimes I feel that way, but oddly, I sort of enjoy it.
Sounds like a great area to hang around. Which would be more fun – being a “pirate reenactor” or an “astro-tourist”? Seriously, I love the dark sky concept and hope it spreads far and wide. Remember how the Milky Way looked when we were kids?
Jim, I’m both a pirate reenactor and a astro-tourist. They’re both fun! The Milky Way is amazing at the cape.
I love the bit of local history! Especially the idea that this area still has its own distinct accent, which is becoming increasingly uncommon in this homogenized age. Some very nice captures there – and as to Jim’s observation on people liking pictures and photos of old boats, I think it’s a matter of remembering a shared history or experience. At some point, there will be a sailboat painting from me with its story.
Great article, Bob. I love the shots of the small boats – they remind me of scenes from around here on the Delmarva Peninsula. Your description of the islands sounds similar to Smith Island, MD and Tangier Island, VA, places I have visited. Your narrative and photographs makes me want to visit “Down East” as you describe it. Maybe one day…
Great article, Bob. Another area of the country that I have never visited and it was interesting to learn of this area that we pretty much cut off for so many year. Boats in the water are always an intriguing subject and you have found some fine examples here!
Very engaging post. I appreciate your descriptions that inform us of the history of this way of life.
Beautiful images and great write up. I absolutely love your first image, looks like a painting