Life Between the Sounds
The Albemarle-Pamlico region boasts a slowed pace and a rich historyBy Jessie Lang
In the northeast corner of the state, North Carolina’s Albemarle-Pamlico Region comprises a system of six river basins. Two sounds, the Albemarle to the north and the Pamlico to the south, create the state’s largest peninsula including all or part of five counties.
Showcasing unique natural and cultural points of interest for both nature lovers and history enthusiasts — with a history including the state’s first town, pirates, moonshine and the Underground Railroad — this coastal region is well worth a visit, and preserves the natural resources and culture of northeastern North Carolina.
If you want to travel back in time to North Carolina’s founding, visiting our state’s first town and port of entry is the place to start. Chartered in 1705 and located on the Pamlico Sound, Bath served as a base for the infamous pirate Blackbeard and was also the site of Cary’s Rebellion in 1711. Iconic places to visit while in Bath include The Inn on Bath Creek, St. Thomas Episcopal Church (the oldest church building in our state) and Quarterdeck Marina.
With river access to the Albemarle Sound, the first incorporated town in Washington County offers a view into coastal North Carolina’s cultural and historical significance to our state. Designated as a North Carolina Small Town Main Street community, a prominent historical exhibit includes a lighthouse replica of the Roanoke River Lighthouse. The town is also paramount to the Underground Railroad due to Roanoke River’s contribution to the freedom seekers’ efforts, earning Plymouth a spot in the Network to Freedom national trail (“Finding Freedom,” August 2023)
Further north, the quaint harbor town of Elizabeth City is home to the Museum of the Albemarle, a regional branch of the North Carolina History Museum. The museum promotes the history and culture of this intriguing region, including exhibits about boatbuilding, century farms, the hog industry, indigenous peoples and the Reconstruction era. An essential part of the region’s history includes moonshining, featured in the traveling exhibit “Temperance & Bootlegging: A Nation Under Prohibition.” The exhibit explores northeastern North Carolina’s significance to the industry — an often overlooked area when discussing bootlegging. Part of the recently designated Moonshine & Motorsports Trail, the museum is a rich well of history preserving the story of this region.
If the wild side of the Albemarle-Pamlico region interests you most, then the Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge is the place for you. Featuring the largest natural freshwater lake in our state, the refuge includes marshes, swamp forests and rich biodiversity. Supporting wintering waterfowl, black bears and bobcats, this refuge is a crown jewel in which to explore the rich natural resources of the region.
Within 60 miles to the north of the Mattamuskeet Refuge, you’ll find the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, also well worth a visit. Established in 1984 to protect the rare pocosin wetlands, the marshy area protects animals such as the river otter, alligators and the endangered red wolf. The state-of-the-art visitor center offers educational exhibits to learn more about the refuge.
About the AuthorJessie Lang is the 2023 editorial intern for Carolina Country.
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