Have You Ever Been Down East?
On US 70, just beyond Beaufort, you’ll find yourself traveling on the Outer Banks National Scenic Byway, one of only four national scenic byways in North Carolina.
As you cross the North River, you are officially in Down East territory, although there’s an absence of “welcome to” signage.
Carteret County historian and storyteller Rodney Kemp says, “The term ‘Down East’ is a nautical term. During the sailing days, the mail boat would make its deliveries to each eastern Carteret County community. Normally, the prevailing sou’west wind would propel the sailboat in an efficient manner. Thus, they were sailing ‘downwind to the eastern’ or Down East.”
Something else you need to know about Down East is: “The North River flows south and the South River flows north. Perhaps it’s because when you go upriver on the North River, you are going north, and vice versa on the South River. Got it?”
In just one visit Down East, you will get a sense that there’s not much difference between the way things were and the way things are. The traditions of decoy carving, hunting, commercial fishing and boatbuilding and living off the land and from the water are still passed on from one generation to the next.
As you continue your scenic drive, the route switches to NC 12 at Sea Level. The view from the top of the Monroe Gaskill Bridge at Thorofare Bay looking out and over Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge, the marsh seems to stretch out forever, as far as one can see. It’s the largest marsh on the East Coast.