Down East North Carolina
“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 North Carolina historically refers to the group of communities east of Beaufort in Carteret County in the Coastal Plain region of the state. There are thirteen communities that make up the Down East – Atlantic, Bettie, Cedar Island, Davis, Gloucester, Harkers Island, Marshallberg, Otway, Sea Level, Smyrna, Stacy, Straits and Williston. One community runs into another, and between them all they share three K-8 schools. The nearest high school is in Beaufort and hospital is in Morehead City. These communities have a long history of maritime tradition and celebrate their heritage with the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and the Cape Lookout Lighthouse, a navigational aid to seafarers since 1859. Economic opportunities still center around the water, though fishermen are increasingly selling their boats and leaving fishing to work on pipeline dredge boats, tugs and jobs off the water.
As a visitor, you would be welcomed into the Down East community. Be prepared to hear the High Tider accent, a dialect remnant of Elizabethan English that was once spoken in colonial Carolina and now mixes with a general southern accent. They’re likely to tell you about the current weather and how it has affected fishing, a good story from out on the boat, or chat with you about local politics.
Click here to take a virtual tour of the Down East