Oriental, an incorporated municipality, is in Eastern North Carolina's Inner Banks region where Smith, Pierce, Raccoon, Greens, Camp, Kershaw, and Whittaker creeks enter the 5-mile wide mouth of the Neuse River where it becomes the Pamlico Sound. The municipal water system draws from the huge Castle-Haynes aquifer; the town has not been adversely impacted by the severe drought of 2007-8 that affected most of the state.
The area was settled by American Indians, who fished and farmed in the creeks and river long before Europeans settled the area. Pamlico County has a rich Indian history told in the many artifacts found in the region. Today, fewer than 1 percent of the town's residents are Native American. Land records date grants from the King of England to colonial farmers and many residents can trace their family’s genealogy to these times. The area was the haunt of pirates in the early days of European dominance. The famous pirate Edward Teach or Blackbeard made his home in Bath to the North of Oriental. The Midgettes (also Midyettes) and other old families that still have descendants in the town came much later, in the late 1800s.
From the early 1900's Oriental's economy was supported by lumber, fishing and farming. Train service stopped in the 1950's. The last sawmill closed just about the time that sailors began to discover the village - in the early 1960's. Just 4 sailboats called Oriental home in 1960 - today the number has grown to more than 2,000. Oriental is now known as the "Sailing Capital Of North Carolina". Tourism, real estate, agriculture and marine related businesses lead the local economy. The town is the site of several new condominiums and other developments. Oriental is home to several new upscale real estate developments, including River Dunes (home to the 2007 Coastal Living Idea House) and Whittaker Harbor. A portion of its homes are unoccupied during the week, belonging to second-home owners from Raleigh, Cary, Charlotte or other urban areas of North Carolina.
Fishing trawlers still grace the small harbor, bringing in a catch of shrimp, crab or perhaps flounder depending on the season. Many boats based in Oriental fish as far south as Florida.
The United States Post Office Department established a post office in 1886. Lou Midyette was named postmaster of what was then known as Smith’s Creek. Lou's wife, Rebecca, disregarding the town's history, renamed the community "Oriental" after a nameplate from a sunken ship that washed up on a local beach. Oriental was incorporated in 1899. The Oriental History Museum offers enlightening displays of Oriental's early years. The Museum and the Oriental Tourism Board have combined to develop a 1.2 mile historical walking tour covering 37 sites.
Two local festivals attract visitors from far and wide:the Spirit of Christmas, always held in early December. The Spirit of Christmas consists of local businesses holding open houses with hot cider and treats, while the local churches hold Nativity plays and host Christmas music concerts. There is also a boat parade in the harbor, where locals decorate their yachts with Christmas lights; the Croaker Festival, an arts and vendor event (benefiting the county's nonprofits), is the second large town festival and culminates in a fireworks display held during the first weekend each July. In addition, the Oriental Rotary Club sponsors an annual catch-and-release tarpon fishing tournament the last weekend in July (2008 was the 16th year) and, on New Year's Eve, the Oriental dragon makes a run through town twice (at 8 p.m. for the young 'uns, and at midnight for the adults). The Oriental Cup Regatta is held the last Saturday in June, and there are boat races most Saturdays from May through September, and very informal ones most Wednesdays, too. Oriental hosts a Celebration of the Arts festival in mid-September, and has other art festivals throughout the year. The Town sponsors free evening concerts once each summer month which have been well attending by county residents and visitors from neighboring Craven and Carteret counties.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 1.4 square miles (3.5 km²), of which, 1.1 square miles (3.0 km²) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.6 km²) of it (16.79%) is water.
There were 440 households out of which 12.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.0% were married couples living together, 6.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.4% were non-families. 29.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 18.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.98 and the average family size was 2.38.
In the town the population was spread out with 10.7% under the age of 18, 3.4% from 18 to 24, 15.2% from 25 to 44, 34.9% from 45 to 64, and 35.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 57 years. For every 100 females there were 91.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.9 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $37,794, and the median income for a family was $44,196. Males had a median income of $37,292 versus $25,938 for females. The per capita income for the town was $25,949. About 6.2% of families and 8.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 2.2% of those under age 18 and 9.1% of those age 65 or over.
Since 2000, the town has expanded through annexation of significant tracts of land and new, relatively undeveloped subdivisions between Whittaker Creek and Pierce Creek.
Magazine, based in Oriental.]