The Albemarle Sound and the Albemarle Loop
In the jargon of the cruising community, “Enjoy the journey not just the destination”. Okay, that is often the case, but don’t you love it when both the journey and destinations are equally enjoyable? Whoever said, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too” never was part of a cruising or boating family.
For those who don’t live in or near North Carolina, as you pass through North Carolina there is so much to be enjoyed that is not along the shores of the ICW. Like it’s sister cruising waters of the Chesapeake Bay, the many rivers and creeks along the shores of North Carolina’s sounds are dotted with waterfront communities that invite you to explore the local culture, foods, and history. The area’s heritage dates back over 300 years. The callings of the Roanoke, Perquimans, Pasquotank, Croatan, and Chowan, are inviting you into a new cruising adventure. Learn how Native Americans lived in this resource rich area; follow in the wake of the area’s first English settlers; visit where 51 women signed their real names to a document sent to King George that they planned to boycott all British goods. This was to be known as the “Edenton Tea Party”.
Whether you are traveling back north for the summer, or making plans for this Fall’s trip south, the rivers and communities that frame the Albemarle Sound are inviting you to explore their shores and experience their warm southern hospitality.
A community of marine businesses and historical locations, located on and around the Albemarle Sound of North Carolina, have organized to serve boaters through The Albemarle Loop, https://www.albemarleloop.com
This group of marine businesses and waterfront towns have joined together to educate and invite the area boaters and cruising enthusiasts to “enjoy the journey and the destinations,” to be their guests, and to let the area’s warm hospitality, culture, and history be part of your personal enjoyment.
And while you are doing so, you can earn points towards rewards for free nights at their participating marinas. Points earned accrue from year to year and when you reach certain levels you earn levels of what is known as “Cruising Passport Member Levels” which start at “Surveyor” and go up to “Explorer” and “Voyager”.
Check out the program at this link and get your passport: https://www.albemarleloop.com/cruisingmem.html.
Check out this link to see all the discounts and other rewards available from participating businesses located at or near participating marinas: https://albemarleloop.com/coupons.html
How’s that for welcoming hospitality??
Participating marinas will be in italics with an asterisk, eg. *Albemarle Plantation.
To pick up or print coupons use this link to the The Albemarle Loop website: https://albemarleloop.com/MARINA%20Coupons%202018%20v8.pdf
Since we are currently in the late months of Spring, let’s assume most of our readers have the pointed end of their vessels to the north. You will find Albemarle Sound as you leave the Pamlico Sound, either through the Pungo River into the ICW Canal and into the Alligator River or to the west or east of Roanoke Island around Manteo, NC.
One of your starting points into the Albemarle Loop experience might be *Shallowbag Bay Marina on the east side of Roanoke Island in Manteo, NC. You are within easy walking distance to the most interesting town of Manteo, NC. Near by is the seasonal outdoor presentation of the “Lost Colony.” If you are inclined to stick to the ICW route, leaving Pamlico Sound into the Pamlico River, then into the Pungo River and through the ICW Canal into the Alligator River, a good place to rest before “looping” is *Alligator River Marina.
If you are headed back towards Chesapeake, most suggest starting this journey on the south side of Albemarle Sound, visiting small towns and villages like Columbia, NC, where your host would be *Columbia Municipal Marina, or * Yacht Doc at Cypress Cove.
Progressing on westward towards the town of Plymouth, your host marina, *Plymouth Landing Marina (City Docks), lies along the upper area of the Roanoke River.
Then head over the north side of Albemarle Sound into Edenton Bay and the charming town of Edenton, NC where you are invited to stay two nights free at *Edenton Harbor Marina. At the Colonial Edenton Downtown Harbor, you can dock while you visit and enjoy this charming town. The Harbor has, within walking distance, many historical homes, restaurants and shops. Lots to do, even a “Ghost Walk” ! Information is available below outlining the rules, regulations and rates for using the docks. Contact: 252-482-2832 (phone) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Transient boaters are also welcome to a full service marina, Wharf Landing Marina, but it is not close to the town itself, about five miles west of the town. While in Edenton, you will find many fun places to satiate your yearnings for sea food or other southern culinary delights. But one “particular harbor”, (my Jimmy Buffett, slips in every now and then), where you will want to dine, is *The 51 House. There you can tie up and enjoy some very fine traditional American delights. The old home overlooks Albemarle Sound and is a fine example of a waterfront setting, great food and warm hospitality. It takes its inspiration from Revolutionary War period when 51 women of the local area had “tea” together and drafted, signed, and sent to England a document stating that they would be boycotting all British goods. This would later be known as the “Edenton Tea Party.”
Looking for a place to retire, or to just have that residence on some tranquil, beautiful southern waters, then next stop is *Albemarle Plantation with their full service modern marina. Take a look at some nice home locations and get off the boat to go swimming in their pool or play a round of golf. Catch some awesome sun rises and sunsets. Check out this video link to this pristine location: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qt0j-8zCleA&t=18s
Continuing eastwards, you can take a run up the Perquiman River to the town of Hertford and stay at their *Hertford Bay Marina. It’s a nice ride up this river and a quiet place to get some R&R. The marina is small, nine slips with water, shore power for both 30 and 50 amps, waste pump-out, and the first 48 hours are free. Town is historic and has an aggressive program developing the historical homes and places.
On your way north, I highly recommend you experience the Dismal Swamp Canal, and its host city, “The Harbor of Hospitality,” *Elizabeth City, at their *Mariners Wharf which is right in the town proper. Or stay just across the small Hwy 158 bridge at *The Pelican Marina, which is a very easy walk over to town. Elizabeth City was founded in 1793, the same year construction started on the Dismal Swamp Canal, which was a key to safe commercial water passage between the Chesapeake Bay’s Elizabeth River in Norfolk, VA, and North Carolina coastal waters. Elizabeth City is rich in history, filled with fun and excellent places to eat or “dine”, and it is home to the Museum of the Albemarle. We could fill pages on this delightful town, check it out here: https://visitelizabethcity.com/ ENJOY.
Then on to the Dismal Swamp Canal as you continue your cruise towards Chesapeake Bay. The *Dismal Swamp Welcome Center” is one of North Carolina’s most beautiful “rest stops” and it is next to a “SWAMP”. But not your ordinary swamp!
As mentioned briefly above, the Dismal Swamp Canal is a national treasure, and so very worth the trip. Explore the rich history and colorful past as well as the floral beauty and wildlife. Take the ranger led tours, participate in the interpretive programs, and let the secrets of the Dismal Swamp Canal awaken you to a new experience. Here’s the link to their website: https://dismalswampwelcomecenter.com/
Be sure to take full advantage of all the special offers available through the Albemarle Loop group of marine businesses to enhance your cruise and save you some money. Website address: https://www.albemarleloop.com
We wish all fair winds and gentle seas.
Editor’s note: Several of the marinas on the Loop route are Cruisers’ Net Sponsors and this FOCUS ON article is brought to you by the following CRUISERS’ NET SPONSORS: