Many locals attest that Oriental is a "contagious destination," where vehicular travelers via the two lane US 55, or maritime travelers along the Neuse River or Pamlico Sound, tend to stop by for a night or two, and end up sticking around for an extended, if not permanent, stay. A salty and friendly community that is relatively isolated from the rest of the central Inner Banks, this small town is big on community spirit, and possesses a natural love of all things nautical that is evident around every boat dock, every waterfront boardwalk, and every winding creek.
Originally named Jack's Neck, Belhaven was once a bustling industrial town with a half-dozen lumber companies and a branch of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad.
Nearby Pamlico River and Pamlico Sound, along with the railroad, provided the transportation necessary to move the hundreds of tons of wood products produced in Northeastern North Carolina. These same waters still provide a living for residents today, as they yield their plentiful bounty of crabs, fish and shrimp to local fishermen.
Many of the grand homes built in the later 1800s and early 1900 still stand today. The finest of all is River Forest Manor, completed in 1904. Its first owner was John Aaron Wilkinson, president of Roper Lumber Company, and vice-president of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad. Today this magnificent building is a country inn, restaurant and marina which boasts of many famous visitors throughout the years.