Washington County welcomes travelers and tourists from around the world every year.
The 424 square mile county borders the southern part of Albemarle Sound and the Roanoke River – what some residents call the American Amazon. With a population of just under 12,000, the county has a wildlife population that easily exceeds that figure.
American black bear, white-tailed deer, eastern wild turkeys of astronomical proportions, as well as gray squirrels, swamp rabbits and cottontail rabbits mingle with bobwhite quail and green warbler at Wayne’s Black Gorge, making the area an adventurer’s wonderland and a bird watcher’s paradise. .
Located on the edges of Bertie and Tyrell counties, Washington County was formed in 1799 and has deep historical roots in the state. It is named after George Washington and has become a destination for history buffs, tourists, nature lovers, hikers and paddlers.
While numerous communities dot the county, the towns of Plymouth, Creswell and Roper host most of those who visit.
Somerset Place National Historic Site
The bucolic setting of Somerset Place is the perfect backdrop for history buffs looking to reminisce about days gone by, as the string music of the 1700s can almost be heard whispering through the pine trees. Karen Hayes, Somerset Place Historic Site Manager, hosts an annual Days Gone By gathering during the summer months.
The Somerset Place Plantation offers a realistic view of 19th century life on a large North Carolina plantation. Originally, this unusual plantation consisted of more than 100,000 densely forested, mostly marshy acres bordering five-by-eight mile Lake Phelps in what is now Washington County.
During its 80 years as an active plantation (1785-1865), hundreds of acres were converted into high-yielding fields of rice, corn, oats, wheat, beans, peas and linen; sophisticated sawmills produced thousands of feet of timber. In 1865, Somerset Place was one of the largest plantations in the Upper South.
According to Bill Barber, a site guide, “When people first settled here in 1660, they cut wood. They started making shingles in the early 1700s. From 1768 to 1775, over 5 million shingles were exported. They brought back sugar, flour and rum,” Barber said, adding, “We had the wood. We had white cedar and cypress, very precious woods.
According to Barber, shingles began to diminish in the early 1900s. Today, one can tour the land and visit the homes of enslaved plantation workers, walk through the pines, and tour the lands and outbuildings of the planting. Somerset Place, 2572 Lake Shore Road, Creswell, NC 27928 Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 9am-5pm Closed Sunday, Monday and most holidays Site admission and self-guided tours are free. Guided tour fee: $2/adult; $1/child (5 to 12 years old); $1/ seniors (65+) Contact: 252-379-6020 [email protected]
A trip to Creswell wouldn’t be complete without visiting the recently opened restaurant, Barnyard Betsy’s. The property owned by Creswell Town entrepreneur Paulique MD Horton is the center of activity in this small hamlet which serves as the gateway to Somerset Place, Phelps and Pungo lakes.
Named after the owner’s grandmother, “who served as a friend, mentor and inspiration,” according to Horton, modernized the sandwiches to meet today’s appetites. Although named after Horton’s grandmother, this is not your grandmother’s sandwich shop. The portions are generous, the ingredients fresh and the ambiance delicious.
The newly remodeled Bright BarnYard Red building has provided locals and tourists alike with some of the best Hoagies and Cheesesteak sandwiches on the East Coast.
Much more than just a sandwich shop, Horton and his team of culinary experts add warmth to cold sandwiches and warm the place up with their friendly, hospitable vibes that were obviously instilled by a family who cared about food and others.
Currently the flagship store for this burgeoning city, Horton and his team are now undertaking a revamp of the city which will include additional retailers and services.
The Barnyard Betsy menu reads like a Philadelphia Cheesesteak and Hoagie playbook. Realizing the needs of the community and the morning traveler, BarnyardBetsy’s also offers breakfast with lunch. The outdoor patio, nestled under the pine trees, is equipped with tables, chairs and a domestic cat that purrs with every bite.
Unlike other sandwich shops, Betsy’s offers an array of incredible handmade desserts with chocolate or caramel sauce if you dare. Open seven days a week, Betsy’s is the perfect place for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It is also open on Sundays. Location: 106 East Main St., Creswell, NC 27928, Hours: Monday – Wednesday: 11am – 7pm, Thursday – Friday: 11am – 8pm, Saturday: 9am – 8pm, Sunday: 9am – 3pm
Both lakes are located within the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge which was established in 1990 and, while originally 12,000 acres, the southwest portion of the refuge is now known as the Pungo Unit and was established in 1963 as the Pungo National Wildlife Sanctuary.
It was merged in 1990 with Pocosin Lakes. The National Wildlife Refuge today covers 110,106 acres. The refuge is named after the pocosin peat wetlands that make up the majority of the protected habitat. Home to native animals such as black bear, alligator, two species of fox, bobcat, raccoon, coyote, opossum, beaver, river otter, mink and red wolf, the reserve welcomes visitors from all over the world.
It was the site chosen for the reintroduction of the endangered red wolf in 1987 and today there are twelve wolves in the reserve. It is located along the Atlantic Flyway and is home to over 200 species of birds.
The Pungo Lake Unit is a notable wintering site for Tundra Swans, Snow Geese and many species of ducks, with approximately 100,000 resident waterfowl between November and January each year.
Lake Phelps is the second largest natural lake in North Carolina. It is 16,600 acres in size and is located primarily in Washington County.
The lake is a beautiful mystery formed on a wide peninsula between Albemarle Sound and the Pamlico River and is said to be over 38,000 years old.
The Phelps Lake Loop Trail is a 6.4 mile moderate loop hike with an elevation gain of 1060 feet with an average grade of only 7%. The trail has some slight elevation gain, several bridge crossings, and other obstacles, such as roots and exposed rocks.
One of the lake’s main attractions is the Phelps Lake Jumping Rock. Located on the northeast shore of Phelps Lake, Jumping Rock rises about 25 feet above this serene glacier-fed body of water.
The lakes are great for boating, kayaking, and paddle boarding. Location: 2252 Lake Shore Rd, Creswell, NC 27928
Built circa 1790, the Davenport Homestead in eastern Washington County is listed on the National Register of Historic Properties and is the oldest homestead still open to the public in the area.
Home to generations of the Davenport line, the building first housed the family of Daniel Davenport, Washington County’s first representative to the North Carolina Senate.
After his death in 1808, Davenport’s descendants continued to live in the structure into the 1970s, leading lives little different from those of their ancestors nearly 200 years before. Without the convenience of electricity or running water, the last occupants of the farm – Harriet and Jerd Davenport – led a life of true simplicity.
The original house and a set of outbuildings have been furnished with pieces that tell a visual story of life in Washington County in the years following the American Revolution.
The Davenport Homestead is located approximately three miles off US 64 just west of Creswell in the community known as Mt. Tabor. It is owned and maintained by the Washington County Historical Society.
It has been renovated by the Historical Society and several outbuildings have been added. Daniel Davenport and his family lived in the home in the late 1700s. Daniel was Washington County’s first senator from 1800 to 1807. Davenport Homestead: Mt Tabor Rd, Creswell (NC), 27970, For more information : https://www.facebook.com/davenport-homestead-115206958582792/
The quaint town of Plymouth is currently enjoying a resurgence as its main street is revitalized with restaurants, antique shops and retail businesses that cater to the needs of the community and those who visit it.
With two bookend museums, the Port O’Plymouth Museum at one end of Water Street, with a replica of the Albemarle moored to its shores, and the Maritime Museum and a replica of Roanoke No. 2 Lighthouse at the ‘other end is a shopping stroller window fun.
Located in the Inner Banks of northeastern North Carolina, the city was established in 1787 and is now the county seat.
A diverse community of 3,320 people with a rich history, Plymouth has used its location on the Roanoke River to become an important hub for commerce and trade.
In 1808 a federal customs house opened in Plymouth, and in 1831 the United States Congress funded a lightship anchored at the mouth of the Roanoke River.
In 1867, the Roanoke River Lighthouse was lit for this purpose. A replica of the lighthouse, including a Fresnel lens, can be viewed opposite the Maritime Museum on the banks of the Roanoke.
With a rich Civil War history, the Port O’Plymouth Museum offers a wonderful visual insight into what happened on the banks of the river. Museum curator Scott Liverman is quick to share his knowledge of the many artifacts on display, including a massive 30-star flag that once hung above Federal House.
Plymouth also hosts an annual summer boat show, bear festival and visitors casting a line or two.
For those in search of culinary adventures, the Riverview Cafe, (108 East Water St.) owned by Lou and Jill Manring offers serene views of the Roanoke in the newly renovated building.
The Riverview also offers a wide selection of local handcrafted artwork and a selection of old-world antiques.
Down the block from the Riverview, Bistro 116, (116 E. Water St.), Chefs Daniel and Sylvie Batique’s creation offers a weekly changing menu focused on casual fine dining in a beautiful scenic riverside setting. river.
After dinner, guests can enjoy ice cream at the newly opened Le Rendez Vous Cafe (111 Water St.) where Batigue shares his taste for ice cream and style with freebies and more.