Overview and History

Morehead City

Morehead City is Carteret County's largest town with a population of about 9,260 in 2014. The town began with an early land prospector from Virginia named John Shackleford. In 1714 Shackleford purchased approximately 1,400 acres throughout Carteret County and Morehead City. The second land owner in the Morehead City area was David Shepard, who in 1723 purchased the land now known as Shepard's Point. Other notable early settlers include William Fisher, Silas Webb, Bridges Arendell and past N.C. Governor John Motley Morehead. All of these names can still be seen around town.

In 1852 the state decided to extend a railroad line to connect Raleigh with the coast, and several towns vied to be the end location, hoping to bring growth to their communities. For a while it was considered inevitable that the line would end in Beaufort. In 1857 William H. Arendell, John Motley Morehead and others formed the Shepard's Point Land Company, purchasing 1,000 acres at the western end of the Shepard's Point. Sixty home lots were created, the first of which were sold during a public auction on November 11, 1857.

In 1858 John Motley Morehead sang the praises of the infant town: "The City of Morehead is situated on a beautiful neck of land or dry plain, almost entirely surrounded by salt water; its climate salubrious; its sea breezes and sea bathing delightful; its drinking water good and its fine chalybeate spring, strongly impregnated with sulfur, will make it a pleasant watering place . . ."

The sale of the land was successful, and more importantly Gov. Morehead was successful in his bid for the railroad's destination and ultimately one of two state deep-water ports. Morehead City was incorporated in 1861. When the N.C. Legislature authorized the incorporation of the town, surveyors laid out the streets and named the primary ones after men who had been influential in the area's settlement — Fisher, Arendell, Bridges, Evans, Shackleford and Shepard.

The town was started just in time to be taken over by the Union forces when they attacked Fort Macon on April 26, 1862, thus ending for a time any significant development. Even after the end of the War Between the States, Morehead City struggled to regain its commercial life until the 1880s, when the shipping industry began to bring business to town, once again turning the area into a hub of activity. In the early 1880s a new Atlantic Hotel was built in Morehead City, replacing the old Atlantic Hotel that had been destroyed by a hurricane. The Atlantic Hotel had 233 rooms and claimed to have the largest ballroom in the South. It drew the cream of the state's society to the coast until it was destroyed by fire in 1933. A plaque marks the location of the Atlantic Hotel—it's on the south side of Arendell Street, near Portside Marina.

The city began a road improvement program in 1911 to keep up with the town's steady growth. Better roads stimulated the growth of Crab Point, a part of the city east of Country Club Road and north of the 20th Street Bridge over Calico Creek. Morehead residents dubbed the area Crab Point because when tides came in crabs got trapped on the shoreline, making them an easy catch. In the early years Crab Point served as a port and had windmills for grinding grain and generating power for lumber companies. A private cemetery in the area has graves dating back to the early 1700s.

Today Morehead City is home to several large events, including the North Carolina Seafood Festival (the state's second largest annual festival) and the Big Rock Marlin Tournament (see our Crystal Coast Annual Events section for more about both of these events). The city continues to grow and strives to preserve its heritage as a fishing and port city. The most obvious recent improvements have occurred along the waterfront. Morehead City's leaders have provided a major face-lift to this charming section of town, resulting in wide sidewalks, new docks, bathroom facilities, public artwork, parks and a gazebo in City Park on Arendell Street. Waterfront restaurants, both new and old, and shops continue to bring visitors, and deep-sea charter fishing boats line the dock to give them a day at sea.

Some of the best places in Morehead City, however, are off the beaten path. You must cross Arendell Street, away from the waterfront, and walk down the side streets to Bridges Street, which parallels Arendell, to enjoy many fine old residences that have been refurbished. Some of these buildings have been turned into shops, bed and breakfast inns, art galleries and businesses. On the other side, a stroll along Evans Street will take you past charming older homes.


Newport is known as "the town with old-fashioned courtesy." When traveling from Carteret County to New Bern on U.S. 70, it is the first incorporated town through which you pass. The town continues to grow as Morehead City gets larger and as Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in Havelock expands.

Chartered in 1866, Newport was first supported by logging, farming and fishing. Today, its approximately 4,000 residents work throughout the county and region. Newport is home to a development park on U.S. 70 and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and National Weather Service's Weather Forecast Office that offers state-of-the-art weather tracking and forecasting. The town is situated beside Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station.

Newport has many residential sections, an elementary school and a middle school, stores, a town hall and a public library. It is home to the popular Newport Pig Cooking Contest each April (see our Crystal Coast Annual Events section) and it boasts a strong volunteer fire department and rescue squad.

Northeast of Newport is the community of Mill Creek. This area continues to rely heavily on farming although many new homes are being built in the rural waterfront areas. Mill Creek can reached by driving through Newport or by approaching from N.C. 101 out of Beaufort.

Traveling west from Morehead City, N.C. 24 parallels Bogue Sound. The highway passes through several communities that dot this part of the county. Broad Creek is an old community, once made up almost exclusively of commercial fishermen and their families. Some of these fishermen came to the area as long ago as 100 years; others came from Diamond City on Shackleford Banks after the devastating hurricanes forced them to vacate. Today, there is a middle school and much new residential development in the unincorporated town.

Ocean was once a thriving village with one of the county's first post offices. Now it is the home of the North Carolina Coastal Federation (a nonprofit conservation group that offers exciting excursions into the county's marsh and forest habitats) as well as an elementary school, a high school and many new developments. As you leave the unincorporated town of Ocean, the next little town is Bogue. With almost 600 residents, it was incorporated in a special election in September 1995 and now has a commissioner-mayor form of local government. The U.S. Marine Corps Auxiliary Landing Field is in Bogue.

At the junction of N.C. Highways 24 and 58 lie two communities: Cedar Point and Cape Carteret. Cedar Point (not to be confused with the Down East community of Cedar Island) is the westernmost incorporated town in Carteret County and the westernmost point of the county. The town was established in 1713 but not incorporated until 1988.

Chartered in 1959, Cape Carteret is one of the few planned communities in the county. The late W. B. McLean, one of the developers of Emerald Isle, initiated the town's development. In laying out "Cape C," McLean donated land for a Presbyterian church, a Baptist church and White Oak Elementary School. The first homes were built on the Bogue Sound waterfront near the foot of what is now the B. Cameron Langston Bridge, the high-rise bridge built in 1971 to replace the ferry. The town features stores, a town hall, fire and rescue departments, a school, a new library and community college annex.

If you turn right at the traffic light at the intersection of N.C. highways 24 and 58, you will go northwest on N.C. 58 through the Croatan National Forest and through several old settlements including Peletier, incorporated in 1997 and home to about 500 residents, the Hadnot Creek community and Kuhn's Corner. Kuhn's Corner marks the intersection that leads to Stella, a once-thriving village with stores, mills, a good many farmhouses and even a couple of large plantation houses. Traveling east on N.C. 58, you will cross the high-rise bridge that takes you to the beach town of Emerald Isle.

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