ICW Hotspot: River Dunes, NC

Paradise lies just west of ICW mile marker 173 on the Neuse River in North Carolina, about a mile up Broad Creek. It’s not hard to find, but you do have to look for it. Once you get there, you’ll agree. River Dunes is paradise.
Author:
Publish date:
Updated on
River Dunes, NC, is a welcoming stop for southbound cruisers

River Dunes, NC, is a welcoming stop for southbound cruisers

Paradise lies just west of ICW mile marker 173 on the Neuse River in North Carolina, about a mile up Broad Creek. It’s not hard to find, but you do have to look for it. Once you get there, you’ll agree. River Dunes is paradise.

Grace Harbor, River Dunes’s manmade 26-acre basin (8ft depths from shore-to-shore), is an almost perfect hurricane hole. We have docked our catamaran Different Drummer at River Dunes through hurricanes Irene, Sandy and Arthur, and none of the boats in the Grace Harbor slips sustained any damage. Zero. Other, more exposed marinas in nearby Oriental and Beaufort were forcing owners to take their boats and leave during these monster storms, but River Dunes offered safe harbor to all, until all slips were filled.

The floating docks have 30 to 200-plus amp shore power, clean freshwater and 13ft pilings. In 2011 the storm surge from Hurricane Irene was almost 11ft, and sailboats were floating down the streets of nearby Oriental, but not one boat got loose at River Dunes.

River Dunes opened in 2007 (it’s been our home port since ’09), so everything is still fairly new. The Clubhouse, like all structures in the village, is built in the “Tidewater” style of the 1920s. Complete with a beautiful antique pool table (yes, you can shoot a game on it), flat-screen TVs, stone fireplaces, a formal library and the Harbor Club restaurant on the second floor, the Clubhouse is the focal point of River Dunes. Currently, a “General Store” is under construction across from the Clubhouse for resident and cruiser provisioning. River Dunes is building a community.

Boats up to 160ft can be accommodated at the docks, so there’s plenty of room for the rest of us to maneuver. The fuel dock has easy access and competitive prices; there are also pump-out services available. Transient slips are available for $1.50/foot year round, and you are welcome to stay as long as you like. If you are sailing in a group, Rich Beliveau, Grace Harbor’s director of operations, will try to put everyone in adjoining slips. No anchoring is permitted in the harbor, but the holding on Broad Creek, just outside the Grace Harbor entrance channel, is about as good as it gets. Traffic is minimal, and the scenery is spectacular.

02-hampton-to-wrightsville

Cruising options from River Dunes are almost endless. It’s an easy daysail on a calm day to Cape Lookout or Ocracoke Island, two of our favorite spots. For not so easy days, the Neuse, Pamlico and Bay Rivers, Pamlico Sound, and all of their tributaries, are filled with beautiful gunkholes. The boatbuilding haven of New Bern is a half-day’s sail away. You can disappear up the South River in a couple of hours and not see another boat for days, yet still be able to scurry back to safe harbor when a hurricane shows up unexpectedly, like Arthur did in early July 2014. A 10-minute dinghy ride across Broad Creek will take you to legendary Paradise Cove Marina, where people play Jenga with 2-by-4s.
[advertisement]

Coastal Carolina Regional airport is a short 30-minute drive away in beautiful 300-year-old New Bern if you need to pick up or drop off family or crew or catch a flight home. The funky little town of Oriental, “The Sailing Capital of North Carolina,” is just nine miles away, and is a fun place to visit, provision, or just hang out at the Tiki Bar on the waterfront. West Marine has an “express” store in Oriental, as does Wal-Mart, and River Dunes has a courtesy car available for cruisers.

Crime, congestion, and complications seem to melt away at River Dunes. There are no traffic jams, because there are hardly any cars. Golf carts and bicycles are complimentary. We have never heard a siren at River Dunes, have never seen a police officer, and have never known of a need for one.

The pool bar is open on weekends, and if you are fortunate enough to be there on a hot Saturday afternoon when the beer’s flowing, friends are taking a break in the pool and Bob Laverty is playing guitar as only he can, then you are one of the fortunate few. The Harbor Club restaurant, on the second floor of the Clubhouse, overlooks Grace Harbor, offering unbelievable sunsets to accompany fine dining.

None of this would work without Rich and his friendly staff. These folks deserve high praise.

For more on the ICW and SAIL magazine's second-annual Snowbird Rally down the ICW set to take place this fall, visit http://icw.sailmagazine.com.

Photo courtesy of SoutheastDiscovery.com

Related

Headsail

Ask Sail: Silencing A Rattling Headsail

Q: Our Pearson 26 has a 110-percent jib that tends to rattle very noisily at the top hank. We only bought the old boat recently, but it must have been happening for a long time, since there’s a deep groove worn inside that bronze hank. The jib has an unusually large and wide ...read more

Alerion2048x

Alerion Yachts 33, the 90 Minute Get Away

Easy to sail, luxurious, and swift; the Alerion 33 is the solution to your busy life. The intuitive, simple rig design, easy set-up, and put-away mean there’s no need to wait for crew to enjoy a weekend, a day, or an hour out sailing. Her beauty and comfort are evident in the ...read more

anchor

Know how: Ground Tackle

Your ground tackle is like a relationship—the more you care for it, the longer it will last. So, how do you enhance the relationship? First up, think of the accommodations—a damp, salt-rich, often warm environment, just the kind of thing to encourage corrosion. What can be done? ...read more

DSC_7522

Boat Review: Beneteau Oceanis 46.1

The Beneteau sailboat line has long represented a kind of continuum, both in terms of the many models the company is offering at any given moment and over time. This does not, however, in any way diminish the quality of its individual boats. Just the opposite. Case in point: the ...read more

shutterstock_1016585167

Cruising: Memories Made by People You Meet

Steve greeted my boyfriend, Phillip, and me as soon as we tied Plaintiff’s Rest, our 1985 Niagara 35, up to his dock on one of the Berry Islands in the Bahamas. He was tall, cheerful and clad in a hodge-podge of clothes one might wear to paint a house: oversized, grungy and old. ...read more

_98A7540

Cruising: Dogs Afloat

We dog owners understand the general expectations of ourselves in public places, like picking up after Fido and keeping him on a leash. There are, however, certain places where additional unspoken rules or expectations may apply—as in harbors or marinas. If you sail with your ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com Log the glass  A week ago I set out after breakfast on a 50-mile passage. The day’s forecast via the internet was for 14-18 knots. It never happened, and I spent the entire trip adjusting my genoa ...read more