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Located 50 miles from the Atlantic Ocean and just off the Pamlico Sound sits North Carolina’s first incorporated town, Bath. In the 1600’s French Huguenots arrived from Virginia and set up the first working port in the state. With it’s location on the water, it made a perfect spot to trade fur and tobacco. It is also the place where the pirate Blackbeard anchored his ship and made home. This quaint little town is full of history, from the oldest church in the state to the The Palmer-Marsh House which is a National Historic Landmark. If you are looking for a day trip to the eastern part of North Carolina, you won’t want to miss seeing historic Bath.
What You’ll See in Historic Bath
Palmer-Marsh House. In 1753, 28-year-old Robert Palmer, a lieutenant colonel in the British army, sailed from Scotland to Bath and became the surveyor general of the colony. His family lived in the home for many years. During the early 19th century, the home was owned by the Marsh family who were ship merchants from Rhode Island. This home is one of the oldest surviving dwelling houses in North Carolina. It is currently undergoing restoration and tours are available through the visitor’s center.
Land of John Lawson. Lawson arrived in Bath around 1700 and left the most important historical document on the area in his work, A New Voyage to Carolina which documented his trip to North Carolina and his time in Bath and surrounding area. While his house no longer remains, you will be able to see where it once stood.
Joseph Bonner House. In 1830, Joseph Bonner purchased the land on which John Lawson’s house once stood and built his own home with sprawling front porch to overlook the sound. It is one of the best remaining examples of early Carolina architecture with pine floors, hand-blown glass window panes and hand carved mantles. Guided tours of the property are available.
Van Der Veer House. This house once owned by a prominent banker was constructed around 1790. It features a gambrel roof and double-shouldered Flemish bond chimneys. The interior is open to the public and features information and artifacts from the time period.
Glebe House. Built around 1827, what’s known as the Glebe House was owned by Dr. John F. Tompkins in the mid 1800’s. Tompkins was an agriculturalist and founder of the North Carolina State Fair. This home is now occupied and not available for tour.
St. Thomas Episcopal Church. Consecrated in 1734, this church is the oldest in the state of North Carolina. The first clergyman was Garzia (of Spanish origin) who took no salary for the first 4 years, spoke little English and yet baptized 635 people in the church’s first year. Important artifacts from the church include Queen Anne’s Bell which was cast in 1750 (and recast in 1872), a silver chalice presented to Garzia by the Bishop of London in 1738 and a silver candelabra said to have been given to Garzia from King George II.
Blackbeard’s tie to Bath. Blackbeard (real name Edward Teach) and his men were known to port in Bath regularly. The locals welcomed Blackbeard because his men would spend lots of money there, which was good for everyone. When he received pardon from the King, the area of Bath soon became his home. While the actual home has never been discovered, it is said to have been across the water from the Bonner house at Plum Point.
Be sure to visit
Pirate’s Treasure Gift Shop in Historic Bath. Part home, part gift shop, this little place is full of treasures. One side is purely Christmas decor, much of which is homemade from seashells (and lots of love). The other side of the home is beachy themed knick-knacks. You will surely fall in love with this little shop.
Bath is a very small town and most of the historic Bath sites are all within walking distance. You will probably only need a few hours to get the full perspective of the town. We suggest that during your trip to Bath that you also take some time to see a few other places that are a short car ride away. Two places we think you would enjoy are Little Washington & Aurora.
Just a Short Drive from Historic Bath
Little Washington. Just a short drive from Bath is the small town of Little Washington. Little Washington was settled in the 1770’s and went by various names before landing the name in honor of General George Washington. The small boating town has some great restaurants on the water, boutiques and a ton of antique shops in their downtown. Be sure to stop by the Visitor’s Center to get a map for the historic walking tour (although, you may be best to actually drive it rather than walk it.)
This waterfront town is charming and has it’s own fascinating history that dates back to the War Between the States. On Water Street, you will find two homes dating back to the late 1700’s and were used to house Federal Troops during the war. You’ll notice that both homes show signs of battle with cannonballs still protruding from the front of the homes.
Aurora Ferry. Take a drive just west of Bath and take the Aurora Ferry over to Aurora. The ferry is a nice way to get to the other side of the Pamlico sound and has a beautiful view. Make sure you know the ferry schedule before you head over or else you may have quite a wait.
Once you get to Aurora, there isn’t a whole lot to see. The main attraction is the Aurora Fossil Museum. The Learning Center has a HUGE collection of gems, minerals, and fossils plus a really cool fluorescent mineral room.
Across the street from the main museum is a few Fossil Parks where you can dig up Miocene age fossils. The museum is free, but if you are planning to do some digging, you should bring hand shovel, sifter, and plastic bags (to take home your loot).
While you are in Little Washington & Bath, be on the look out for these large Crabs on the Move sculptures. In 2006 the city of Washington funded an outdoor art project called Crabs On The Move. There were originally over 2 dozen Crabs placed throughout the towns, but most were auctioned off for charity. Some of them are still in public areas and we found it fun to find them during our trip.
These are just some of things you can do while taking a trip to historic Bath in North Carolina. Have you been to Bath, Little Washington or Aurora? Is there something that you love to do or suggest others see while there?