See & Do
Despite being the color of tea, the Black River is one of the cleanest rivers in the state (the color comes from the tannins that leach out of decaying vegetation into the water). You’ll see plenty of old cypress trees along the river, which flows through Bladen and Pender counties. Take a river guide for your first trip on the Black – it’s not a great place to get lost. The state Wildlife Commission has two public boat landings, and there are several bridges in Pender where you can put in. Or take an organized trip by Mahanaim Adventures. 910-547-8252, mahanaimadventures.com.
Burgaw Depot, Burgaw
It claims to be the oldest depot still in existence in North Carolina. Today it houses a small transportation museum with a replica of a station master’s office and old telegraph equipment. 115 S. Dickerson St., Burgaw. 910-259-9817.
Jones Lake State Park, Elizabethtown
The large parking lot shows the popularity of the park’s beach and boating. But it’s easy to get away from the crowds on the four-mile hike through the bay forest around Jones Lake, which leads to a spur tail to Salters Lake. For the less ambitious, there’s the one-mile Cedar Loop trail, lined with ferns and fragrant with fallen cedar trees and offering occasional views of the lake and the Spanish-moss-draped pond cypress trees along the shore. 4117 N.C. 242 N, Elizabethtown. 910-588-4550, www.ncparks.gov/jones-lake-state-park.
Lumber River State Park, Orrum
Thousands of visitors annually have come to enjoy the sheltering cedars and unpredictable twists and shallows of this river as it winds for 115 miles through four North Carolina counties. 2819 Princess Ann Road, Orrum. 910-628-4564, www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/luri/history.php.
Moores Creek National Battlefield, Currie
This National Park Service site covers 87 acres, and there are two short trails. One loops you through the battleground where North Carolina’s Continental soldiers fought British loyalists. The other offers a natural history lesson. Both trails are flat, and a boardwalk and a bridge make it easy going over the creek. Take bug spray and plenty of water. 40 Patriots Hall Drive, Currie. 919-283-5591, www.nps.gov/mocr.
Osgood Canal Greenway, Burgaw
One of the best ways to walk around Burgaw is along the greenway that follows the canal through town. It’s an easy 2-mile loop that goes over downtown sidewalks, along a tree-covered path by the canal and over a stretch of gravel through the gardens in one of the town’s parks. The town played the role of Chester’s Mill, Maine, in the TV show “Under the Dome,” and the courthouse was often featured. The building and the Courthouse Square area were also featured in the TV show “Revolution” and the Melissa McCarthy/Susan Sarandon film “Tammy.” Corner of E. Ashe Street and Timberly Lane, Burgaw. 910-663-3450.
Sampson County History Museum, Clinton
What began in 1997 as a five-room history exhibit in a turn-of-the-20th-century home a few blocks from the county courthouse has morphed into Sampson County’s version of the Smithsonian history museum. There are now 11 buildings on the 2-acre lot, with special exhibits on the military, agriculture, law enforcement, medicine, sports and the Civil War. 313 Lisbon St., Clinton. 910-590-0007, www.sampsonhmc.com.
The Kindred Spirit Mailbox, Sunset Beach
If you drive to where the road ends on Sunset Beach and then keep walking down the sand toward South Carolina, you’ll eventually come to the Kindred Spirit Mailbox, tucked up into the dunes in the Bird Island state nature reserve. Here, inside a rural mailbox next to a wooden bench that faces out to sea, you’ll find about a dozen pens and several notebooks where people have written their thoughts in a public diary of sorts. Look for the American flag flying in the dunes, Sunset Beach.
The stretch of the Lumber River that divides Columbus and Robeson counties is part of the national Wild and Scenic River system and is lined with thick cypress forest and swamps – not the kind of place you go for a stroll. But this elevated walkway carries you above the muck and the snakes. The trail begins behind the visitors center downtown, and it’s a little more than a mile out and back. 1140 Main St., Fair Bluff. 910-649-7202, www.fairbluff.com.
Browse & Shop
Bulk & More Store, Beulaville
Neat rows of baking and cooking supplies, dry goods, dairy, candy and homemade breads line the shelves of this small country outpost painted a cheerful red and nestled against a cornfield in southern Duplin County. The store is run by the Mobley family, who bring in a variety of goods from Mennonite and Amish communities in Pennsylvania and Ohio, as well as from North Carolina farms. 889 Fountaintown Road, Beulaville. 919-298-2183.
Eat & Drink
Brown Dog Coffee Company, Burgaw
Smack in the middle of Burgaw is a coffee house where any hipster would feel right at home. It sells local pottery, honey and T-shirts with a brown Lab on the front. The berry smoothies are ice cold and tasty. The owners, Donna Best-Klingel and her husband, Barry Klingel, roast their own coffee, and the blueberries in those smoothies are locally grown. 103A W. Fremont St., Burgaw. 910-259-3349, www.browndogcoffeecompany.com.
Casey’s Buffet, Wilmington
Chicken and barbecue are the top sellers, owner Larry Casey says, but pigs feet is a close third, and some days he sells more chitlins than barbecue. There’s also spiced catfish, fatback and 20 kinds of vegetables, including his best-seller, pan-fried okra without breading. Many of the recipes are from dishes his mother and grandmother made. The restaurant’s slogan is, “Miss Ya Mamma’s Cookin’? Come Home to Casey’s!” 5559 Oleander Drive, Wilmington. 910-798-2913, www.caseysbuffet.com.
Holland’s Shelter Creek Fish Camp, Burgaw
Steve Holland’s restaurant serves up generous platters of catfish, shrimp, oysters and frog legs – 60 pounds of frog legs a week – and a sweet view of Shelter Creek. 8315 N.C. 53 E, Burgaw. 910-259-5743.
Lanes Ferry Dock & Grill, Rocky Point
Owner Kenny McManus serves a full country breakfast from 6:30 to 10:30 a.m., then switches to grilled hot dogs and burgers until 2:30 p.m. On Fridays and Saturdays, he serves hand-pulled barbecue slow cooked with hickory and apple wood in the shed out back. It’s small – six tables and five stools – but in good weather you can sit at the picnic tables outside. 11016 N.C. 210 East, Rocky Point. 910-602-7110, www.lanesferry.com.