Visiting Bath, NC: North Carolina’s Oldest Town

As a kid, I always took field trips to Old Salem. I guess since my routine was to visit Old Salem, I never really have given much thought to other historic towns in North Carolina. So I washistoricexcited when we accidently found ourselves in Bath, NC a couple of Saturdays ago.

Bath is North Carolina’s oldest town. This minuscule town was founded in 1705 by John Lawson. Lawson also founded the town of New Bern, NC, which is another quaint place to visit. Bath was the capital of North Carolina until 1722. But what people remember about Bath is the notorious pirate Blackbeard lived there. Apparently, Bath was the town he retired to, but he got bored and returned in piracy. I can image a town of about 50 residents would be boring compared to pirating.

Today the town is still very small. In 2010, the population was about 249. I honestly think my neighborhood has more than 249 people! With such a small population, the town gives off a relaxing and lazy vibe. We picked up a Historic Bath Walking Tour brochure at the Vistors Center, the only somewhat modern looking building in Bath, and proceeded to wandered down the middle of the street, rarely having to move for cars. We would have walked on the sidewalks, but there were none to be found.

Armed with the brochure, we could identify some of the historical homes like the Palmer-Marsh House, built in 1751. For eight dollars, you can tour the Palmer-Marsh House and the Bonner House, but Trae and I skipped it mainly because we didn’t have the cash on us.

Palmer-Marsh House

Most of the places are still private residences so without the brochure you would walk right past them without realizing they had any historical significance. The brochure doesn’t tell you, however, what buildings you can walk into. I just happen to be noisy and tested to see if places were locked.

The St. Thomas Episcopal Church was one of those unlocked places. The church was built in 1734 and is the oldest church structure in the state. Church services are still held in the building today.

Creepy looking 16th century stone bust from England that is located right outside the church

Also, don’t miss reading the plaques while on your walk around Bath; they mark some important sites as well as give some neat historical facts.

Even the nonhistorical parts of Bath hold a lot of charm. The whole town is cozy, and honestly, feels like it could have been in the Anne of Green Gables series. Buildings are covered in moss, and the waters brushing up on the boats gives off a sound that just begs for you to take a nap in the sun.

The one cheesy aspect is that the town tries to play up the Blackbeard fame, and the tiny museum in the Van Der Veer House has a section dedicated to Blackbeard complete with photo opt.

Even one of the two restaurants in town, Blackbeard’s Slices & Ices, plays up the pirate motif claiming “Arrrr slices are great.” We didn’t eat there, but we did enjoy some beers on the porch that overlooks the water.

Overall, Bath is a neat little town, but honestly, I am not sure how many more times Trae and I will go back. I do want to do the house tours, so I know we will find our way back there to do those. But as far as historical towns go, I like Old Salem more. Old Salem has more buildings to tour and everyone is dressed in costume. I am sucker for anything involving costumes. Also, Old Salem is located within Winston-Salem, which offers great food and Foothills Brewery. The lack of restaurants in Bath and interactive elements left me wanting more, but if you find yourself driving by Bath, it is worth the stop.


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