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Roanoke River Lighthouse and Maritime Museum

Updated on April 4, 2014
DonnaCSmith profile image

Donna Campbell Smith is an author, freelance writer, and photographer. She has an AAS degree in equine tech and is a certified instructor.

Stop on Your Way to the Outer Banks


If you want to make an interesting stop on the way to the Outer Banks visit the Roanoke River Lighthouse and Maritime Museum in Plymouth, North Carolina. Located on 206 West Water Street on the banks of the Roanoke River the River lighthouse is a replica of the 1866 Light Station. The first light burned down the same year it was built. Twenty years later it was destroyed by ice. Again it was replaced and moved to Edenton, North Carolina. The original, though repaired and remodeled, still stands in Edenton. Edenton Historical Commission is raising funds to protect the Lighthouse.

The replica stands on land today at the west end of downtown, a lovely accent to the waterfront. The Maritime Museum is across the street from the lighthouse. No museum is better that the people who are there to meet and greet and tell the stories. Bessie O'Neil was on duty when I visited one October Saturday. She shared stories of the people who once used the boats that are now displayed in the converted car dealership. Five-thousand square feet of floor space house various boats: an ancient dug out canoe found submerged in the tannic waters of Lake Phelps, commercial fishing boats and North Carolina's official state boat, the shad boat.

Roanoke River Lighthouse


I was never a boater

I was never a boater. I am afraid of water that is over my head. But boats were still part of my life, my culture. My grandfather loved to fish, my mother inherited the passion and she handed it down to my children. I have a picture of Papa Tom in his boat at Rose Bay. He kept it in a boathouse there. Rose Bay, near Swan Quarter, is part of a wildlife preserve. From the time I was a toddler I remember fishing trips to Rose Bay. Mother and I fished from the pier, my daddy and Papa Tom went out in the boat. My visit to Plymouth Maritime Museum brought back those memories.

The history preserved at the museum also prompted memories of stories my mother told me about life in Plymouth like the showboat, The Mayflower. She must have heard the stories from her mother, since the Mayflower capsized before she was born. I enjoyed reading the history and seeing the photos of this boat, that until my visit to the museum, I'd never seen.

The story of Hampton fishery, which operated for about seventy years, until the pulp mill came to Plymouth, is told in a display. Pete Hampton, now 92 years old, remembers growing up and working in his father's business.

Another story of my mother's came alive at the museum. Mother often told of paddling her father's dugout canoe in the river and creeks. I often wondered how it was Papa Tom had such a canoe, something I only imagined the Indians used long ago. But, there it was, a modified dugout, that wasn't ancient like the one found in Lake Phelps, but old. I am sure this is like the one my mother spoke of.

NC's Official State Boat - The Shad Boat

photo by Donna Campbell Smith
photo by Donna Campbell Smith

I think stopping by downtown Plymouth on your way to the beach will be a great introduction to your vacation on the North Carolina Coast. Preserved in within the walls of the museum are not only the boats, but the culture of a people who depend on the water for their livelihood, recreation and transportation to this day.

Summer hours Tuesday-Saturday 11 AM - 3 PM and Sunday 1 PM - 4 PM. Call 252-217-2204 to schedule a group tour or check on off-season hours.

Dugout Canoe like Mama Used

photo by Donna Campbell Smith
photo by Donna Campbell Smith

NC WEEKEND | Historic Plymouth | UNC-TV

plymouth, nc:
Plymouth, NC, USA

get directions


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    • ThelmaC profile image

      Thelma Raker Coffone 

      7 years ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

      I love hubs about lighthouses. Thanks for sharing this one!

    • profile image

      Deborah Brown 

      11 years ago

      I didn't know about the museum. Bobby and I went to the Lighthouse years ago. The water front is very peaceful and still just like Plymouth. The day we went, there was a family fishing off the board walk.


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