- Aurora Free Ferry
Bayview side of the Bayview-Aurora ferry is about five miles east
Bath on Hwy. NC 92, just east of Bayview. It crosses the Pamlico
River to reach the north end of Hwy. NC 306, north of Aurora. A sign
at the loading lanes informs you it is a 4-mile crossing, but it takes
about 30 minutes. You can find its location on the Coastal
On this trip the author noticed this ferry looked
much like the ones he was familiar with on the ferry run between Hatteras
and Ocracoke, and commented about it to the crew.
It turned out that this was in fact the
"Ocracoke", which normally worked the Hatteras-Ocracoke route.
The crew said it was on loan to the Bayview-Aurora crossing while
their ferry was "in the shop" for repairs. (This trip was just
after Hurricane Isabel, and the Hatteras - Ocracoke ferry was not
running. The new "Isabel Inlet" cut by the storm between Frisco and
Hatteras village, and damage to Hwy. NC 12 on Ocracoke had cut off
all access to the ferry there on both ends.)
- Two photos of the "Ocracoke" waiting to load at Bayview.
Below - The crew on board the "Ocracoke" as it
- Another view of the "Ocracoke".
(Click thumbnails for a larger view)
Unlike the other ferry rides on this trip,
there were almost more crew than passengers. The crew seemed
more approachable and seemed to have a little time to talk.
Perhaps having a very small pilot house on the "Ocracoke", and
the fact that is was a perfectly beautiful day meant they were
more obliged to be on-deck. In any event, it was nice to chat
with them for a bit.
The one thing you can't miss on this crossing
is the huge mound of dirt visible across the river to the southwest.
You might wonder where such a mound could possibly come from
in this flat coastal land, just a breath above sea level. As
you get closer, you can tell there is also some sort of huge
industrial facility next to it, and you begin to realize the
massive scale of this place. It is absolutely immense.
What you're seeing
is the PCS
Phosphate Mine, which stretches the entire five miles from
the ferry landing to Aurora.
and the Fossil Museum
at the landing on the south bank of the Pamlico puts you on
NC 306 again, which then runs south past the phosphate mine
to Aurora, though little of the facility is visible behind the
trees that buffer the highway. If you have an interest in fossils,
you should stop in Aurora to visit the Aurora
Fossil Museum. This small museum is packed with fossils,
bones, shark's teeth, arrowheads,
and other items found in the diggings from the phosphate mine.
The museum is easy to find. Turn east off NC 306 next to the
school. The turn is plainly marked by a sign, and you only have
to drive 3 or 4 blocks off the highway to reach it.
Across the street in front of the museum
there is always a pile of dirt from the mine in which visitors
can dig and sift for their own fossils free of charge. Bring
a shovel, bucket, and maybe a wire screen sifter, and you're
in business. You're practically guaranteed to find fossils in
no time. The author's wife spent just five minutes with no tools
but her bare hands, and found two specimens in short order.
The pile is changed every few days, so there is no shortage
of fossils to be found. Children are fascinated with it, and
it's a great break for the kids on a trip. If you bring your
own buckets, you can fill them up and take them with you. Then
you can sift through them later when you get home, or entertain
the kids with the project later on your trip.
are some views of some of the displays and dioramas in the museum.
you're feeling adventurous, you might stop for a snack at the
Wayside Family Restaurant in Aurora at the intersection of NC
306 and NC 33. On the menu, under "Wayside Famous Dinners",
is a selection called the "Hot Hamburger Plate". This is no
doubt a "local" delicacy, which consists of two beef
patties on two slices of white bread with French fries, smothered
in brown gravy for only $4.75. It wasn't exactly clear whether
the patties and bread, or the fries, or both were smothered.
Are you feeling lucky?
south from Aurora on NC 306 takes you through Grantsboro and
Arapahoe to Minnesott Beach, and the landing for the next ferry.