Grace Runs Deep at River Dunes

Harbor Club at River Dunes

River Dunes on Grace Harbor

The true Southern hospitality and ample amenities River Dunes on Grace Harbor will leave a lasting memory.

The well-known towns of North Carolina’s Crystal Coast typically get most of the credit as cruiser hotspots. But along the Intracoastal Waterway, tucked within the Neuse River off the Pamlico Sound, sits a remarkable hidden gem. It’s one that won’t stay hidden for long. River Dunes Resort and Marina on Grace Harbor is putting Oriental, North Carolina, on the map as a premier marina resort destination—and for good reason.

As you cruise along the Atlantic Coast, set aside few extra days to see the property’s recent re-design.

A Pleasant Surprise

River Dunes aims to enhance the cruiser’s lifestyle, and it shows through with lush landscaping, architectural design features, gourmet meals, fully outfitted facilities, and some of the friendliest staff I’ve had the pleasure to meet. Fellow cruisers on the property agree that it’s more of an experience than a marina.

For transient cruisers, the best part is that they’re welcome to use all club members’ amenities at no additional cost. In fact, one cruiser discovered the benefits of River Dunes quite unexpectedly.

While on his fifth summer voyage from Miami to the Hamptons in his beloved boat he refers to as “his best girl,” Davar experienced what every cruiser dreads: engine trouble.

He was within reach of his usual mooring but decided on River Dunes Marina because it was closer to his next stop in Maryland, and he hoped to avoid time lost the next day. Davar was struck by the quality of the marina and by the beauty and charm surrounding the quaint resort, but more so by the professional and friendly staff. He was so impressed, he stayed an additional two days even after his engines were ready.

“I had no clue this place was here, so it was the most pleasant surprise,” he says. “I had to call my girlfriend and tell her I would be a few days late because I couldn’t bring myself to leave here yet.” While he finished a glass of red wine and homemade white chocolate raspberry cheesecake at the Harbor Club restaurant, he shared his intention to take advantage of all the newly renovated facilities open to guests; he especially anticipated the state-of-the-art gym that overlooks the harbor.

What’s in Store

In addition to the new luxurious spa and wellness facility that offers a sauna and steam room, guests can find just about any activity to fill their time. If you haven’t quite overdosed on saltwater fun, grab one of the many available canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards. Stretch your sea legs with a leisurely bicycle ride along the 28 lush waterfront acres, or play a game of tennis on one of two brand-new, lighted Har-Tru tennis courts. If you prefer a little more relaxation, lounge under one of the covered cabanas and order food and drinks poolside, then take a dip in the pool or hot tub. The pool area also offers a brand-new bar area to grab an adult libation.

To beat the heat in the middle of the day, opt for lunch inside YAWL’S Cafe, where Scarlett and Lauren are eager to take your order. Then stroll over to the Harbor Village and browse at the Grace Harbor Provisions Company. In addition to a fine dining restaurant, the Harbor Club is also home to a library, billiards table, event space, and screened-in porch with a fireplace to wind down after a day on the water.

Something that makes this place extra special is the variety of accommodations. River Dunes is part of the award-winning Palm Hill Group. That includes breathtaking homes, future home sites, leased and transient boat slips, cottage rentals, and hotel rooms. One couple who keeps their boat at River Dunes full-time arranged their family reunion on the property. The rental cottages and bunkies provided the perfect option to house all their out-of-town family not staying on a boat.

Dry Land

Accommodations range from one-bedroom cottages with mini kitchenettes and sitting areas to multiple bedroom bunkies with full kitchens and living rooms. There’s something to suit any need. Spa-like finishes with personal décor touches lend to the ideal blend of a luxury resort and cozy home feel. A laundry room is also available on property in what will soon be the new cruisers’ lounge area. Free Wi-Fi is available in the marina slips, pool, harbor club, village center, and all rentals.

Use the property’s courtesy car to venture into town for supplies or just a fun visit. A 10-minute drive will take you into the quiet town of Oriental, famed for its deep sailing roots. Along the main road of Broad Street, food provisions are available at a nice Piggly Wiggly supermarket, and just beyond, boat supplies can be found at the West Marine.

If you crave Italian food, The Silos Restaurant across from West Marine hits the spot. They make homemade pizzas and pasta (featuring fresh local seafood) as well as the typical American fare with many local and imported beers on tap. O’Town Restaurant is a few minutes farther into town and its outdoor accommodations with a pub-type feel and a band draws in all the locals, so grab a seat when you can. On a quieter street, the unassuming M&M’s Cafe is a good old-fashioned American seafood grill with fried hushpuppy baskets that will feed the whole table.

A Crown Jewel

As you enter back onto the property, you will notice a distinct difference from the surrounding town. And it’s not because of the friendly ponies that greet you from their nearby pasture. It’s clear River Dunes offers the luxuries, relaxation, professionalism, and sophistication of a private club, but stays true to their roots. Their goal of excellence is certainly achieved in the layout, attention to design detail, service, and resident and cruiser amenities.

River Dunes is truly a breath of fresh air and the crown jewel for cruisers near  Oriental, North Carolina. The property’s management and staff have their eyes set on continued expansion and advancement. The goal? Be the area’s most sought-after, full-service destination resort and marina. As more delighted cruisers discover this sweet spot, it’s easy to imagine all the success and accolades River Dunes will receive.

Here on Grace Harbor, grace does, indeed, run deep.

By Christine Carpenter, Southern Boating September 2018

Cruiser Resources

River Dunes Marina on Grace Harbor
MM173 in Oriental, NC
Monitors VHF 16 & 72
(800) 348-7618 or (252) 249-4908


  • ICW access
  • Accommodates vessels up to 150′ LOA and 7′ draft
  • Floating docks
  • 500ft. fuel dock with high-speed diesel, gasoline and pump out
  • 30-50-100-200 amp service
  • Steam showers
  • Laundry service
  • Courtesy cars
  • Direct Wi-Fi to boat slips

  1. So very much do I enjoy being a part of Yawl’s at River Dunes. It is a pleasure to serve our customers. Scarlett is a joy to work alongside and we are so glad to make your experience a welcoming one. We look forward to seeing and serving many more of you!

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