About halfway between Cape Lookout and Bald Head Island, the New River meets the Atlantic Ocean. Near that inlet, along a southern shore of the river, sits the village of Sneads Ferry.
The oldest settlement in Onslow County, the area was first inhabited in 1775, along the first post road from Suffolk to Charleston, a vital route for news during the Revolutionary War.
The first license to operate what was then called the “Lower Ferry” was granted to Edmund Ennett in 1725. The name was changed to Sneads Ferry for attorney Robert Snead who became the ferry operator in 1760. Operating for over 200 years, the ferry was replaced in 1939 by a wooden bridge. Today a high-rise span, built in 1992, carries travelers north on NC Highway 172 across the New River.
The second-largest municipality in Onslow County, the population of Sneads Ferry was nearly 10,000 in 2014. This unincorporated “census-designated place” covers nearly six square miles and brings in more seafood than any other port in the county. The village yields nearly 400 tons of shrimp, 25 tons of flounder, and almost 500 tons of various shellfish, spot, grouper, and sea bass annually.
The Sneads Ferry Community Council functions “to advance the civic, charitable, social, historic, educational and economic interest of the Sneads Ferry Community.” They promote “enrichment opportunities through theatre, festivals and community fellowship,” and provide funding for local scholarships and contributions to area non-profits. The council was incorporated in 1972.
Generation after generation of commercial and recreational fishermen have called Sneads Ferry home, and there remain many opportunities for resident and visiting anglers alike. From river banks to rental skiffs to charter boats with licensed captains who will take you out to the big water, Sneads Ferry has an outlet for all your fishing and boating needs. Or, you can just take a load off and enjoy the delectable local seafood at a number of first-class restaurants.
Each summer the village celebrates their bountiful waters with the Sneads Ferry Shrimp Festival, which was named Festival of the Year in the 2016 North Carolina Association of Festivals and Events Excellence Awards. The event features live music, a parade and a shrimp-heading contest, as well as food, drink and gift vendors, and it culminates in a fireworks display.
The Shrimp Scamper 5k is held in the Fall. This annual event is focused on promoting “education in health & nutrition.” It begins at the Sneads Ferry festival grounds, and circles around the waterfront. The Sneads Ferry Community Council annually awards a Sneads Ferry Shrimp Scamper scholarship “for the purpose of encouraging a continued education in Health, Nutrition or Education” to a senior at local Dixon High School.
Winterfest takes place the second weekend of each December. This volunteer-run event put on by the Sneads Ferry Community Council includes lighting of the trees, live music, breakfast with Santa, and a craft and gift show.
The Sneads Ferry Community Theater puts on state-of-the-art productions, and provides “a venue for actors, directors, and behind-the-scenes personnel to express their creative talents.” The theater puts on several productions each year with the help of “maximum volunteer participation and is a magnet for community involvement and identity.”
With a mild climate and an average 216 sunny days per year, Sneads Ferry has something to offer all year-round!