Behold the unlikely beauty of The Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center.
Architectural Digest’s list of the 15 Most Beautiful Rest Stops in America includes some pretty phenomenal locations. A stop alongside a glacial lake in Alaska, a thatched hut on the sand in the Florida Keys, and shaded picnic tables in New Mexico’s White Sands National Monument all (understandably) made the cut. Nobody expected to find North Carolina’s Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center among the nation’s premiere roadside stops.
“I know the word 'dismal' does not sound like something you would consider unusually beautiful or even desirable to go visit," Donna Stewart, director of the center, told The News & Observer. "We were just super excited, especially to see the other company that we were included with.”
Located on U.S. Highway 17, just south of the Virginia state line, the humble welcome center consists of two relatively non-descript single-story structures connected by a breezeway. But according to Architectural Digest, this setting earned the center a spot on the illustrious list.
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In addition to a rest stop, the welcome center serves as a gateway to Dismal Swamp State Park, a 22-mile stretch of the Intracoastal Waterway that connects the Elizabeth River with the Pasquotank River. Stewart told the News & Observer that the center’s lush surroundings are what strike people most, particularly during this time of year, when you can see the reflection of the flowering dogwoods in the dark water of the historic Dismal Swamp Canal. Motorists can pull over and enjoy a stroll along a nature trail, mosey along the boardwalk, and sit a spell on the benches along canal.
“It’s just very picturesque," she said. "We often hear what a pleasant surprise we are. I think we’re like a little oasis that people happen upon on this busy highway.”