Here’s a common snapshot assessment from visitors to Edenton: It’s reminiscent of an idyllic town in a Hallmark movie. The community is close-knit and welcoming, like Andy Griffith’s Mayberry or
Here’s a common snapshot assessment from visitors to Edenton: It’s reminiscent of an idyllic town in a Hallmark movie. The community is close-knit and welcoming, like Andy Griffith’s Mayberry or Stars Hollow from television’s Gilmore Girls.
That’s all true, but Edenton is much more than a pretty little town in eastern North Carolina. Its roots run deep — all the way to colonial times, when it served as a major port and the first colonial capital of the state from 1772 to 1743. And with its beautiful waterfront, that wide swath of Albemarle Sound in the heart of town, nature’s bounty is always close at hand.
Edenton is a place for history buffs and outdoors enthusiasts, food lovers and weekend shoppers. Use our guide to plan your weekend getaway.
Nestled along the shores of the Albemarle Sound is North Carolina’s beautifully preserved first Colonial capital. Where Southern hospitality and history intersect right on the water, Edenton is known and loved for its charm and welcoming community.
Amber Hardy, an active supporter of the town’s economic growth who’s lived in Edenton since 2013, says the charm starts when you drive into town along Queen Street: “Everything starts getting magical the closer you get to downtown — the tree-lined streets, people walking their dogs, children riding their bikes.”
A pair of neighboring bed and breakfasts located on the same property with shared grounds, The Captain’s Quarters and The Granville Queen Inn, are part of the magic. Throughout Edenton, historic homes turned inns give overnighters a glimpse into the town’s history while offering the Southern hospitality that Edenton is known for.
The Inner Banks Inn encompasses four historic buildings grouped near its award-winning restaurant. The Table at Inner Banks Inn serves a full Southern breakfast — think locally sourced bacon and Carolina Plantation grits — and limited dinner service.
A short drive from downtown, the historic Mulberry Hill Inn, surrounded by an 18-hole golf course, overlooks Albemarle Sound. And at The Library at Beverly Hall, a real library for one of the town’s grandest homes turned Airbnb, you can enjoy views of the town’s oldest formal gardens, located on the property, as you sip your morning coffee on the sun porch.
Once you’ve settled into your weekend accommodations, stop by the Historic Edenton Visitor Center within the Ziegler house. At this ornate Victorian, you can learn about the culture, commerce, and politics of the town’s early days.
Wander down to Edenton Bay to dine at The Herringbone on the Waterfront, a restored and repurposed icehouse left over from the area’s herring-industry heyday. Inside, beams span the expansive ceilings, and black-and-white photos of cotton, corn, tobacco, and fishing adorn the walls.
Order a pint of Herringbone’s own Down and Out IPA from the bar, where a boat suspended from the high ceiling highlights the building’s scale. When pan-seared sea scallops arrive at your table, dig into the broccolini, parmesan grits, and country ham butter that round out your plate.
During warmer months, stop by The Trolley on the Waterfront and order an Endless River Kolsch-style ale or Haagen Dazs ice cream bar for an outdoor after-dinner treat.
Start your day with a latte at Edenton Coffee House. Add an egg-and-Cheddar bagel sandwich to your order and make it a full breakfast. Here, you’re within the town’s vibrant and historic business district: Three blocks of 19th-century buildings house nearly 40 downtown shops and restaurants within walking distance to the waterfront.
“To me, downtown is the single most attractive part of Edenton, as far as showing the rest of America that small towns can survive and thrive,” says Roland Vaughan, former mayor and Edenton native. With much of the town’s offerings encapsulated within a three-block radius, you’re poised to choose your own Saturday adventure.
Broad Street’s generous brick sidewalks lined with awnings are a great place to shop and mingle among the locals.
You’ll find all sorts of treasures, like finely crafted homewares, accessories, and candles at A Still Life. The varied selection at North No. 4 includes everything from sterling silver jewelry to men’s shaving accessories to smooth wooden charcuterie boards to cuddly sweater-knit animals. Downtown Diva’s collection of fun and trendy clothing adds energy to any woman’s wardrobe.
The rambling Byrum True Value Hardware, Gifts and Crafts starts off as a typical hardware store, with tools and watering cans. But as you move from the main room, you’ll come across toys, hand lotions, jewelry, and decorative seasonal plates, plus another room filled with craft supplies.
Be sure to stop at Surf, Wind, and Fire, an outdoor-gear shop with an unexpected little bar tucked into the front corner. Its knotty pine walls surround clothing, kites, shoes, and backpacking supplies. As you sit a spell and sip a Paycheck Pilsner at a table out front, enjoy friendly greetings from local passersby.
Friendly residents are part of Edenton’s charm. “Edenton has an amazing sense of community that seems to be missing in much of the world today. It’s a little bit like stepping into all the good stuff about yesteryear,” Edenton native MaryScott Haigler says.
Speaking of yesteryear, Blount’s Mutual Drugs not only serves ice cream floats and freshly squeezed orange-, lemon-, and limeade — a holdover from its soda-counter days — but a large mirror framed with carved wood and marble columns remains from that era.
Break for lunch at the popular Old Colony Smokehouse, but don’t let the long line intimidate you. Thanks to its efficient counter service, before you know it, you’ll have a tray filled with tender brisket, smokey pork barbecue, and flavorful sides like Brunswick stew, collards, and potato salad. When the weather is fine, sit at a picnic table overlooking Pembroke Park.
Not in the mood for ’cue? Just across the street in a small, white convenience store, the no-nonsense Westover Store & Deli makes a mean sandwich. After you place your order at the counter for a build-your-own sub, you’ll likely join a few folks waiting as the Boar’s Head ham (or turkey or corned beef) is sliced and piled high on your choice of bread.
In addition to great shopping, you’ll find Edenton’s long history is easily accessible and well-documented throughout town.
One famous colonial resident, Penelope Barker, organized 51 women to sign a petition protesting the Tea Act of 1773. Today, Barker’s former home is the Penelope Barker House Welcome Center, which houses historical exhibits and sells tickets for the Edenton Trolley Tour. From the window of the cheery red trolley, you’ll see landmarks from the town’s past. You can also spot the teapot sculpture on the lawn of the Colonial Courthouse: In honor of the Edenton Tea Party, the teapot has become a symbol of Edenton to represent its history.
Find additional tours at the Historic Edenton Visitor Center, which offers regularly scheduled tours of local landmarks, including the 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse: The last remaining screw-pile lighthouse in the state, the light has survived for more than a century despite hurricanes, ice floes, war, neglect, and being transported three times; it was relocated to Edenton Bay in the early 2000s.
Or discover the 1767 Chowan County Courthouse — the oldest government building in continuous use in the state and a National Historic Landmark — and the James Iredell House, the former home of one of the first justices on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Finally, don’t miss The Cupola House, a Georgian-style home built in 1758 which looks out over the north shore of Edenton Bay. In 1918, citizens rallied to form an organization to save the Cupola House from deterioration, and the grounds have been maintained by local volunteers ever since. Here, you can take a stroll through one of North Carolina’s featured Heritage Gardens.
You can also make reservations for a guided tour about author and abolitionist Harriet Jacobs. Its stops include sites mentioned in her autobiography chronicling her escape from slavery as a girl. Visitors can pick up a map to take a self-guided tour any time the visitor center is open.
Take to the water with Historic Edenton Bay Cruises on the six-passenger Liber-Tea to discover Edenton’s fascinating maritime history. Captain Mark’s tales and tour give insights into a side of town not visible from shore.
If you’re in need of a seafood fix for dinner, you’re in the right place. You can try tasty tacos filled with fried grouper at Waterman’s Grill in historic downtown. At Edenton Bay Oyster Bar, take your pick of oysters — on the half-shell, fried, or prepared creatively, like the Southern Oysters Rock. With plenty of dock space, you can even pull up your boat and share a pimento cheese board with your crew.
Looking for something a little different on Saturday night? Try the Edenton Bay Trading Company. “It’s a place where we locals go,” Hardy says. The shop sells a wide selection of wine and craft beer. On Saturdays, you’re invited to Vinyl Night. DJs spin tunes from the ’50s through the ’80s from their collection of hundreds of records. Go ahead and sing along.
It’s easy to spend your Sunday communing with nature, as several parks are within a stone’s throw, and there’s water everywhere you look. “We spend a lot of time with friends on the water,” Haigler says. “We’ll all pull up to a sandy beach and enjoy the day.”
At the small and lovely Queen Anne Park, which faces Edenton Bay, you can catch stunning sunsets over the water. From here, Native Girl Kayaking offers guided tours that follow cypress-lined shorelines and the historic waterfront. If you’d rather paddle the waters on your own, you can rent kayaks and gear — including delivery and pickup.
The larger Colonial Waterfront Park offers a shady, fenced playground; picnic tables; and bay-front views, making it a popular gathering spot. The park’s piers lead to both the 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse and out over the water.
With the sounds of seagulls above and water lapping the pier, it’s the perfect spot to reflect and relax on your adventures in this storybook town before your waterfront weekend away comes to an end.