A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

Aboard a slim rowing shell gliding along the glassy Pasquotank River past Waterfront Park in Elizabeth City, eight teens bend and recline in synchrony. “The rhythm is just beautiful. It’s

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

Aboard a slim rowing shell gliding along the glassy Pasquotank River past Waterfront Park in Elizabeth City, eight teens bend and recline in synchrony. “The rhythm is just beautiful. It’s

From Land to Sea in Elizabeth City

Aboard a slim rowing shell gliding along the glassy Pasquotank River past Waterfront Park in Elizabeth City, eight teens bend and recline in synchrony. “The rhythm is just beautiful. It’s poetry in motion,” says Carol Terryberry, head coach of the Elizabeth City Rowing Club.

The support the town has given Terryberry over the years allowed her to share this sport she loves with the community. “It’s a very warm and embracing place,” she says.

With the nickname “Harbor of Hospitality,” it’s not surprising that Elizabeth City’s residents extend a welcoming spirit that makes visitors feel right at home. This, combined with the town’s scenic water views, ever-evolving downtown, and full events calendar, make it a great place for a family getaway.

Before you head east to this charming Inner Banks destination, discover our roundup of Elizabeth City experiences. We’ve gathered some of our favorite stops and adventures to help you make the most of your time in town.


Take a stroll along the Pasquotank River on the Fenwick-Hollowell Trail. Photography courtesy of Visit Elizabeth City

Explore the Fenwick-Hollowell Trail.

This elevated path on the campus of the College of the Albemarle extends roughly half a mile through marshland and along the Pasquotank River’s edge. Benches and gazebos are incorporated into the boardwalk trail — intimate spaces to gather with family for a picnic or a snack and point out waterfowl and wildlife that make their homes here.

Among the cypress trees and marsh grasses, spot green herons, turtles, and osprey. As part of Kids in Parks, a national program of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation that promotes children’s health, the trail entrance offers kid-friendly brochures with nature-themed activities.


Spend an afternoon paddling on the Pasquotank. Photography courtesy of Visit Elizabeth City

Take to the water.

If you bring your own boat to this riverfront haven, take advantage of public launches at Waterfront Park and College Park, and boat slips at Mariners’ Wharf Park and Mid-Atlantic Christian University.

Want to rent a kayak for the day? Native Girl Kayaking has a selection to choose from, along with guided tours of Sawyer’s Creek.

If you long to sail down the river with the power of the wind, Terryberry can help you realize your dream. She and her team at River City Community Sailing offer private and group lessons that leave from Coast Guard Park. They also provide rowing lessons for those who wish to skim along the Pasquotank.


At the Museum of the Albermarle, discover Elizabeth City’s nautical history.  Photography courtesy of Visit Elizabeth City

Explore Elizabeth City’s roots.

Walk into the bright, open atrium of the Museum of the Albemarle and find a shad boat suspended from the two-story ceiling, setting the scene for “Our Story: Life in the Albemarle.” This permanent exhibit chronicles the way of life that has been entwined with the water from the area’s beginnings. Temporary exhibits have a wide focus, ranging from “Women Breaking Barriers” to “Toys From the 1970s.”


Admire local art at Arts of the Albemarle. Photography courtesy of Visit Elizabeth City

Tap into your creativity.

“We have a beautiful arts community and theater that’s all community-led,” Terryberry says. Wander into Arts of the Albemarle’s historic Lowry-Chesson building to view the works of more than 250 local artists.

In the Maguire Theatre upstairs, you can also take in a concert, musical, or film festival. Arts of the Albemarle also hosts special events year-round, like fall’s Manhattan Short Film Festival and the monthly Third Thursday, featuring performers from a variety of music genres.


Strike a pose at the fairy mural on McMorrine Street. Photography courtesy of Visit Elizabeth City

Snap a downtown selfie.

Splashes of color and creativity created by local artists adorn 10 downtown buildings showcasing how Elizabeth City inspires local artists. Walk north on Water Street to find the historic Coca-Cola mural welcoming visitors to town. Just around the corner in Pailin’s Alley, an expansive mural portrays historic figures such as Wilbur Wright and Virginia Dare mingling amongst contemporary citizens, including dog walkers and even the artist’s daughter. Each work of art illustrates the town’s history, dedication to the arts, and the path it’s paving toward a bright future.


In August, attend free waterfront concerts at Mariners’ Wharf. Photography courtesy of Visit Elizabeth City

Relax and reconnect with family.

Elizabeth City bustles with art and live music during the year-round First Friday Artwalk when downtown businesses host local artists and musicians. Two music series, Summer Sounds in June and July, and the eight-week Music on the Green, beginning in August, bring free waterfront concerts in a variety of genres to Mariners’ Wharf. Plus, the weekly Mariners’ Wharf Film Festival projects free movies for seven weeks beginning in June, and you can buy drinks and concessions to complete your outdoor movie experience.


Explore the cosmos at Khan Planetarium at Elizabeth City State University. Photography courtesy of Visit Elizabeth City

Go stargazing.

Elizabeth City State University was originally a teacher’s college founded in the 1890s, and this HBCU’s campus contains a number of historic buildings, some of which date from the early 20th century. In fact, the seven buildings and sites make up a historic district that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Find the map and more information for the historic walking tour online, or pick up a printed copy at the Welcome Center.

After your tour, explore the cosmos at the university’s Khan Planetarium. Recline under a 30-foot dome and journey through the universe with the fast-paced Cosmic Adventure or at one of its other breathtaking offerings.

Note that parking on campus requires a pass, and the free planetarium shows are by reservation only.


Spend a Saturday morning browsing Elizabeth City’s Downtown Waterfront Market. Photography courtesy of Visit Elizabeth City

Shop local culinary souvenirs.

Select local produce, home-baked treats, and handmade creations at Elizabeth City’s Downtown Waterfront Market. This part-craft fair, part-farmers market opens Saturday mornings from May through July, and for the month of September. Come out to meet the local makers and farmers under the tents at Mariners’ Wharf. Enjoy the breeze off the Pasquotank as you shop for gifts and souvenirs, such as handmade soaps, crafts, and baked goods. Find grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork and poultry products from Twisted Willow Farm and locally handcrafted gourmet jellies, barbecue rubs, and sauces from Stags Sauce Company.


Savor a slice at Elizabeth City Pizza Co. Photography courtesy of Visit Elizabeth City

Grab a bite and a pint downtown.

Indulge yourself with downtown’s restaurants and beverage offerings. “The downtown is very walkable,” Terryberry says. “It’s growing, it’s thriving.”

The area features a variety of food styles, from fine dining at Cypress Creek Grill to cozy Southern cuisine at Hoppin’ Johnz. Order a Three Little Pigs pie, topped with pepperoni, sausage, and bacon, at Elizabeth City Pizza Co. or a Popeye Burrito, stuffed with shredded chicken, spinach, avocado, rice and accoutrements, from Big Boss Burritos.

Dine on delicious seafood at Montero’s. Photography courtesy of Visit Elizabeth City

If you want to explore more of Elizabeth City’s food and drink scene, head to Avdet Brewing Company, a veteran-owned brewery. In Coast Guard speak, Avdet is short for “aviation detachment,” and the name is a nod to the nearby U.S. Coast Guard base and its importance in the community. If you’re looking for a light and refreshing beer, grab a Process Guide, a German Kolsch. Or if you prefer hoppier beers, try the bold and bitter Giant Killer, a double dry-hopped West Coast IPA. Then settle in on the brick patio and play Jenga with the kids.

Later, mosey across the street to the big white house for a meal at Montero’s, known for exceptional service and food. With entrées ranging from New York strip steak to vegan and vegetarian dishes like the Bangin’ Cauliflower, everyone in your family is sure to be satisfied. Leave room for dessert at NuQuality Ice Cream, a local favorite since the 1950s, where you’ll find swirl cones, root beer floats, cappuccino coolers, and other soft-serve treats — the perfect send-off for a day by the river.

Want to explore more? Choose an Elizabeth City Road Trip — a self-guided, pre-planned itinerary — based on your personal travel style. Whether you’re looking for family-friendly fun or a solo adventure, you’ll find plenty of inspiration.

This story was published on Jul 11, 2023

Lara Ivanitch

Lara Ivanitch is a freelance writer who resides in Raleigh.