The Town of Edenton is the home of North Carolina’s first colonial capital and has been around since 1718. It was named one of the named one of America’s prettiest towns by Forbes.com and it is a well deserved honor. Edenton is a town full of historic landmarks, incredible architecture, recreational activities, and an array of local shops, art, and restaurants. Today, I’m thrilled to share a complete Edenton travel guide for the top 10 best things to do in Edenton, NC.
Top 10 Best Things to Do in Edenton, NC: A Complete Edenton Travel Guide
What to Do in Edenton, NC
Tour the Penelope Barker House
The Penelope Barker House is the Welcome Center for Edenton and Chowan County, and admission is free to tour the home. It was built in 1782 and moved to its current location in 1952. Penelope Barker was created with starting the first political action by women in the colonies by organizing and signing a petition resolving not to buy or use any British goods on which they paid taxes. 51 women signed this petition, which was quite a feat for the time that 51 women could read and write when only 1/3 of colonists were literate.
The Penelope Barker House houses exhibits both downstair and upstairs, plus a gift shop featuring goods made by local artisans. It’s here that you can also purchase tickets for the trolley tour of Edenton. And take some time to enjoy the sound view from the rocking chairs or walking through the gardens on the property.
Explore Broad Street and Downtown
Strolling the historic downtown area is a great way to explore the town and see the various shops, restaurants, and entertainment. One of our favorite spots was Surf, Wind, and Fire, which is a surf inspired outdoor gear store that also serves craft beer and cider, plus coffee. If you’re looking for a shop that carries men’s and women’s accessories, gifts, jewelry, and clothes, look no further than the Polka-Dot Palm. King Street Marketplace is a home consignment store and offers a beautiful selection of home decor and furniture.
Other shops that are perfect for browsing include the Gregarious Goose for unique handcrafted and vintage pieces, Byrum Tru Value Hardware which has something for everyone (it’s not your typical hardware store), and Feathers Boutique for the latest women’s fashion.
Visit the 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse
This is the last remaining screw-pile lighthouse in America and was moved to its current location in 2012 overlooking Edenton Bay. The interior was still closed because of Covid precautions, but we enjoyed walking around the outdoor porch and taking in the views. I look forward to a return visit to explore this fully restored property!
National Lighthouse Day, August 7th is an annual commemoration of the anniversary of the federal lighthouse establishment and a day to celebrate lighthouses and the commitment and service of those who tended America’s lights for generations. The Roanoke River Lighthouse will be open and free to the public for tours from 10:00am to 4:00pm. It’s a great way to learn how the Riverlights kept those traveling by water safe.
Walk the Gardens at the Cupola House
The Cupola House was built in 1758 and was almost torn down in 1918. The Edenton community joined together to save the house and the antiques and woodwork within the house. If you take the Trolley tour, they will give you even more details of how the community joined forces to save this beautiful home! Take some time to explore the gardens on the grounds. There is also a guided tour if you’re interested in exploring the interior of the home as well. Every other spring, the Cupola House hosts Easels in the Garden. There is also a Candlelight Tour of the home each holiday season.
Cheer on the Edenton Steamers
The Edenton Steamers play at Historic Hicks Field, which was built as a WPA project in 1939. The main structure is a wooden grandstand and is the last remaining one in North Carolina. Cheer on the Edenton Steamers during the summer in this historic stadium.
Photo via Edenton Steamers
Take the Trolley Tour to Learn Local Edenton History
When I visited Edenton a few years ago, my friend and I took the trolley tour and thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the local history. When David and I visited, I knew we had to take the tour again! It’s a great way to see more of the historic landmarks, such as notable sites throughout the historic district and the Edenton Cotton Mill Village while learning more about Black history and women’s history in North Carolina. The tour takes a little under an hour and is such an enjoyable experience. You can purchase your trolley tickets at the Penelope Barker House and they run six days a week (closed on Tuesdays).
Experience a Walk-Back-in-Time on the Historic Edenton Museum Trail
One of my favorite parts about Edenton is walking through the historical landmarks. The town is truly a living history museum, which in my personal opinion, one of the best ways to experience and learn history. The Museum Trail has markers throughout the town that provides a wealth of information for background knowledge, plus additional information to explore if you are interested. It’s a wonderful way to see the town and learn more about North Carolina history.
For more walking history tours, be sure to head over to the Historic Edenton State Historic Site. There are opportunities for more in-depth learning about Harriet Jacobs, who self-published Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. This is the widely considered one of the most comprehensive narratives written by an enslaved woman. A Harriet Jacobs walking tour can be organized through the Historic Edenton site.
Hop Aboard the Liber-Tea for the Best Edenton Bay Cruises
If you saw my New York City post earlier this week, it may come as no surprise to you that I enjoy a good harbor cruise. The “Liber-Tea” is a beautifully appointed, comfortable 6-passenger tour boat that is powered with an eco-friendly electric motor. Hear interesting stories about Edenton and the beautiful Edenton Bay, while keeping cool under the canopy of the boat. There are a few different time options, including a sunset tour.
Support Local Artists at the Chowan County Arts Council
The Chowan County Arts Council is a wonderful way to support local artists and explore the talents of the Chowan County community. New artwork is hung almost weekly and offers a variety of local events. This summer, the Chowan County Arts Council is offering Live after Five: Music and Food Trucks summer series.
Photo via Chowan County Arts Council
Enjoy Happy Hour at Edenton Bay Trading Co.
Edenton Bay Trading Co. is such a unique gem on Broad Street that serves up a great selection of craft beer and wine with indoor seating, a secret courtyard patio, and seating on the sidewalk. There is an assortment of gift ideas, a fun selection of records, and beautiful antiques. If sangria is on the menu, you should definitely try that!
Where to Eat in Edenton, NC
The Soda Shoppe
If you’re like me and you enjoy a good, ol’ fashioned soda shop, the one in Edenton is a perfect spot for a milkshake and a burger. They’re open for lunch from 11:00-3:00 Monday-Saturday.
Emilio’s General Store & Take Away
This specialty food shop is a popular lunch location featuring unique sandwiches with seating indoors, on the sidewalk out front, or to go if you’re heading out of town. A note is that it is cash only.
On our next visit…
- The Table at the Inner Banks Inn is definitely a spot that David and I will try on our next trip back. The patio is stunning and the menu looks incredible!
Where to Stay in Edenton, NC
This beautiful inn is located on 6 acres of land just outside the historic district. The sweeping front porch was a perfect spot for enjoying our breakfast. The gardens were a lovely spot for a happy hour drink and taking in property. Cheryl makes a gourmet breakfast for her guests each morning and provides afternoon snacks before dinner. On the night of our visit, she was hosting a cooking class and the Inn also hosts a supper club as well. For our breakfast, she served a delicious yogurt parfait and then shrimp and grits, which were the best I’ve ever had.
The interior of the Inn has been restored and includes a variety of seating spaces to unwind. Our room was on the 3rd floor and had access to a loft, plus an adjoining room. We found a game of Clue that we played after dinner, which was so much fun. Cheryl greets all her guests with locally made snacks to carry with them in a branded, reusable bag, and the towels and sheets were so soft. It’s a perfect spot to getaway for a weekend for an extended date night! The next time we visit, we would love to join for the supper club or a cooking class. Cheryl’s dishes were some of the best we’ve eaten in a long time!
Which of these things to do in this Edenton travel guide look the most fun to you? Let me know in a comment below!
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