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 am excited 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. Stop in Old Colony Downtown Market for gifts, ready-made meals, snacks, quick grab lunches, fresh baked desserts, and cold drinks.
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 is not your typical hardware store), and Feathers Boutique for the latest women’s fashion. Plus, check out a movie at historic Taylor Theatre!
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. Be sure to grab kettle corn and a local brew from the concessions while you are there cheering on the home team!
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! 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. 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 by the historical landmarks. The town is truly a living history museum, which in my personal opinion, is 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 is 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. Captain Mark will take you on a boat ride and will regale you with history lessons and interesting stories about Edenton and the Bay. There is a table for you to bring snacks and a canopy to stay shaded and cool. There are a few different time options, including Captain Mark’s speciality, a sunset tour. P.S. you’ll get a discount on a cruise if you show them your trolley ticket.
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 sidewalk seating. There is an assortment of gift ideas, a fun selection of records, fresh cut flowers, and beautiful antiques. If sangria is on the menu, you should definitely try that! And if you are visiting on a Saturday, be sure to stop by for Vinyl Night! We are planning a return trip solely so we can hang out at Vinyl Night–everyone in town was talking about it while we were there.
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.
309 Bistro & Spirits
309 Bistro is a delicious spot for both lunch and dinner while visiting Edenton. There is indoor seating plus sidewalk seating and the restaurant serves up locally sourced seafood, a variety of sandwiches, homemade chips, and delicious handcrafted cocktails, plus a great beer and wine list.
The Table at the Inner Banks Inn
This restaurant has been on my list since our visit in 2021 and let me tell you, it did not disappoint. The patio makes for stunning seating and the menu is outstanding. We had both dinner and breakfast here since we were guests at the Inn. Having dinner at the restaurant comes with bread service. David ordered the gumbo, which was some of the best I’ve tasted, while I ordered the crab cakes. It was a delicious dinner to kick off our evening in Edenton.
Where to Stay in Edenton, NC
Inner Banks Inn
Inner Banks Inn is located about 5 blocks from the waterfront of Edenton Bay and 2 blocks from Historic Hicks Field. We parked our car and opted to walk for our experiences in Edenton. Inner Banks Inn offers four different lodging experiences with rooms in the Victorian house (where we stayed), a converted tobacco barn, the Tillie Bond Cottage (pet friendly with a fenced in back yard), and the Satterfield House, which has two rooms plus the spa, corporate meeting space, and private dining rooms.
In the Victorian house, coffee and teas are available all day, plus lots of seating on the first room and on the front porch. The patio is a lovely spot for a happy hour or a morning cup of coffee. Dinner reservations are guaranteed with booking at the inn, plus a three course breakfast. An addition are country club privileges at Mulberry Hill, including tennis courts, sound side pool, and driving range. And every room comes with robes, which you know is a hotel favorite of mine!
Thank you to Chowan County Tourism Development Authority for hosting our stay and organizing our itinerary! As always, all opinions are my own.
Which of these things to do in this Edenton travel guide look the most fun to you? Let me know in a comment below!