Earlier this month, I was invited to visit Edenton, North Carolina and it seriously was one of the best trips I have ever been on — everyone should add this historic town on the Inner Banks of North Carolina to their bucket list! I am so excited to share a recap of the girls’ weekend getaway I took with my sister Jennifer, so that you have all the inspiration and details as you plan an itinerary of your own. Visit Edenton graciously planned and comped our trip, but as always, opinions are my own.
Prior to receiving the exciting email in my inbox inviting me to explore Edenton, candidly, it had never really been on my radar before. But now that I’ve experienced the uniqueness of this charming small town firsthand, I want to convince as many people as possible to visit — it’s truly unlike anywhere I’ve ever been before. A welcoming small town with beautiful waterfront views, it’s just a short four hour drive from the DC area, making it the perfect weekend getaway spot. And regardless of your interests, there’s something for everyone — rich history, stunning waterfront views, great antiquing and shopping, delicious food, and ample front porches with rocking chairs to sit back on and relax.
Before I share where to stay, where to eat, and what to do in Edenton, I wanted to share a little bit about the town’s rich history. Edenton was the first Colonial Capital of North Carolina from 1722 to 1743, when it moved to Raleigh, as it was a major Colonial port. Largely untouched by the Civil War, many of its homes and architecture date back to before the American Revolution, with its Courthouse, built in 1767, considered the finest example of Georgian architecture in the South.
In response to the 1773 Tea Act, Edenton had its own tea party — widely considered one of the earliest organized women’s political actions in United States history. Edenton resident Penelope Barker led the charge of 51 women who signed a statement of protest that was sent to King George III vowing to give up tea and boycott other British products, an act of treason at the time. This act of patriotism is celebrated throughout Edenton today with teapots and tea cups everywhere — in the town’s logo, with teapot motifs found in decor throughout the historic district, and with many gift shops carrying tea, teapots, and tea cups. I picked up a beautiful vintage tea service for four while in town as a memento of my time in Edenton!
Today, Edenton is truly one of the most beautiful small towns in America, with some of the most genuinely warm + welcoming people I’ve ever met — it’s hard to beat that Southern Hospitality! I am so excited to share our recap our trip with you today because as I mentioned earlier, it is truly one of my favorite weekend getaways I’ve ever taken.
HOW TO GET THERE —
As I mentioned, Edenton is on the Inner Banks of North Carolina. Before this trip, I was more familiar with North Carolina’s Outer Banks given their popular beaches — but the Inner Banks are the inland coastal region beyond the barrier islands. Edenton sits at the north end of the Edenton Bay, near the confluence of the Chowan and Roanoke Rivers, which form the Albemarle Sound.
Coming from the DC area, it’s about a four hour drive — the first two hours are spent on I-95, but once you get south of Richmond, you exit onto several state routes and the drive is so scenic with lots of cotton fields and farmers market stands. Four hours driving distance is about the max that I’ll do for a weekend getaway given I want to maximize my time enjoying a destination versus spending my time in transit. We arrived to Edenton on Friday around lunch and left 48 hours later after lunch on Sunday. Two solid days felt like it was a great amount of time to explore and soak up all that Edenton has to offer.
If you are coming from a farther distance and want to fly in, the Norfolk Airport is about a 90 minute drive, while Raleigh-Durham is a little over two hours. Regardless, I do think you will want a car while in Edenton — the historic downtown is extremely walkable, but given it’s a small town, it is harder to hail an Uber or a Lyft.
WHERE TO STAY —
On your trip to Edenton, you absolutely need to check into The Granville Queen Inn by The Carolina Experience. Located in the heart of historic downtown Edenton, the charming bed + breakfast recently underwent a major renovation and is absolutely stunning. What I loved most about the property is that there were plenty of front porches and outdoor seating areas for guests to enjoy their morning coffee or a happy hour drink — there was even a fire pit for chillier nights.
Breakfast was included in our stay, and served in the most beautiful and welcoming atrium each morning. The inn keeper also had a daily baked good in the living room for us to enjoy.
On the trolley tour — more on that below! — we learned that the property used to be the private residence of the town doctor. Edenton is so proud of their history, and I love how much of it is preserved for future generations to learn about.
Once we checked into The Granville Queen Inn, we were just a few blocks from both the water and the main historic district, so we walked everywhere that we could. It was a very safe neighborhood, and such a convenient location. Whenever I return to Edenton, The Granville Queen Inn will be at the top of my list to check into!
If you’re looking for another place to stay, there’s sister property next door called Captain’s Quarters Inn, and the two bed + breakfasts share a dining room and outdoor space.
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK —
We had some amazing meals in Edenton, and there’s no shortage of fun places to have a pre- or post-dinner drink!
Surf, Wind & Fire — this is a local outdoor shop (it reminded me a lot of an REI!) that sells both outdoor gear and Edenton-branded t-shirts and sweatshirts. But the best part of the shop is that they have a bar with a rotating selection of craft beers, house wines, and homemade sodas. We went here for happy hour on Friday night and had the best time talking with local residents; there’s also several tables outside on their patio where you can enjoy a drink on a nice day. Also — their craft beer is only $3.95 (!!!).
Old Colony Smokehouse — I am not exaggerating when I say this might be the best BBQ I’ve ever had! The chef and owner was featured on Chopped and his recipes have won various awards across the country. We went here for lunch on Saturday, and arrived about ten minutes before they opened their doors — there was already a line that wrapped around the building! While we were waiting, the owners brought out a snack for everyone — jalapeño sausage with pimento cheese — and it was so good. Jennifer and I both did pulled chicken sandwiches with several sides — don’t skip the mac + cheese! They are open until they sell out, which is usually between 1:30-3:30pm on weekends. They also have a market downtown that offers ready-made meals and local products + gifts.
Blount’s Mutual Drugstore — an old school pharmacy located right on Broad Street — the main street running through historic downtown Edenton — you’ll want to stop in for ice cream, floats, sundaes, or milkshakes.
Edenton Bay Oyster Bar — we dined here on Saturday night and it was such a great meal. Located right on a marina, it boasted a beautiful sunset. We were lucky enough to be seated right near a window, so we could enjoy the views — there’s also a patio for warmer nights. We split several small plates to start — seafood chowder (a must-order!), warm crab dip, a pimento cheese board, and a demi baguette. For my main, I did a shrimp salad with a homemade vinaigrette that was delicious. They’ve also got a fun list of inventive cocktails — Jennifer and I both did the Limoncello Orange Spritz, which was orange vodka, limoncello, and orange juice, topped with Prosecco.
The Trolley on the Waterfront — when the trolley that Edenton used for guided tours was decommissioned, it was purchased by a team of locals who made it into a destination on the waterfront. On one side, they sell ice cream + coffee, and on the other, they offer a whole menu of alcoholic beverages. There’s also a great seating area where you can enjoy whatever treat you choose. We did a nightcap here on Saturday night and it was so much fun! The owners of The Trolley are opening a waterfront restaurant called The Herringbone next month (November 2022), and I definitely can’t wait to check it out next time I am in town.
A few other spots we didn’t eat at, but came highly recommended to us: Edenton Coffee House, Sugared Fig Bakeshoppe, Emilio’s General Store, Waterman’s Grill, The Table at Inner Banks Inn, 309 Bistro & Spirits, and Governor’s Pub.
One thing to flag is that many of Edenton’s restaurants and stores are closed on Sundays — so if you’re going to be in town then, I’d definitely recommend double checking an establishment’s operating hours.
WHAT TO DO —
For a small town, Edenton has so much going on and we loved every minute of our trip. Here’s what I would recommend you make sure is on your itinerary:
Visit The Penelope Barker House — known as “Edenton’s Living Room”, The Penelope Barker House should be your first stop in town. It’s the official Welcome Center, and boasts stunning views of Edenton Bay. Inside, you’ll find a museum dedicated to Edenton’s history as well as the best souvenir shop in town. There are two long porches — one on the first floor, and one on the second — overlooking the water with plenty of rocking chairs to sit back and relax on. This is also where you can buy tickets for the Trolley Tour.
Attend Shrimp by the Bay — if you’re visiting in October like we were, definitely make sure you grab tickets to Edenton’s annual ‘Shrimp by the Bay’ festival, the Chamber of Commerce’s fundraiser. We went and it was so much fun — kind of like a wedding, but without a bride and groom. Your ticket comes with access to the open bar and buffet-style shrimp dinner, along with great entertainment from a local band.
Shop at Edenton Farmers Market — on Saturday morning, we headed over to the Edenton Farmers Market, where local vendors set up shop. They had everything from locally made ice cream to the best looking romaine lettuce to hand-poured soy candles. If you’re staying at an Airbnb in town and looking for a place to grab ingredients for a meal, definitely check it out.
Set Sail on the Liber-tea with Capitan Mark — exploring Edenton Bay by boat with Captain Mark was one of the highlights of our trip! He is so knowledgable about the history of Edenton and made it such an enjoyable cruise. It was also really great to see Edenton from the water and learn about upcoming projects the town is investing in. If you’re visiting Edenton, this cruise is an absolute must!
Visit the 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse — built in 1886, the Edenton Roanoke River Lighthouse is one of the last of its kind. It originally served as a guide for ships navigating the waters of the Albemarle Sound into the Roanoke River. It was decommissioned in 1941 and moved to private land, where it was neglected as a private residence. Eventually, it was restored and moved to its current location.
Shop on Broad Street — Edenton has so many great shops! Some of our favorite were The Polka Dot Palm, Downtown Diva, Feathers Boutique, The Gregarious Goose, King Street Marketplace, and North No. 4 — but just plan to spend a few hours enjoying Broad Street and popping in and out of stores at your leisure!
Visit The Cupola House — built in 1758, The Cupola House is one of Edenton’s oldest homes and today is an architectural treasure. Outside, there are beautifully manicured formal gardens, and inside, the house is furnished with period pieces. While we were in town, there was a Colonial Market & Fair happening at the Cupola House and it was open for tours. We randomly stumbled onto this activity, and it just reiterated to us how much great programming the town has to offer.
Enjoy Saturday Night at Vinyl Night — I am not exaggerating when I say that Vinyl Night was one of the most fun Saturday nights I’ve ever had. Held weekly on Saturday nights from 7-10pm in the Courtyard of Edenton Bay Trading Company, DJ Eddie and Melissa play real vinyl records in real time while you can enjoy an adult beverage of your choosing — the sangria is super popular! But in addition to the music, they make it very interactive with everyone — at one point I was given a fake microphone and asked to sing It’s Raining Men with a bunch of fellow Vinyl Night attendees. And, you’ll want to make sure you’re there for the 9pm rendition of Billy Joel’s Piano Man! Afterwards, everyone heads over to the Trolley Bar for a night cap.
Take the Trolley Tour — it’s no secret that I am a history buff, so I absolutely loved the hour-long narrated trolley tour of Edenton! Our guide was amazing and it is such a comprehensive tour, giving you the history of Edenton from the Colonial Era to the period of time when the railroads moved into Edenton to their huge Cotton Mill that was a big part of the town’s economy at the turn of the 20th Century. This is a must-do when visiting Edenton!
I left Edenton with so much appreciation for this historic, charming small town on the water and a desire to return as soon as I possibly can. We so appreciate the team at Visit Edenton for hosting us for the weekend and planning an unforgettable itinerary for us to experience.
If you have any questions about our trip to Edenton, North Carolina, don’t hesitate to drop a comment below or email me, firstname.lastname@example.org. And, if you’re looking to plan a trip of your own as soon as possible, we were told time and time again while we were in town that Edenton is magical around Christmastime!
I am so glad y’all loved our sweet little town of Edenton! Thanks for coming and writing this amazing piece on Edenton! I grew up one small town over and have lived in edenton for 16 years now with my husband and four children. We are blessed to call this special place home! I love showing folks around when they come for their first visit. So much small town charm here! Come back and visit soon! 😄
I am so jealous that you get to call Edenton home! We definitely want to come back as soon as possible — it was the highlight of our year to visit! x
Thank you so much for shopping with us! We love meeting people who come to visit and hope everyone leaves their visit with happiness in their hearts!
Thank you so much — we LOVED Edenton and your store! x