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20+ Great Things to Do in Edenton (History, Food, and More!)

Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on May 28, 2024.

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Upon first glance, it’s easy to agree with Edenton, North Carolina‘s reputation as one of the South’s prettiest small towns. Beyond the mix of waterfront views and lovely historic homes that await, you’ll find plenty of fun and unique things to do in Edenton, too!

As the state’s first provincial capital, this small town of 5,000 remains among the best places to learn about history in North Carolina. You can learn about the Revolutionary and Civil Wars here, but you can also experience small-town charm in the form of local shops, restaurants, and outdoor fun.

Before we get into those fun things to do in Edenton NC, there is some background to cover. Here’s how we’ve organized this guide:

  • Location Info and a Brief History of Edenton
  • Where to Stay in Edenton
  • Annual Events
  • Year-Round Things to Do in Edenton (Historic Sites to Visit)
  • More Things to Do in Edenton (Beyond History)
  • Restaurants in Edenton

Whether you’re a new resident, a frequent visitor, or a local, we’re leaving no detail behind. If you live in the Edenton area and are wondering, “What are the best things to do near me?” we think this NC travel guide will help you out!

Read More: Eastern North Carolina (and 100+ Awesome Places to Visit)

Where is Edenton, North Carolina?

map of North Carolina with Chowan County highlighted in red
Image Credit: David Benbennick, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Edenton is the county seat of Chowan County in northeastern North Carolina.
  • Chowan County is bordered by the following counties:
    • Gates County (north)
    • Perquimans County (east)
    • Washington County (south)
    • Bertie County (west)
    • Hertford County (northwest)
  • The town is located in a region known as the Inner Banks of North Carolina.
  • Edenton rests on the north end of Edenton Bay, which is north of the Chowan and Roanoke rivers. That confluence of rivers forms Albemarle Sound.

Read More: 30+ Amazing NC Coastal Towns (+ Things to Do in Each One!)

A Brief History of Edenton

the J.N. Leary building in Edenton behind a tree

As we mentioned, some background is required before digging into our favorite things to do in Edenton. Here’s a brief history of the town, along with some quick facts.

  • Edenton was incorporated in 1722, making it the state’s third-oldest town
  • Since its beginnings, Edenton has been a place of wealth and community. Serving as the first provincial capital of North Carolina, the city has remained an industrial hub.
  • It’s also a fantastic example of colonial wealth in architecture.
  • The town was named after Governor Charles Eden, one of the town’s many prominent historical characters.
  • Other famous Edenton natives include Declaration of Independence signer Joseph Hewes, Supreme Court Justice James Iredell, and Harriet Jacobs, an enslaved African-American author and abolitionist. You can read more about Jacobs in our “Black History” section.

Read More: Interesting Facts About North Carolina That You Should Know

Where to Stay in Edenton 

Picking a place to stay is actually one of the best Edenton NC things to do. Being a small historic town, there are several beautiful Beds & Breakfasts to choose from.

Captain’s Quarters Inn

Address: 202 W Queen St, Edenton, NC
Check Availability

One to note is the Captain’s Quarters Inn, located on Queen Street, with eight well-appointed and comfortable rooms. Built as a private residence in 1907, the Captain’s Quarters Inn is an excellent choice to rest your head!

Inner Banks Inn

Address: 103 E Albemarle St, Edenton, NC
Check Availability

The pack house barn at the Inner Banks Inn
The Pack House Barn

Inner Banks Inn is another great option when searching for places to stay in Edenton. The inn is just a couple of blocks away from the waterfront and features four historic buildings of accommodations.

Sip tea on the front porch, enjoy complimentary breakfast from The Table, and make unforgettable memories.

Annual Events

A shopping street, where you can gind a few of the many things to Do in Edenton NC

These special events are among the best things to do in Edenton, so be sure to mark your calendars!

  • Edenton Farmers Market: held throughout much of the year, either outdoors or indoors. Here’s a breakdown of seasonal dates and times.
    • Outdoor Market (Every Saturday from April to December, 8:00 am. to 12:00 pm)
    • Indoor Market (Every 2nd and 4th Saturday from January through March, 8:00 am to 12:00 pm)
  • Edenton Music and Water Festival: Usually held during the first weekend in June, the annual Edenton Music and Water Festival is a community-wide celebration. Events are held throughout Edenton, with live music, a parade up and down Broad Street, and more.
  • Fourth of July Celebration: Every Fourth of July, Edenton joins the nationwide festivities. The free series of events begins with an annual reading of the Declaration of Independence at the 1767 Chowan County Courthouse. The day finishes with a huge display of Fireworks, where explosions of red, white, and blue fill the sky.
  • Chowan County Regional Fair: The Fair has been going strong since 1947, offering rides for big and small, great food, local-created exhibits, and more.
  • Christmas Extravaganza and Flotilla: This event usually kicks off the holiday season in Edenton. On the first Friday night in December, downtown has live music, the lighting of the town’s Christmas Tree, and Santa. A flotilla of lighted boats also passes through Edenton Bay.
  • Christmas Candlelight Tour: A self-guided walking tour of downtown’s beautiful Christmas decorations. This is a two-day event that normally takes place on the evenings of the second Friday and Saturday of December.

Another interesting event that happens every two years is Edenton’s Easels in the Garden. It’s held on even years (2022, 2024, etc) every other April.

Year-Round Things to Do in Edenton (Historic Sites to Visit)

From the first political demonstration organized by women in 1774 to the oldest home still in existence in North Carolina, the town’s abundant historic sites are the first on our list of what to do in Edenton, NC.

Penelope Barker House

Address: 505 S Broad St, Edenton, NC

the Penelope Barker House on the river

Penelope Barker was the leader and activist who organized the first women-led political demonstration in America. Dubbed the Edenton Tea Party, this event in 1774 was a petition boycotting British goods and was signed by 51 women, an impressive feat for the time.

The statement was not well received in London, where a cartoon depicting the women as “bad mothers with loose morals” made headlines. 

a sitting area inside the Penelope Barker House with historic artwork and decorative furniture

Today, Penelope Barker is celebrated in the restored 1782 house, a welcome center often referred to as “Edenton’s Living Room.” You can browse through the exhibits both downstairs and upstairs, as well as shop for goods made by local artisans.

The Penelope Barker House is also where you can purchase tickets for the Trolley, which we’ll mention shortly. You can enjoy at least a few moments in the rocking chairs on the porch that overlooks the waterfront.

The lawn is a great spot for picnicking as well!

1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse

Address: 7 Dock St, Edenton, NC

The Roanoke River Lighthouse from across the bay

Visiting the 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse is one of the best things to do in Edenton! The last remaining screw-pile lighthouse in America, a design essential for sandy and muddy environments like the Roanoke River.

This iconic lighthouse is perfectly picturesque and can be seen from all angles. Walk across a former highway bridge to get a better view of the screw piles.

You can also purchase tickets to get a guided tour of the inside. Be sure to climb to the top for an excellent view! 

Also notable: the playground at the Roanoke River Lighthouse is excellent! This may be a strange thing to note, but I tend to notice nice playgrounds as a parent of a small child.

This playground was one that had great equipment, accessible bathrooms, and was fenced-in! 

Read More: 7 Awesome Coastal NC Lighthouses (+ How to Visit Them All!)

Cupola House

Address: 408 S Broad St, Edenton, NC

a white fence leading into the Cupola house

Built by Francis Corbin, the Cupola House is a beautiful example of 18th-century architecture and history. Constructed in 1758, the Cupola House was almost torn down in 1918.

Thankfully, the Edenton community banded together to save it.

Formal gardens and beautiful architecture decorate the outdoors while you can explore the inside through a guided tour.

The Candlelight Tour and Easels in the Garden are two annual events that take place here that you should not miss! For more info about them, check the Cupola House’s events page.

1767 Chowan County Courthouse

Address: 101 S Broad St, Edenton, NC

the Chowan County Courthouse in Edenton

I’m sure a courthouse might not top your list of things to do in Edenton, but just hear us out on this!

The 1767 Chowan County Courthouse is the most intact Colonial courthouse in America that is still in use. The North Carolina Supreme Court still tries two cases a year in this location so it can keep its status.

Daily tours are offered at 10:00 am, 12:00 pm, and 2:00 pm.

a green teapot set on a fence in honor of Penelope Barker

While on the green by the courthouse, look for the green teapot honoring Penelope Barker. This teapot installation weighs more than 250 pounds and marks the location of where the original Penelope Barker House sat.

A stunning view of Edenton also awaits here. 

Ride the Trolley in Edenton

Address: 505 S Broad St, Edenton, NC

There are several tour options, and we recommend trying them all! Each tour tells a different story of Edenton, offering much insight into the history and culture of the area.

Ride the Trolley to learn more about local architecture and history and where to continue your explorations. Purchase tickets for the Trolley at the Penelope Barker House Welcome Center.

Tour the Waters with the Liber-Tea

the captain of a ship behind the steering wheel giving an explanation to the passengers

You can’t leave Edenton without a boat ride along the waterfront. The Liber-Tea is a personalized boat tour with Edenton Bay Cruises.

Captain Mark Thesier is an absolute delight and enthusiastically shares the best of Edenton with his passengers. 

Walking Tours of Edenton

inside the James Iredell House in Edenton, NC

If you are looking for a more in-depth or personalized tour, head to the Historic Edenton State Historic Site. They offer tours of the James Iredell House and Harriet Jacobs Tours that can only be experienced through the State Historic Site.

Explore Black History in Edenton

Harriet Jacobs was an enslaved person in Edenton who was the first to publish a narrative of the slave experience. Born into slavery, she was taught to read at an early age.

Jacobs eventually escaped slavery and spent seven years in hiding before making her way North in 1842.

In 1861, she self-published Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, which is now considered the most comprehensive slave narrative written by a woman. A walking tour can be arranged through the Historic Edenton State Historic Site.

The Kadesh A.M.E. Zion Church

The Kadesh A.M.E. Zion Church is an important place to learn about Black History as it is considered the oldest African-American church in the United States. What was once a thriving space in the community for over 100 years was devastated by Hurricane Isabell in 2003.

While the building is no longer structurally sound, there is an ongoing $1.3 million campaign to restore this historic church and bring it back to the community as a cultural and education center for Edenton.

More Things to Do in Edenton (Beyond History)

Beyond the town’s rich history, here are even more things to do in Edenton.

The Chowan Arts Council

Address: 112 W Water St, Edenton, NC

The Chowan Arts Council is located in a bright red building near the Cupola House and is a wonderful thing to do in Edenton for those searching for some creativity.

Featuring local wall art as well as functional art, the ever-changing gallery has something for everyone!

Browse the space and maybe even take something home.

Paddle Around Edenton

Carl & Christina kayaking on the river through idyllic Cyprus trees

Transport yourself to a completely different world by kayaking in Edenton. Cyprus-lined narrow waterways weave along historic homes sprinkled with wildlife.

Boats can be rented at the waterfront which is a unique way of exploring this iconic North Carolina small town.

Connect, Shop, and Sip at Surf, Wind, & Fire

Address: 325 S Broad St, Edenton, NC

various articles of clothing in a boutique shop in Edenton, NC

After you boat around the waterways, stop into Surf, Wind, & Fire. This outdoor sporting goods store has beer on tap and is a great place to meet lovely people from the community.

Bring your pets in for some shopping, too!

The Style Palette Boutique

Address: 437 S Broad St, Edenton, NC

a few bracelets in a bowl shaped like a gold leaf, located at Feathers on Broad Street

If you are looking for beautiful boutique clothing, The Style Palette Boutique (Formerly Feathers on Broad Street) is absolutely adorable.

Check out their beautifully curated collection online before visiting to get an idea of the amazing things for sale here.

Enjoy a Night Out at Malcolm’s

Address: 407 S Broad St, Edenton, NC

a table with chairs and an array of wine bottles above the table

The door may say Edenton Bay Trading Company, but all of the locals call it Malcolm’s! This is where the community comes together for an exciting night out.

Every Saturday night, the courtyard fills with music lovers for Vinyl Night. Add a track to the playlist and enjoy some of Debbie’s famous sangria for a night you’ll never forget.

Our Favorite Restaurant in Edenton

Between the history, shopping, exploring, and more things to do in Edenton, you’ll want to nourish yourself. Whether you’re staying for a few days or just taking a day trip to Edenton, NC, there is no shortage of excellent restaurants!

A few of our favorites recently closed, but two are still open and serving delicious dishes every day!

Old Colony Smokehouse

Address: 809 N Broad St, Edenton, NC

Be sure to thank us after grabbing some barbecue for lunch at Old Colony Smokehouse. Come with an appetite for more than just pork, and save room for dessert!

Waterman’s Grill

Address: 427 S Broad St, Edenton, NC

Another favorite dining destination in Edenton is Waterman’s Grill. It’s not a super classy place, but it’s definitely date night-worthy.

Seafood is the star here, and you can enjoy it fresh, steamed, grilled, or fried. You can also kick back and enjoy cocktails at Waterman’s after dinner!

Ready for these Fun Things to Do in Edenton?

We’ve fallen in love with this adorable small town and think it’s a fantastic choice for a coastal getaway. With plenty of fun things to do in Edenton, we think a visit here should sit near the top of your bucket list.

Come here for the history and beautiful Victorian architecture, but stick around for the small-town charm, great hospitality, delicious food, and much more.

In case you’ve visited before, we’d love to know about your experiences here. What are your favorite things to do in Edenton, and what would you recommend to a first-timer?

More Things to Do in Edenton

9 thoughts on “20+ Great Things to Do in Edenton (History, Food, and More!)”

  1. We moved here a year ago after only visiting one time many yrs ago. Best decision we’ve ever made! What a beautiful friendly city it is. Our neighbors and patrons while shopping at local shops or having coffee at the Coffee Shop could not of been more welcoming and still are. My neighbors brought baked goods and produce to our home to personally welcome us. We were welcomed at tables of those who enjoy mornings drinking coffee or eating. I grew up in a small friendly town in WV and this reminds me of my childhood there.
    Being Military we’ve lived all over the US and abroad and I have to say this is the most welcoming and friendly town ever.
    One fun attraction you missed was the Edenton Steamers Baseball team. Truly a great night out at the ball field and a favorite of mine and our grandchildren.

  2. Don’t forget to stop by the Farmer’s Market on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings. I personally love the homemade soap and lotions but you’ll find some great baked goods and crafts as well.

  3. Leaving a shout out to Edenton Bay Oyster Bar and our excellent waitress, Taylor. The chowder and steamer basket were delightfully fresh and light and delicious. Bravo!

  4. Hi there!
    Thought it was interesting after your trip no mention of Edenton Coffer House!
    An icon for now 20 years
    And also the hub of Edenton!
    Everyone stops there to get the news and catch up!

  5. To add to your dining pleasure, Edenton also offers the 309 Bistro Grill, the Governor’s Pub in downtown Edenton on Broad St., The Soda Shoppe has closed, but as mentioned the Coffee Shoppe and Emilio’s Deli are also right on Broad St. We also have just added The Trolley On The Waterfront on the other side of the Lighthouse. Some come and son some, unfortunately, have closed their doors due to COVID-19. House 51 was also one of them as was Nothin Fancy Cafe’.

  6. The soda shoppe closed down, but there is an amazing smoothie and energy tea shop in Chowan Crossing Shopping Center.
    Shine Energy & Nutrition


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