Edenton, North Carolina played a crucial role in North Carolina history.
Today, however, Edenton is a sleepy, waterfront town dwarfed by the metropolises in central North Carolina.
Home to around 5,000 people, Edenton isn’t on many people’s bucket lists. Thanks to a travel contract, however, I spent several months in Edenton and discovered a part of America I never expected to discover.
I’ve been to a lot of small towns in America and I’ve loved almost every one. Edenton, however, is the quintessential small town USA.
Whether it’s the flag-lined main street or the southern hospitality, I absolutely loved Edenton, North Carolina. Here’s a travel guide with must-see sights and thing to do in Edenton, North Carolina.
Go to an Edenton Steamers Game
When I think of the best parts of America, I think of minor league baseball games in a small town, and that’s exactly what you get when you go to an Edenton Steamers baseball game.
The Edenton Steamers play in a unique baseball league. It’s not professional baseball (this is done deliberately so the players can return to college and retain amateur status). It’s also not a low-level league: there are some legitimately good players that have been drafted from the Edenton Steamers.
I don’t know shit about baseball, but as I understand it, the Edenton Steamers give good college baseball players a place to play in the summer. The schedule is intense: the Steamers try to replicate a pro-style schedule and play games almost every day all summer long.
Park at the Edenton high school. Buy some popcorn. Take a picture with the mascot. Listen to the anthem. Watch some good-quality baseball.
Maybe a small town baseball game isn’t a big deal for Americans. But if you’ve grown up watching movies about small town USA, then an Edenton Steamers game is a lot of fun.
Soak Up the History
Edenton is one of the oldest towns in North Carolina. In fact, the oldest building in North Carolina is located in Edenton. The owners didn’t even realize their house was old until they opened a wall and realized it was from the 1600s (seriously). Today, that house is just down a normal, neighborhood street in Edenton.
Some of the historical highlights in and around Edenton include:
Penelope Barker House: The Barker House is the number one attraction in Edenton according to TripAdvisor. Penelope Barker was one of America’s earliest and best-known female activists. During the American Revolution, Penelope organized 50 local women into the Edenton Tea Party – the first-recorded women’s political demonstration in America. Today, the Barker House explains some of that history and some local Edenton history as well.
1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse: TripAdvisor calls the lighthouse the number two landmark in Edenton. The 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse was originally situated along the river close to Edenton. A few years ago, they decided to move the dilapidated lighthouse to downtown Edenton’s waterfront, restore it, and make it a landmark. The lighthouse is beautiful – especially at sunset. You can also visit the museum inside during the day.
1767 Chowan County Courthouse: Edenton’s Chowan County Courthouse was built all the way back in 1767, making it one of the oldest buildings in North Carolina. It’s a National Historic Landmark. I’m from a part of the world where an old building is 100+ years old, so being able to casually walk pat this building and learn about its history blew my western Canadian mind.
Edenton Bell Battery Cannon: Outside of the Barker House you’ll see several cannons facing towards the water. Edenton had a small role in the Revolutionary War and the United States Civil War. There was a battle in Albemarle Sound, and the cannons had something to do with that battle. I don’t know. I’m not a historian.
Civil War Statue: Edenton was the first place I visited anywhere in “The South”, so seeing a genuine statue from the American Civil War was super cool for me. In downtown Edenton near the waterfront (in front of the Barker House), you’ll see a statue of an American confederate soldier.
Cupola House: Cupola House is in downtown Edenton. There’s a small outdoor garden you can walk through. There’s some important history here, but I can’t really remember it. Take 5 minutes to walk through the garden, which I assumed once belonged to the Cupola Family, then head over to Malcolm’s for a drink.
See a Movie at Taylor Theater
I’m from a small town in Canada (Trail, BC) myself, and my town has its own historic theater (the Royal Theater). Edenton has a similar theater called the Taylor Theater. If you want an old timey American theater experience, then the Taylor Theater in Edenton is worth a visit.
Edenton has some decent dining options you wouldn’t expect for a small town. Having lived there for a few months, I’ve eaten pretty much everywhere in town. Some of the best options include:
The Table at Inner Banks Inn: The Table is the only fine dining spot in Edenton – and it’s seriously good. We sat here one night and there was a musician playing. We ate great local seafood and had some delicious drinks for a reasonable price.
Waterman’s Grill: The menu at Waterman’s Grill ranged from fancy dining options to basic burgers. I always had a good meal here.
309 Bistro: 309 Bistro and Waterman’s Grill are the two main restaurants in downtown Edenton. They’re surprisingly similar to each other. Expect lots of local seafood fresh from the Outer Banks.
Emilio’s General Store & Take-Away: Emilio’s General Store & Take-Away makes some of the best take-away sandwiches I’ve ever had. I’m not a bread and cheese snob, but let’s be honest: most bread and cheese in America tastes like shit. Emilio (yes, you’ll probably meet him) takes the time to find good bread and cheese, then makes some of the best sandwiches in the region. Get the Carolina pulled pork sandwich.
Soda Shoppe: Edenton has a classic, 1950s-style soda shop. Go in and get a milkshake to complete your small town USA experience. I don’t think the owners are even trying to go for the 1950s vibe: I just think this soda shop has barely been updated since the 1950s. Super friendly staff and customers.
Edenton Coffee House: Edenton Coffee House is a surprisingly roomy coffee shop filled with religious stuff. On my first day in the southern United States, I walked into this coffee shop and say a t-shirt saying, “All I Need is a Little Bit of Coffee and a Whole Lot of Jesus” and I knew I was in a different part of the world. Decent coffee and a good place to work or chill.
Westover General Store: Westover General Store serves fisherpeople out by Pembroke Creek. You can get a great sandwich here for a reasonable price. It’s packed at lunch.
A bar called Governor’s Pub has also opened up since I left. When I lived in Edenton, there were no bars (but like 17 churches). Now, there’s one bar (and still like 17 churches).
Drive to the Outer Banks
Edenton is technically part of the “Inner Banks”. However, you’re just a one-hour drive from the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
The Outer Banks – or OBX – are worth a visit. It’s basically a sandspit that extends hundreds of kilometers down the North Carolina coast. The beaches are nice and neverending. There are beautiful lighthouses to visit.
I highly recommend visiting Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, which is the birthplace of flight (you’ll notice every NC license plate has this slogan).
Visit the Wright Brothers National Monument. You can walk up the hill where the Wright Brothers launched the first human-controlled flight in history. There’s a huge monument. It’s a very cool spot. Whether you’re a fan of flying or history, it’s a must-visit spot if you’re anywhere close by.
Make Local Friends
Edenton, NC is a small town. As with most small towns, the best experiences will come from making friends with locals.
My best memories of Edenton are house parties, backyard barbecues, and summer days in above-ground pools.
The people I met in Edenton were great. It’s small town America, so you can expect friendly and polite people.
Southern hospitality is no joke. Some of the best, most welcoming Americans I’ve met are from the southern United States, and my friends from Edenton are no exceptions.
Have a Drink at Edenton Bay Trading Company
I never called this place “Edenton Bay Trading Company”. I only called it “Malcolm’s” because that’s the name of the owner. That’s how local and welcomed we felt in Edenton felt after just a few weeks of living there.
Edenton Bay Trading Company has a selection of local wares. There are also craft beers, wines, and cigars.
Before the Governor’s Pub opened up, Malcolm’s was the only real bar in town. You could buy craft beer from the fridge for like $2 to $3, sit on the patio, and chill.
Today, Edenton Bay Trading Company continues to have vinyl nights, trivia nights, and other celebrations that make it the center of the town’s social scene. There’s even an escape room.
Final Word: Is Edenton, NC Worth a Visit?
Edenton, North Carolina probably isn’t worth a visit on its own. I wouldn’t drive hours out of my way to see Edenton.
However, if you’re into North Carolina history, like the Inner/Outer Banks, or just want a classic small town America experience, then Edenton has a lot to offer.