Visitors to Edenton, one of North Carolina’s oldest communities, are spoiled by the choices when it comes to outdoor recreation.
Although a popular destination for heritage tourism, it’s a natural fit for outdoor enthusiasts interested in boating, fishing, birding, and other leisure-time pursuits.
The town, situated on scenic Albemarle Sound, provides the complete package for an active getaway. A four-hour drive from Washington, D.C., it offers a wide array of recreational opportunities and attractions including guided boat, trolley, and walking tours.
“If getting out on the water is something you enjoy, come to Edenton,” said Nancy Nicholls, who promotes the area. “You can either rent or bring your own kayak and paddle Pembroke and Queen Anne creeks. Or, follow the Catherine Creek/Warwick Creek Paddle Trail, a popular regional paddlers’ trail.”
Kayaks and canoes may be rented at Queen Anne Park for a nominal fee.
Insider’s tip: Transient boaters may dock for free for two nights each month at Edenton Town Harbor.
Cruising Edenton Bay
“If you prefer not to paddle, then hop on the Liber-Tea and cruise Edenton Bay with Captain Mark,” Nicholls recommended.
Captain Mark Thesier operates Edenton Bay Cruises, which offers scenic and sunset cruises in the warmer months. Trips depart from Colonial Waterfront Park with discounts for trolley tour passengers.
“This is as loud as we get, and as fast as we go,” Thesier tells guests as he pilots his 22-foot electric boat around the bay. A natural-born storyteller, he loves to spin tales as he points out local attractions including the Dram Tree, an ancient cypress just offshore from the historic Penelope Barker House, Edenton’s welcome center.
“It was customary for captains to salute Edenton when they departed,” he explained, “so they left a bottle of rum in a hollow of that tree.” Drinking a dram ensured safe passage.
The Liber-Tea cruises by John’s Island, which has five platforms for wilderness camping. Sites may be reserved through the Edenton-Chowan Recreation Department. Rocky Hock Campground has tent and RV sites with full hookups, along with a 3-par, nine-hole golf course and boat launch on the Chowan River. Or, check out one of Edenton’s cozy bed-and-breakfasts or inns.
Anglers can fish for striped bass and perch off the breakwater by the 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse, one of the country’s last original screw-pile lighthouses. It first stood at the mouth of the Roanoke River and was moved to its current location in 2012 after several decades as a private residence.
At the Murray L. Nixon Fishery you can purchase fresh seafood or take a self-guided tour to watch the daily catch being unloaded. Edenton National Fish Hatchery’s freshwater aquariums abound with aquatic species of eastern North Carolina. The facility, established in 1898, is located in Edenton’s historic section and is among the oldest U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hatcheries in the country.
In addition to viewing the aquariums, tour the hatching building and rearing ponds or follow the boardwalk through the natural wetland to Pembroke Creek. The area is on the North Carolina Birding Trail and Charles Kuralt Nature Trail.
Picnickers and paddlers can learn more about the local herring fishing industry at the J. Robert Hendrix Park and Cannon’s Ferry Heritage Riverwalk on the Chowan River. The site originally had a number of fish houses, a testament to a once-thriving herring fishing industry. Interpretive plaques tell the story of the industry’s history and local economic importance.
Birds, boats, baseball, and bikes
Walking along the Chowan River or Bennett’s Millpond are great ways to observe waterfowl and other birds. Or, spend a few hours learning how sport-fishing boats are built. Call ahead to Albemarle, The Carolina Classic. The company will give you a free tour to learn how their boats are built.
In summer, the Edenton Steamers, a Coastal Plain League baseball team, play ball at Historic Hicks Field, which was built in 1939 as a Works Progress Administration project. The main grandstand, the oldest wooden grandstand of this type in the state, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Edenton area also has a number of golf courses and biking trails, including the popular Edenton Tea Party route.
“It’s easy to combine love of nature and history when you visit Edenton and Chowan County,” Nicholls said. “With our rural, relatively flat topography, we have many routes ‘off the beaten path’ for walking, biking, and paddling past historic structures, through farmland, rivers, and creeks. It’s a perfect combination for mind, body, and soul.”
For more information:
Chowan Co. Tourism: visitedenton.com