Spending a weekend in a tucked-away jewel an hour from Norfolk, Va., and North Carolina’s Outer Banks is a delightful, laid-back experience with just the right blend of relaxation and activity.
“Elizabeth City is like a step back in time, which makes it a special treasure,” said resident Holly Audette.
A good night’s sleep
An overnight stay is best enjoyed within walking distance of historic downtown and the waterfront. Six charming, historic bed-and-breakfast lodgings offer hospitality, comfort, and a yummy breakfast. Three centuries are represented: the Grice-Fearing House B&B from 1798, the oldest building in the city; the Elizabeth City B&B from 1896, a quirky two-story with a colorful past; and the Culpepper Inn from 1935, an elegant three-story Georgian Revival manor house. A number of hotels also are available on the outskirts of downtown.
Dining options range from popular Bryon’s Hot Dog Stand to the eclectic “new South cuisine” of Hoppin’ Johnz. There also are casual seafood restaurants near the waterfront. And, new in 2018, Ghost Harbor Micro Brewery offers fresh craft beers in a friendly, inviting indoor/outdoor
What To Do
“Elizabeth City Historic Walking Tour” brochures, available at the Visitors Bureau, feature sites in the Main Street residential and commercial districts. You’ll find at least nine antique stores and several boutique shops scattered around the downtown area, and the free parking is a definite bonus.
Check out the lay of the land and its historical significance at the free Museum of the Albemarle. This large, attractive museum covers the history
of the area from its Native American past up to
the present. Among the artifacts that help to tell the story of the area are a farmer’s house dating to 1755, period clothing, and a historic fire
Port Discover is a small children’s museum with free admission that offers hands-on scientific activities for kids of all ages to explore.
Arts of the Albemarle has a light, airy space located in a former department store built in 1897. It features three changing galleries, along with pottery, paintings, and glasswork. A First Friday Art Walk is celebrated year-round, featuring guest artists, musicians, and various creative works on display around town. City Sounds musical programs are offered in the historic second-floor Maguire Theater for a small fee beginning at 7:00pm.
The black water of the Pasquotank River mirrors the beauty of Elizabeth City’s waterfront, where visitors can enjoy paddle boarding (Betsytown Board Company even delivers boards to waterfront locations), kayaking along the Albemarle paddling trails, and fishing.
Insider tip: Each Saturday, May 5–Oct. 31, the Downtown Waterfront Market at Mariners’ Wharf becomes a celebration of local foods, crafts, performers, and activities for everyone to enjoy.
“Boaters enjoy a special welcome in our Harbor of Hospitality,” said Christina Rehklau, who promotes the area. “They are often welcomed with a rose and refreshments, as well as free dockage.”
Nearby, the Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center is the starting point to explore the beautiful historic canal along a 3-mile paved trail, while Merchants Millpond State Park offers glimpses of exotic wildlife in a setting of massive bald cypress and Spanish moss. Canoes can be rented for enjoying the paddling trails, and there are 9 miles of hiking trails available.
Coming this spring
Ahoy, mates! April 20–21 brings the excitement of Pirate Palooza, during which pirates invade Elizabeth City’s streets and waterfront. Photo ops with friendly pirates, music by The Motely Tones, and specials at various businesses make for a fun, family-friendly event.
The annual North Carolina Potato Festival, May18–20, is the largest festival in the northeastern part of the state. Activities throughout the downtown area include free live entertainment each day, food (including free french fries on Saturday), midway rides, a 5K fun run, the National Potato Peeling Contest, dancing, and fireworks on Saturday evening. “There is literally something for everyone,” said festival leader Deborah Malenfant.
According to Rehklau, “Whether you’re looking for a fun weekend full of adventure, a relaxing getaway, or a place for an active retirement, Elizabeth City should be on your list.”
Elizabeth City Tourism: visitelizabethcity.com