FUN: Sophisticated, Educational and Inspirational

If  you enjoy natural beauty and the great walkable outdoors, are inspired by beautifully restored historic houses that are lived in everyday, want to know more about the founders of our nation and state, Edenton, a Certified Retirement Community is the right place to be.   On the other hand, if you like your fun to include carnival rides, boardwalks, miniature golf and Ferris wheels, Edenton may not be your cup of tea.   It is all about the lifestyle.

Fun in Edenton is more sophisticated.  It comes in the form of trolley or walking tours through the historic district, relaxed visits to the Barker House Welcome Center, Supreme Court Justice Iredell’s House, the Cupola House or the 1767 Courthouse where docents take time to answer your questions and explain what you are seeing.  But fun also is to be found on the water, fishing, skiing (only the water variety), cruising, exploring historical creeks and archeological sites, not to mention hunting, golf, gardening.

Edenton and Chowan County is an active place with residents and newly relocated folks all volunteering in support of local churches, the hospital, Boys & Girls Club, sailing club and half a dozen not-for-profits that operate the historic sites and help tell the story of the United State’s founding.  You can’t help but be engaged and you’ll get to know your neighbors within days of arriving in Edenton.

If, at this point, you are still an armchair explorer, take a look at the Penelope Barker Welcome Center’s Museum Trail.  You ask: “What is a museum trail?  The breadth of Edenton’s story simply will not fit inside a single structure unless you want to forget about the original buildings that are part of this little town’s amazing contribution to the creation of the United States and to North Carolina.

They include stories about amazing people who served as the first colonial Governor of North Carolina, told a King “NO,” signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution (after helping to write both), created our first navy, served as George Washington’s appointee to the very first U. S. Supreme Court, as well as many U. S. Senators, Representatives and Governors of North Carolina and of slaves who became highly respected, freed real estate owners, carpenters and builders of churches.”  See the map and list of sites here.

Your cup of tea?

Edenton has experiences for all.  There are also lots of places to sit and watch the grass grow or the waves roll in.  But, nothing is hectic or noisy in this lifestyle.  No need to hurry up and wait.  Here are a few highlights:

  • Seeing historic architecture
  • Learning about the leadership of our founding Mothers and Fathers
  • Fishing
  • Kayaking
  • Sailing
  • Eco-tourism in pristine millponds and swamps
  • Shopping
  • Dining

Historic Architecture

From the oldest house (1718) to the newest, Edenton is an architectural archive easily studied by walking or driving around just a few areas.  Numerous homes built in the 18th century are still standing, lovingly restored and lived in every day.  They are not reproductions, they are the real thing.

Cupola House

The internationally known example is the Cupola Hosue, built in 1758, and full of great examples of early woodwork design, not to mention a few good stories (even a ghost story).  The Cupola House gardens are open daily and the house is open on special occasions with guided docent yours, $5.00 for adults, $2.50 for children Tuesday – Saturday at 1 pm each day.  The house is also open on Sunday 12 – 3 pm staffed by Cupola House Association Volunteers.  To learn more now, check out: 

Justice James Iredell House

The Iredell House, adjacent to the Visitors Center on North Broad Street, also qualifies as a museum house.  It illustrates the artifacts found in the home of a member of George Washington’s first Supreme Court, James Iredell, Sr.  Participants in the walking tour visit the site and it is possible to obtain a ticket just to see the Iredell House.  While in the neighborhood, see the short video in the Visitors Center to learn more about the leaders from Edenton and their homes.

1767 Historic Courthouse

The 1767 Chowan County Courthouse is the oldest, in-use courthouse in the country and probably the best looking, then or now. (Who says we have to be objective?) The North Carolina Supreme Court met there in 2013 and 2017 and  federal and state courts periodically convene to hear cases.  The 1767 Courthouse is accessible on the walking tour of Edenton that departs from the Visitors Center and is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday 10-4. Guided Docent Tours, $2.50 for adults, $1.50 for children.

Dozens of other architectural gems are spread around Edenton.  From the Barker House to the Roanoke River Lighthouse or the oldest goal (jail) to the oldest house in the state to St. Paul’s Church.  Visit the Barker House and the Visitors Center and you’ll learn more about them and many others.  They are all real, not reproductions.

 Photo by Bob Quinn

Photo by Kip Shaw

Founding Fathers and Mothers

While the list of architectural gems is long and impressive, the deeds of Edentonians is even more so.  This little town on the Albemarle Sound produced essential players during the American Revolution. A few, described by historian Troy Kickler, PhD, in his forthcoming book about the Founders from Edenton, based on biographical information  from William S. Powell’s magisterial Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, Vol. 1 – 6 (Chapel Hill, 1979 – 1996), include:

Penelope Barker

Penelope Barker (1728-1796) — The leader of what has become known as the Edenton Tea Party (1774); the first organized political act by women in what became the United States. The event made international news. Penelope married three times. Her first two husbands died, and she inherited their wealth. Her third husband, Thomas Barker, was Treasurer for the Northern District of North Carolina.

Charles Eden (1673-1722) — The last person to hold a landgrave title in the feudal-like proprietorship system in North Carolina was Charles Eden. In 1713, Queen Anne appointed him to be Governor of North Carolina, and his term lasted from 1714 to 1722.  The governor brought order to an unruly colony, yet he allegedly colluded with pirates such as Edward Teach, also known as Blackbeard.

Joseph Hewes

Joseph Hewes (1730-1779) — A resident of Edenton and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Hewes was a leading merchant in this port town. Although he moved to Edenton without knowing anyone, he soon was respected and influential. He served in the colonial assembly from 1760-1774, and he was a delegate to the Continental Congress (1774-1777). He served in the Fifth Provincial Congress, the congress that drafted the first state constitution. During the Revolutionary War, he served on the Naval Board as its Secretary; all communication went through him. In 1777, fellow North Carolinian and signer of the Declaration of Independence, John Penn, accused Hewes of holding multiple offices and using his position for personal profit. Disappointed and offended, Hewes retired that year. In 1779, he retired from his newly elected position in the Continental Congress. He died two weeks later.

Supreme Court Justice James Iredell, Sr.

James Iredell, Sr. (1751-1799) — The Edenton resident became one the first Justices on the United States Supreme Court (1791-99). Prior to this position, he was a successful attorney who had served as a North Carolina Superior Court judge (1777-78) and State attorney general (1779-81). He played a role for the defense in Bayard v. Singleton (1787), a famous case that introduced the concept of judicial review and had national importance. Iredell was also a skillful orator and persuasive Founding Era pamphleteer.

Samuel Johnston

Samuel Johnston (1733-1816) — The native of Scotland soon became one of North Carolina’s and the nation’s leading politicians during the first days of the United States of America. A successful attorney, he held numerous political offices including a long tenure in the General Assembly (1759-75) and three terms as the state’s governor (1787-89).  He served as president of the Third and Fourth Provincial Congresses. As a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1780, he was elected as president of that body; he declined the offer. In Bayard v. Singleton (1787), he represented a Loyalist who had had property seized by the state government during the Revolutionary War. The Chowan countian was North Carolina’s First Grand Master of the Masons, and he served as a U.S. Senator from 1789 to 1793. He eventually moved to Martin County and worked as a Superior Court judge (1800-1803). He was a Trustee of the University of North Carolina.

Hugh Williamson

Hugh Williamson (1735-1819) — A Renaissance man—a medical doctor, a philosopher, a scientist, and a politician–Williamson may have been one of the greatest thinkers in early America. He graduated from the College of Philadelphia (later named the University of Pennsylvania) and he earned his medical degree in Scotland. He delivered scientific talks to some of England’s most prestigious lyceums and associations and wrote one of the first books on climate change. During the Revolutionary War, he gave North Carolina troops smallpox vaccinations and served as surgeon general of the state. Like many state politicians, he served in the House of Commons (1782) and in the Continental Congress (1782-85). He served as a North Carolina delegate to the Constitutional Conventions and was one of the body’s most outspoken delegates. He emerged as a leading Federalist and worked to curry good favor among other states after North Carolina refused to reject or ratify the Constitution in 1788. Although he later moved from North Carolina, his A History of North Carolina was published in 1812.

Other Local Attractions


Does it get any better? Whether dipping a pole over the railing at Queen Anne Creek or trolling for Strippers in the shadow of the bridges, fishing is great within eyesight of downtown Edenton. Most anglers bring their own boats, but guides are available through the Bayside Marina and they know where the fish live. Periodically the US Fish Hatchery at Edenton host fishing tournaments for youngsters.  Whether at the Hatchery, along the banks of the creeks and rivers or aboard a boat, fishing is great for all ages.  And the good thing is they are abundant, which is why several nationally sanctioned tournaments occur each year.


With beautiful creeks to explore just a few strokes from the downtown harbor at Edenton, it is little wonder that kayaking is a great pastime.  Bring your own or rent a kayak or canoe from the Dock master at the waterfront harbor.  Queen Anne Creek is a comfortable row for beginners and will expose you to waterfowl and aquatic plants not seen in other areas.  Exploring Pembroke Creek is easily accomplished, it is all on level water, just more of it for a longer and more diverse exposure to wildlife.


What does it take to make a good area for sailing?  Broad expanses of water, predictable winds, uncrowded conditions and a willingness to have some fun in the sun.  Edenton Bay and the Albemarle Sound offer just those conditions year round.  Which is why numerous sailing competitions are held in Chowan County each year.  Bring your boat and join in the fun.  Or see the Dock Master and rent a Sunfish-type daysailer at the harbor.

Outdoor Recreation – for more information about outdoor recreation in Edenton and Chowan County.


Nearby Merchants Millpond and Bennett’s Millpond offer great varieties of plant and animal life.  The truly adventurous can make a half day or longer paddle to see some of the most impressive 1,000 year old trees in the eastern part of the country.  And, they are not accessible by any means other than paddling a kayak or canoe.

Slightly further afield, about half way to Roanoke Island, kayakers will find Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, which gives you an opportunity to paddle along the Alligator River.  The River marks the normal north end of the alligator’s range, but no guarantees all of them have read about that boundary.  They have over 15 miles of trails, rental boats and guided tours.  Edenton is a great base of operations for those making day trips to the Alligator.  Another great day trip is to the Cashie (ca-shy) River Trail at Windsor, just a few minutes down NC 17 south. The Roanoke Cashie River Center has all of he information.

Shopping & Dining

For those not interested in shopping, there are also lots of places to sit and watch the grass grow or the waves roll in.  Nothing is hectic or noisy.  For those ready to shop, there is no need to hurry up and wait. Take your time and stroll through unique locally owned shops.  From the Barker House’s collection of special books about the South, Edenton, the region and fun stuff like Pirates, southern cooking and quilt making, to the sophisticated decorating items found in several shops downtown Edenton offers it.

  • Shoes
  • Used books and tea
  • Coffee
  • Soda shoppe
  • Decorator items
  • Hammers and lace

For ideas on where to eat or drink, check out this page.

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