We normally expect to “get what you pay for”, but, not always. A brilliant marketing campaign by a coalition of rural waterfront towns in North Carolina caused us to detour to an area that “time seems to have forgotten.”
Year round, one dozen marinas in the Albemarle Loop offer 2 nights free stay. Times 12 locations, that could equal up to 24 nights free. Proving public-private collaboration really can work (right, Sarah!) – with a little stimulus money, a dedicated chamber of commerce, and some clever entrepreneurs, each little town offers something special. And of course we bought something almost everywhere we went.
Waiting out the storm
We stayed in Oriental for a few days until there was a safe window to travel. It was definitely the right decision. At 3 am we found ourselves fully awake, surrounded by lightning, and strong winds.
Hospitality in Oriental
Yes, we took this little shuttle to the grocery store – you should have been there, Craig!
Alligator River Marina
This teeny tiny marina consisted of a gas station and a few small docks. The new manager, Anna, and her team cooked a delicious meal of fried chicken and potato salad the way my mom made it – bite size bits of potatoes and boiled eggs, lots of sweet pickles, and just the right amount of mustard. We suggest you order your food then take a stroll, they make it from scratch so it takes about 40 minutes. A quiet little refuge from yet another storm, a total of 5 looper boats showed up over time.
Originally known as Elizabethtown, this quaint historic town was renamed Columbia in 1801. The Municipal Marina had only one slip that could accommodate Exhale, and it was full. Resourceful gold loopers, Nelson and Sandra suggested we “raft off”, tying our boat to theirs, and then ran the power and water lines across their bow. Thanks guys – that was truly a fun evening!
In downtown Columbia we found authentic Mexican food (sorry no pics this time). In addition to the glowing recommendation from Active Captain, the delicious aromas from the street caused us to walk in. A VERY busy little restaurant, with a well stocked mini-mart, we enjoyed some of the best tasting tamales since we moved from California. It’s crazy busy for a reason. We were delighted to hear a local retailer (the antique store across the street) tell us the hardworking family successfully paid off the financing for their restaurant, in full, in just 18 months! Once again proving, when the food is delicious, the customers keep coming back.
Columbia Theater and Cultural Resources Center
In the heart of downtown we found the local museum. Thanks, Helen, for a delightful tour. Original theatre equipment, billboards, and even the “burnt-knuckle” popcorn machine were magical. Check out the costumes, Alisha!
We were surprised to discover a local winery. More than just a pretty label, this wine is made from local grapes. Paired with chocolate, of course.
Edenton was founded in 1712, it was the first colonial capital of North Carolina. Thanks, McCoy, for loaning us the city car, we certainly didn’t mind that “only one window worked, and the speedometer wasn’t quite right.”
1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse
Touring the lighthouse, situated in the same marina where we docked, was more than fantastic!! Fueled by whale oil, the lighthouse was originally located on screw-pilings in the Albemarle Sound.
Decommissioned in 1941, it was barged, and “parked” on dry land. In May 2007, thanks to a depressed real estate market, the lighthouse was purchased for $225,000 by the Edenton Historical Commission.
Dedicated local volunteers formed a non-profit to save and restore the lighthouse. Say a big YAY for a well focused non-profit with passionate, experienced fund raisers! Restoration History
Small world moment – Rick knows one of the architects who refurbished the historic monument. Thanks Meghan Beckmann for the pre-restoration photos and for your role in restoring this precious treasure!
Exhale is docked adjacent to the lighthouse.
Liber-tea, 21′ Duffy
Look, Dave, this Duffy is also from California.
Penelope Barker House
c. 1782, the welcome center is found in the well preserved three-story Barker House. Originally located 2 blocks north, in 1952 the Jaycees and the Edenton Woman’s Club took title, and had it “rolled” to it’s present site. Southern Charm and humor abound.
Fun facts about Penelope: Born in 1728, she married John Hodgson when she was in her teens; at age 19 she was expecting her second child when her husband died and left her all of his property. At age 24 she married James Craven. Two years later he died, leaving her all of his property. At age 28 she married Thomas Barker. He was 44 at the time. Together they had 3 kids. The Barker house was built in 1762 by Thomas and Penelope. Additions to the home reflect an eclectic mix of Georgian, Federalist and Greek Revival styles. When Penelope was 59, Thomas died. He left her “town lots, 2 plantations, 33 mahogany chairs, 53 slaves, watches, horses and 400 books.” Penelope died at age 68.
Our visit to Edenton coincided with the annual garden party. Our favorite was the orchids that were on display in the Barker House.
A Cypress for Alisha
Cypress trees are amazingly strong, as if to say “Last Thing Standing.” Cypress trees remind me of Alisha, more than just surviving, she is thriving.
Next Stops – continuing the Albermarle Loop
So far in the Albermarle Loop we have stayed in Alligator River, Columbia, and Edenton. Next, we plan to visit Hertford, Elizabeth City, Albemarle Plantation and the Dismal Swamp Visitors Center. After we navigate the Dismal Swamp we are headed to Norfolk (the locals pronounce it Nor-fuck, no kidding) for the AGLCA spring rendezvous.