Washington, NC

Just an hour and a half east of Raleigh or about two and a half hours south of Richmond, you find the original Washington. Washington, North Carolina. This little town is a quick weekend trip from just about anywhere. Visitors lucky enough to make it here, quickly learn this little town is unapologetically original. To that end, here are some suggestions on how to take advantage of river life and small-town hospitality.

Medium Activity

2 days | 9 stops

Day 1

STOP 1: Inner Banks Outfitters

Most visitors to Washington are coming here to escape inboxes and schedules and to do lists. Here, doing nothing can be everything. That's why many visitors grab a kayak and head straight to the water. Paddling out on the waves is almost therapeutic. Follow the coastline or kayak over to Castle island, home to a local brothel in the early 1900s. Along the way you may spot great blue herons or occasionally dolphins.

STOP 2: Backwater Jacks:

Now that you've worked up an appetite, head over to Backwater Jacks. There's perhaps no other place in Washington that is so Washington. Hang out and enjoy the waterfront views. Savor the area's most unforgettable seafood.

STOP 3: Goose Creek State Park

Time to walk off that lunch. Located about 10 miles east of Highway 264, Goose Creek State Park offers over eight miles of hiking trails. As you meander through its boardwalks, you'll experience nature at its best. Listen carefully and you can hear woodpeckers that sounds like a lot like a laughing monkey. Head over to Mallard Creek and you'll find a hidden pier - the best place to reel in a few freshwater bass. Stick around for a sunset -bring a thesaurus but expect to run out of words.

STOP 4: Two Rivers Ale House

Small-batch craft brews are a refreshing treat at Washington’s newest brewery, Two Rivers Alehouse. The name is a nod to the Pamlico and Tar Rivers that meet just under the Highway 17 bridge in Washington. This dog-friendly pub is owned and operated by a group of friends who created a spot where people can come together to enjoy a drink and quick bites like charcuterie and other finger foods. Sit outside and bring your dog. Listen to live music while you sample a beer flight from their 8 taps. Ah, now that’s vacation.

STOP 5: Down on Main Street

Glenn and his wife, Gennia, opened Down on Mainstreet with a passion for entertaining. Local to the area, they've seen downtown Washington grow and change over the years. For their part, Down on Mainstreet serves up a menu full of Americana. A typical dinner can include anything from Shrimp and Grits to Fried Frog Legs. Unlike the frogs on the menu, this place is hopping.

Day 2

STOP 6: Shopping in Downtown Washington

Downtown Washington is not the place you'll find another big box store. Around here, you can enjoy browsing through independent shops, boutiques and galleries. Start at Harbor Market District. It's home to 26 full-time vendors offering a mix of local arts and crafts, specialty gifts and baked goods. When you're done there, venture into one of our six local art galleries for gifts that offer a little piece of imagination that you can box up and take home with you.

STOP 7: Bill's Hot Dogs

CATCH A DOG // There's always that restaurant in small towns that's been there forever. It's a local tradition and no visit would be complete until you been there and ordered. In Washington, that restaurant is Bill's. This place has been serving "nuclear-red" hot dogs since 1928. Bill's is takeout only: no tables, no chairs, no fuss. There are no fancy condiments, only mustard, onions, and chili. Don't even ask for ketchup. And Bill's special spicy chili is so good. Be sure to ask for your hotdog "all the way"! The all-the-way dog is served with chopped raw onions adding a peppered kick, mustard, and the signature 'top-secret' meatless white chili sauce.

STOP 8: NC Estuarium

DRINK IN SOME WATER // Need something to wash down that Chili Dog? How about some fresh water mixed with saltwater? Okay, that doesn't sound too appealing. But it is interesting. In fact, we have an entire museum dedicated to the subject. Welcome to the world's first Estuarium, an interactive center that explores estuaries, where saltwater and freshwater mix. Washington has more estuarine waters than anywhere on the East Coast. These waters form unique habitats for a lot of fish species. Come in to explore and drink in some knowledge.

STOP 9: The Hackney

The Hackney is a premier farm-to-table dining experience with a British twist. Located in an old bank that has been newly renovated, the menu changes every few weeks, featuring items such as local roasted fish, beef Wellington, or traditional sticky toffee pudding. The 13-seat bar offers an array of unique handcrafted cocktails made from their signature gin, aptly named 1,000 Piers gin. The gin distillery, now open, offers tours and tastings. Have the best night you may not remember in the morning.