Washington, NC

No vacation is complete without the pictorial posts of all the fun things you saw and did. Washington has no shortage of selfie-ready sites and shopping spots just waiting for you to frame up and click. See below for a three-day tour of this historic river town guaranteed to fill your social pages with envy-worth pics.

Medium Activity

3 days | 27 stops

Day 1

STOP 1: Washington Cafe

The Washington Cafe smells like your grandmother’s kitchen and tastes like it, too. A menu of fresh baked, scratch made pastries, breads, sweets are as comforting as they are filling. The bakery works closely with local farmers to use local, in season ingredients and boy, can you tell. Oh and don’t forget a cup of organic Counter Culture coffee; it smells and tastes amazing. Breakfast here is a must for starting the day off right.

STOP 2: Explore the Waterfront

Want to go on a crab hunt? Not for the kind you can eat, but for giant, vibrantly painted crab statues that make a great selfie partner. In 2006, 32 local artists each painted one of these large, fiberglass crabs as part of an outdoor community art project. The project raised a substantial sum for local charities. Though many have been “adopted” and moved out of town, you can still find six along the waterfront area, each decorated in a unique way.

STOP 3: Snap a “Shellfie”

There must be something in the water in Washington. Walk the boardwalk by the Estuarium and look left and right in the shallow waters to see a turtle convention of epic proportions. Green, mossy and bossy, they will flock to where you stand overtop of them, eager and willing to take any handout you’d like to throw their way. Look to the rocks and logs just out of the water and see how they’ve perfected sunbathing. Now that’s how you elongate your neck for the perfect photo.

STOP 4: The NC Estuarium

Ever wonder why a nice cool drink of brackish water appeals to the turtles and other creatures you see on the Pamlico River? There’s 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 more than 200 exhibits and drink in some knowledge. The gorgeous driftwood sculpture in the lobby makes for a unique backdrop for a snapshot.

STOP 5: Roving Riverboat Cruise

Climb aboard a shaded pontoon boat for the popular River Roving Boat Tour at the North Carolina Estuarium. Check the Estuarium’s schedule and pre-register for these free, 60-minute guided tours take sightseers upriver to explore Castle Island, Martin’s Bay, the Tar River and Bear Creek. Bring your camera, you’re sure to see some osprey nests, lovely landscapes, and river otters along the way.

STOP 6: Down on Main Street

This is the locals favorite lunch spot for a reason. Friendly, casual, and bustling with people, Down on Main Street runs a tight ship during its lunch service. Shrimp, fried green tomatoes, sandwiches stacked high and crushed ice in your tea make for a satisfying tasty, mid-day break. Don’t worry if there’s a line, it moves pretty quick.

STOP 7: River Vibes

To bike or not to bike: That is not a question. One of the best ways to experience Washington is on a comfy cruiser bike from River Vibes. Single and tandem, these rentable bikes have wide seats and a rack where you can strap down any purchases. It’s a great way to see the town, shop, and let your body relax as you soak up the sun and cruise by the Pamlico. When you’re done exploring, pop back in River Vibes for a refreshing, 100% crushed fruit smoothie. Try the “Castle Island,” named after the island you can see from the riverfront boardwalk.

STOP 8: The Hackney Gin Distillery

It’s time to see double and feel single. Awaken your taste buds with a gin tasting at The Hackney Distillery. The distillers here spent years honing and perfecting their award-winning 1000 Piers Gin. Let it roll around your tongue for a few seconds and awaken the full effect of the fresh botanicals, including orange and grapefruit peel, lemongrass, root ginger, galangal, kaffir lime and blueberries.

STOP 9: Dinner at Two Rivers Alehouse

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 10: Elmwood 1820

Sit a spell on a sweeping wrap-around porch made for iced tea and summer breezes. For nearly 200 years Elmwood has been the historic and architectural crown jewel of the "original" Washington. Its lawn and expansive rooms have been home to prominent families over many generations. Today, Elmwood remains an icon of style and sophistication while charming guests as a luxury bed and breakfast. Privately owned, it offers one of a kind nightly accommodations, as well as a spectacular stage for the most memorable of events to those who were born to wander, find adventure, and seek respite in the most unique and curious of places.

Day 2

STOP 11: Pam’s Diner

Buttery, cheddar cheese biscuits. Not that you need another reason to go to this warm, friendly breakfast joint, but you can expect a bottomless cup of fresh, hot coffee and some fluffy, fresh blueberry pancakes. Savory more your breakfast style? Try the corn beef hash with eggs how you like ‘em. If it’s all too much, don’t take your food for granted, take it to go!

STOP 12: Goose Creek State Park

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 sound 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 13: Haven’s Garden Wheel

Take a selfie with one of Washington’s most beloved landmarks: the Havens Garden Wheel. A relic from an area lumberyard, the giant steel wheel sits at the water’s edge just before the bridge on Park Drive. Kids of all ages love to climb it and at sunset it makes a fantastic silhouette against the Pamlico. Check out the inclusive playground while you’re there, and watch for turtles and crabs waddling out of the river.

STOP 14: 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 burger.

STOP 15: The Wander Co.

Whoever said money can’t buy happiness, simply did not know where to go shopping. One look in the window and you have to walk into the Wander Company. You may say you’re buying a gift for a friend, but chances are you’ll leave with one or two hand-crafted treasures for yourself. Jewelry, clothing, cards,a beach chair made just for your beverage, hand carved wooden trays--many created by North Carolina artists--stock this cheerful store. There’s even something for your pet at the Wander Company.

STOP 16: Southern Nest

There is a fine line between shopaholic and helping the economy. This is a fact you will quickly come to realize at The Southern Nest. Swoon at the home decor and cottage farmhouse furniture. Find inspiration for your home in their selection of tables, lamps, jewelry, and gifts. Consult with one of their in-house designers who will be happy to help you think through a DIY project or space that needs a refresh.

STOP 17: Nauti Life

You don’t have to cast a wide net to catch a keeper at Nauti Life. Their friendly staff will steer you in the right direction for local artwork, kids’ room decor, and other gift items. Get reeled in by a crab painted on a throw pillow, handmade beaded platters, or selection of Yeti coolers and tumblers.

STOP 18: Val’s Gourmet

Some only dream of cake. Others bake it happen. One look in the display case at the three-tiered cakes and you know you’ve come to the right place. Val’s Gourmet’s grab and go coolers have what you want for breakfast or lunch. Savory tomato pies and dreamy quiches, muffins and cinnamon rolls are some local favorites, but the real show stoppers are those mile high cakes in flavors like carrot, chocolate cheesecake, lemon, and, straight after a Southerner’s heart, a vanilla wafer lined banana pudding cake.

STOP 19: Turnage Theatre

Step inside the Turnage Theatre and you’re transported back to the 1920s. Art Deco chandeliers illuminate the 432-seat theatre. A grand stage awaits the next magical performance. You can almost hear the cheers, laughter and applause of the audience. Visitors can tour the restored property by appointment. The Arts Council has transformed the space at the font of the theater into an art Gallery featuring the work of local craftsmen. So even when there is not a performance, there is always something creative to experience.

STOP 20: Mulberry House

Sun and breeze on your face, drink in your hand. Spend cocktail hour with one of the best river views in Washington at Mulberry House’s rooftop lounge. This boutique hotel has it all: coffee shop, brewery, restaurant, and rooftop deck. For dinner, leave the decisions to the chef and opt for the six-course Chef’s Tasting Menu with optional wine pairing, or tempt your palate with something from their main menu including Japanese charcoal grilled skewers and Yakitori, local crawfish, or ginger braised pork belly. You also can’t go wrong ordering from their tempting list of snacks and appetizers--chorizo cheese bites and focaccia flatbread, anyone?

Day 3

STOP 21: Giddy Up Coffee

Saddle up for your day with breakfast at Giddy Up Coffee House. Try a Western-themed specialty latte--the Buckaroo gives you a mocha with a shot of caramel while the Skinny Cowgirl corrals the calories with sugar-free flavor add-ons. Get it with a bagel and you’re set for the morning. Don’t forget to bring your li’l doggies, they’ll be welcomed with a treat on the patio or in the drive-thru.

STOP 22: Aurora Fossil Museum

Watch out for that Megalodon! Prehistoric shark teeth, shells, coral, and other fossils are yours for the finding at the fossil pits outside of the Aurora Fossil Museum. Bring your own sand sifter and walk away with a discovery. Inside the museum learn about the unique natural history of the coastal plains of North Carolina. Explore exhibits featuring Native American artifacts, fossils of all shapes and sizes. You may even walk away with your own precious gem.

STOP 23: Bill’s Hot Dogs

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’ve 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 24: 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 25: Underground Railroad

See the faces. Read their stories of sacrifice. Understand what it took to escape from slavery. Climb aboard the restored Seaboard Coast Line Railroad Caboose and enter a pictorial history of slavery in Washington and Beaufort County. Part of the National Park Service “Underground Railroad Network to Freedom,” this small museum has a big impact.

STOP 26: Harbor District Market

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 little of everything. Pick up a few bars of handmade soap. Invest in a local landscape painting. Grab some produce from local farms. Or indulge in some local chocolates. (We won’t tell anyone) You’re sure to find a little piece of imagination that you can box up and take home with you.

STOP 27: Washington Crab and Seafood Shack

If you love seafood (and by that, we mean you eat everything you see) then you are going to love the Washington Crab and Seafood Shack. Fish, shrimp, oysters, crabs, clams, and more cooked to order. Everything is freshly caught, and you can taste it. So what will it be? Low country boil, bacon wrapped sea scallops, fried oyster burger, seared tuna. Maybe a combo plate is in order.