Washington, NC

This river town’s most popular feature is undeniably the Pamlico River. Here’s a two-day tour designed to get you out on it, hiking beside it, and exploring the best shops and restaurants a stone’s throw from it. Read on to learn how best to Get Outdoors in Little Washington.

Medium Activity

2 days | 17 stops

Day 1

STOP 1: Shep’s Grill

If your sweet tooth does your talking for you, head over to Shep’s Grill. You’ll find a menu of all your typical breakfast favorites prepared with a little history and flair. Start your day with an egg plate and a side of homemade jams and jellies. Or go for the French Toast, made from grandma’s recipe. The cozy diner feel and hearty breakfast will set you up for the day ahead. Sugar-rush approved.

STOP 2: Kayak the Pamlico River

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. Located at Washington's public boat ramp, Inner Banks Outfitters provides rentals for kayaks and paddle boards with easy access to the water.

STOP 3: Flying Pig Provisions

Everything you never knew you needed awaits at Flying Pig Provisions. Pick up specialty meats, cheeses, tapenades, and more for a picnic. Don’t miss sassy soaps with names like “Smells Like It’s Only Frickin’ Tuesday” and “Smells Like Being Awesome,” perfect gifts to match the personalities in your life. If you’re wondering about the wide array of items in stock from teas and exotic spices to hats and t-shirts, just ask the owners. They only sell things they love or need.

STOP 4: Picnic at Festival Park

Lunch by the water? Yes, please. Pack a picnic or pick up take out from one of Washington’s many local restaurants and head to Mac Hodges Festival Park for lunch. Right on the river, it’s a great spot to pop a squat on the lawn or under the shade of the gazebo. Keep your eyes peeled for osprey, bald eagles, and friendly sailors tying lines on the town dock.

STOP 5: Cups and Cones

No picnic is complete without ice cream. Head over to Cups and Cones to enjoy some hand-dipped ice cream from a seat on their covered porch. They have all kinds of flavors to tempt you, or let the friendly staff steer you toward a fresh smoothie or coffee drink. This hidden gem is worth a visit. Pups are also welcome on the porch.

STOP 6: Goose Creek Hike

Time to walk off that picnic. Located about 10 miles east of Highway 264, Goose Creek State Park offers over eight miles of hiking. As you meander through its trails and boardwalks, you'll experience nature at its best —live oaks draped in Spanish moss, wetlands along the Pamlico Sound. 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 7: Dinner at Marabella’s

After you’re done following blazes head directly to Marabella Italian Restaurant. Here load up dishes filled with 75 years of Italian family tradition. Old world pizzas, and gluten-free options for the wheatless, so cheesy and light that you’ll be transported to Italy. You can taste the love in the fresh pasta sauces. Choose from one of your favorites dishes--chicken parmigiana, shrimp scampi, veal marsala--or try one of the house specialties like Raviolini Alla Salvatore, ravioli filled with sausage, broccoli rabe & hot peppers, tossed with portobello marsala wine sauce. Yes, please.

Day 2

STOP 8: King’s Chicken

Start your day with some Southern soul food from King’s Chicken and Drive In. A Washington favorite since 1958, their breakfast biscuits come in buttermilk, sweet potato, cathead cheese, and with just about any sweet or savory thing you may want to stuff it with. Want to make sure you’re stuffed ‘til lunch? Opt for a breakfast plate with eggs, meal, grits, and toast. And, given the restaurant’s name, you know their chicken and waffles can’t be beat.

STOP 9: Fishing Charter

If landing a trophy red drum is on your bucket list, look no further than FishIBX. Book a fishing charter into the Pamlico Sound to battle with these monster fish, or invite Captain Mitchell Blake to guide you on a “mixed bag trip” where your party will reel in multiple species--trout, flounder, puppy drum, among others. Anglers will get an earful about all things fish and fishing. Captain Blake has decades of experience and a great love for eastern North Carolina waters.

STOP 10: 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 11: NC Estuarium

Need something to wash down that unforgettable burger? 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 more than 200 exhibits and drink in some knowledge.

STOP 12: Val’s Gourmet

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, lunch, and dessert. 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. Val will likely be there with a big grin and suggestion if you can’t make up your mind.

STOP 13: South Market Antiques

Antiquers delight at South Market Antiques. This quirky, delightful shop is reminiscent of a well-stocked, eclectic attic, and well-worth exploring. Find pieces that speak to you. Tea cup bird feeders are one of the more unique items you’ll find amongst vintage glassware, linens, and furniture.

STOP 14: The Wander Co.

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 15: 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 16: Sunset Cruise

Spectacular sunsets and plenty of lore are on deck for a sunset cruise with Xplore IBX Charters. Charismatic Captain Scott narrates the hour and a half long cruise with tales of the Pamlico River, pirates, Civil War sites. BYOB and nosh on the light snacks provided while you take in the history, watch for osprey and herons, and snap a selfie in the flattering light of dusk on the water.

STOP 17: Mulberry House Brewery

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?