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Looking for Waterfront Living with a Small-Town Vibe?

Consider moving to Elizabeth City, NC, where you'll find the perfect blend of affordability, outdoor activities, family friendly fun and Southern hospitality.

By Rebecca Treon on March 3, 2022

A woman paints along the waterfront in Elizabeth City, NC.
Troy Herring

Elizabeth City, nestled in the northeastern corner of North Carolina, is tucked into a harbor in what was historically a bustling port city.

The city is flourishing, thanks to the construction of new buildings and new businesses repurposing historic buildings. With the surrounding outdoor amenities, an abundance of career opportunities and numerous entertainment options, people of all ages can find a life they’ll love here. One thing locals appreciate is that it still retains a small-town, homey feel.

“It’s not just about shopping and eating in downtown Elizabeth City, although there is lots of that,” says Debbie Malenfant, executive director of Elizabeth City Downtown Inc. “It’s being recognized by the shop owners, having a favorite place to go where you see your friends and meet new people – it’s where you come to create memories and experiences.”

Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City
Eric Waters

Sprucing Up Downtown

Downtown Elizabeth City recently received a face-lift and has additional projects in the works. The district has become a place where people can grab a beer or coffee, shop and enjoy themselves. The revitalization was possible, thanks in part to a $200,000 award from the Main Street Solutions Fund in 2019, along with new businesses moving in and setting up shop.

“We have a brewery, Ghost Harbor, and there are options downtown for burgers, pizza, burritos and fine dining, too – more diverse food options downtown than there used to be,” Malenfant says. “That’s great, because we have more people living downtown than before. It’s becoming more livable.”

Bonus Perk: Great Regional Attractions

In about an hour’s drive, residents can enjoy the Outer Banks, while in just under an hour, they can be in Norfolk, Virginia, where they can find Broadway shows and concerts. Plus, Norfolk International Airport is close by, meaning residents can travel to destinations both near and far.

Affordability is an important factor for many and is a welcome amenity when considering places to live. You can find an affordable cost of living in Elizabeth City, especially when compared to other areas in the Northeast and West.

Elizabeth City’s median home value as of January 2022 was $186,000, according to Zillow. That’s about a third less than North Carolina’s and less than half the U.S. average.

Paddleboarding at Water Park in Elizabeth City
Eric Waters

Outdoors Galore

One of the best things about Elizabeth City is the number of outdoor recreation options available. It’s surrounded by magnificent natural features like the Pasquotank River, which allows residents to enjoy activities such as boating, fishing and kayaking. There are more than 20,000 acres of state parks in the region.

Several other natural areas are available to residents, too, like the Fenwick-Hollowell Wetlands Trail behind College of The Albemarle (COA). About 750 feet of its 3,440-foot boardwalk was recently renovated, adding interactive signage with QR codes so users can learn about the area’s flora and fauna.

“We wanted the trail and the area around it to be established, as a college and as a community, to celebrate the Pasquotank (River) and the beautiful resource that’s right behind the campus,” says Dr. Jack Bagwell, president of COA, a community college whose main campus is in Elizabeth City. “Some of the very early champions of the trail were ecologically minded individuals who were also very into fitness and activity and being active in the community.”

Port Discover in Elizabeth City
Sam Dean | Visit NC

Plenty of Fun Indoors, Too!

Great attractions include Port Discover, a children’s museum focused on hands-on science, and Museum of the Albemarle, which explores the rich history of the region.

The college has also partnered with Kids in Parks, which rewards younger participants when they make healthier choices.

“We’re redoing several acres of land so we can do more community events. What we have right now is programmatic information about the trail,” Bagwell says. “What you’re likely to see is pretty typical of this environment, with cypress trees and swampy areas, and the boardwalk goes through it. You can see everything from ospreys or eagles to shorebirds and cranes, and turtles galore. It’s a hodgepodge, but it’s representative of what you might see across this area.”

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