Elizabeth City, NC

Elizabeth City, situated in Pasquotank County, is a town made up of 12.2 square miles.

2018 Best Guide to Elizabeth City, NC

July 31, 2018

During the Civil War, The Battle of Elizabeth City took place in 1862. 

Known as the "Harbor of Hospitality", Elizabeth City is located on the Pasquotank River in Pasquotank County along the northeastern shores and within the Inner Banks of North Carolina. The river connects the town to the Albemarle Sound. It has a population of nearly 19,000 and represents the county seat. The town is part of the Historic Albemarle region, along with 15 other NC counties. 

The town of Elizabeth City NC was founded in 1794 as a trading site, with ferries and inspection points soon following. It grew courtesy the shipping businesses and its strategic location along the Dismal Swamp Canal. The canal, part of the Intra-coastal Waterway, opened in the early 1800s and is America's oldest man-made waterway still in operation.
During the 1800s, Elizabeth City NC had become an important deep-water port on the east coast. Materials such as fish, grain, shipbuilding, lumber, timber and oysters all contributed to the town's rapid and sustained growth. 

Today, Elizabeth City and its five historic districts is home to America's Coast Guard Base, the largest one in the country. Total land area for Elizabeth City NC is less than 10 miles. Elevation is just 12 feet above sea level and is mostly flat and marshland.

The original name used was Elizabethtown. This was changed as thee was another town of the same name. Newly named Elizabeth City is generally accepted as a tribute to Queen Elizabeth I, who during the late 1500s led the charge in colonizing the coasts of Virginia and Carolina. Another call of honor for the town's name comes from Elizabeth Tooley, a local wealthy businesswoman who gave land for forming the new town.

Though the name "Dismal" is appropriate for the swamp, there wasn't anything dismal about the growth of Elizabeth City NC as a result of its location along the canal. As the canal was improved upon, the town became a central hub for trade.

Even the government saw the possibilities and bought stocks.
By 1830, the state of Virginia held a lottery, raising more money for deepening and widening the Dismal Swamp Canal. This, of course, provided access for ships of larger size, furthering economic growth in the region.

By this time, the Camden County customs house had been relocated to Elizabeth City resulting in goods being controlled from the hub. Passage through the canal had become more expensive; in fact, the cost to ferry a vessel had tripled in three years.

Elizabeth City's rule of the waterways and shipping would not last, however. The rail road and other canals created competition for the town's Dismal Swamp Canal. By 1840, The Portsmouth and Weldon Railroad opened a direct line form the Roanoke River to Weldon. Twenty years later, the Albemarle-Chesapeake Canal opened, operating a deeper passageway for shipping between Norfolk and the Eastern Albemarle Sound.

The South controlled the town at the start of the Civil War, only to see it fall into Union hands, where it remained for the duration. The battle began and ended on February 10, 1862. And, there were few loses on either side.

In 1881, the Norfolk Southern Railway was completed, creating a land link between Norfolk, Virginia and Elizabeth City NC. This made shipping a less significant part of the transportation of goods in the region. Businesses who had once relied on the waterways had moved to the Upper Coastal Plain and Piedmont areas of North Carolina.

Today, the railway is known as the Chesapeake and Albemarle Railroad, an 82-mile link between Chesapeake, Virginia and Edenton, North Carolina. It's mostly used for hauling sand, grain, and other raw materials between the CSX and Norfolk Southern lines in Chesapeake. There hasn't been a passenger train line depot in Elizabeth City since 1947.

Elizabeth City's economy sustained until the 1940s, when World War II brought the Coast Guard Air Station and the Navy Air Station to the area. This is why you see the large "blimp" hangar the city is famous for having. Dirigibles and seaplanes from the two Stations provided defense to Germany's U-Boats, which were targeting American ships along the East Coast.

The U.S. Coast Guard Air Station is America's largest. There are five commands here and a National Strike Force Coordination Center. The base is now part of the Department of Homeland Security and is central to the economic boom today. The movie The Guardian was partially filmed here.

An airship factory is still in operation in Elizabeth City NC. During the war, it was known as the Naval Air Station Weeksville. The war also saw the Elizabeth City Shipyard build more than 100 crafts designed specifically to combat the subs.

A branch of the North Carolina Museum of History can be found in Elizabeth City NC. It was built in 1967 and is known as the Museum of Albemarle and is situated along the waters. The museum features the "Our Story" exhibit (Albemarle history) and a large gallery containing more than 700 cultural artifacts covering the 13 northeastern counties.

Another place of interest is the Virginia Dare Hotel and Arcade. This 9-story neoclassical building from the 1920s can be see from miles and makes up a part of Elizabeth City's skyline. Today, it is an apartment for the elderly.

The North Carolina Potato Festival is an annual event in Elizabeth City. Held downtown in May, the festival celebrates the lonely potato, the area's top crop. Enjoy a potato peeling contests, sack races, live bands, fly-overs by the Coast Guard, and of course, the Little Miss Tater Tot pageant. The waters come to life with the Moth Boat Regatta sailboat race.


The median resident age in Elizabeth City is 33 years. The median estimated household income is about $31,000 making it about $17,000 less than the North Carolina average. The estimated per capita is about $17,000. The average price for a home in Elizabeth City is about $130,000 (2015) which is $30,000 less than the North Carolina Average. Expect to pay about $850 a month for rent.

The racial makeup of Elizabeth City is 37% White, 54% Black, 1% Two or more races, and 8% other. 81% of the population are high school graduates, with 22% holding a Bachelor's Degree or higher. 35% are married, 10% are divorced, 4% are separated, 7% are widowed, leaving 44% that have never been married.

Towns Nearby

Camden, NC
South Mills, NC
Winfall, NC
Coinjock, NC
Hertford, NC
Moyock, NC
Sunbury, NC
Columbia, NC

Pasquotank County

Elizabeth City belongs to Pasquotank County in the north-eastern part of North Carolina. The county, named after the Pasquotank Indians, is part of the Elizabeth City, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area.

Pasquotank County officially became a county in 1739. Pasquotank County has a population of 41,000 and its largest city Elizabeth City, with a population of 19,000, is the county seat.

Pasquotank County borders Perquimans, Gates, and Camden counties.

Pasquotank County is made up of 289 square miles. 227 of which is land with the remaining 63 as water.


The population of Elizabeth City, NC is about 19,000. The population has been steadily increasing since the 1980's.


The elevation of Elizabeth City, NC is 12 feet above sea level.

Zip Code

The zip codes for Elizabeth City, NC are 27906, 27907, and 27909.

Area Code

The area code for Elizabeth City, NC is 252.

Politics and Religion

Historically speaking Elizabeth City and Pasquotank County have voted mostly Democrat, with 58% going to Barrack Obama during the 2012 Presidential Election. This represents the trend for the previous four or five elections.

As of 2010, 56% of the population are religiously unafiliated (Nones). About 38% are Protestants with Catholics and Other making up around 6%.


The unemployment rate for Elizabeth City is about 7% (2015), making it higher than the state average of around 5%. Retail, manufacturing, construction, and technical services make nearly 50% of the most common industries in the town.

Newspaper & Obituaries

Daily Advance is the primary newspaper that cover the Pasquotank County area.