Rest & Restore at These Historic North Carolina Bed and Breakfasts

Transport yourself to another era with these renovated hotels, each driving distance from Raleigh.
by Addie Ladner and Ayn-Monique Klahre

From a pre-Civil War farmhouse in the country to a sprawling, Gatsby-era stone estate in the mountains, North Carolina offers stays that don’t just invite you to another region — they transport you to another era. 

In each of these bed-and-breakfasts, the owners have curated an authentic travel experience, often with local art, hand-selected linens, and heirloom furnishings in your bedroom. Delicious breakfast and hot coffee are on the morning menu alongside conversation with your hosts and other guests, the perfect opportunity to plan your visit with a personal touch. 

As you start thinking about your next escape from Raleigh, consider these five historic bed-and-breakfasts and inns across our state.

Elmwood 1820, Washington

A lovingly restored Italianate mansion, Elmwood 1820 was, as the name suggests, built in 1820 as a much smaller Federal-style residence. It was added onto in 1859, then was moved to its current location (with its new architectural style) in the early 1900s by a local developer to anchor the west side of Washington’s downtown neighborhood.

Architecture buffs will enjoy spotting details from each era, including the Colonial Revival columns in the foyer, original floors on the second story, window moulding from its first renovation, and hand-painted chinoiserie wallpaper in the dining room that dates to the early 1900s. The current owners, Richard Smoot and John Butler, bought the place in 2015, converting it from a private residence to a bed-and-breakfast. Each of its five rooms has a different theme, like The Gardener, a room filled floor-to-ceiling with antique botanicals and stacks of gardening magazines next to the clawfoot tub in en-suite bathroom.

Throughout you’ll find a mix of antiques and art collected on the couple’s travels through Africa and Asia, as well as comfy reading nooks and a broad front porch for enjoying a coffee or a glass of wine. Located on the banks of the Pamlico River and just over an hour’s drive east of Raleigh, Washington is best known as a destination for boating, cycling, and kayaking, but it offers amenities year-round including a downtown peppered with antiques shops and eateries.

731 W. Main Street, Washington; 

Bromfield Inn, Brevard

Transylvania County is known for its waterfalls and mountainous views, and here you can find the Bromfield Inn, originally built in the Jazz Age and walking distance to downtown Brevard. From the front, it looks like a simple stone one-story building, but inside it’s a spacious three-story, 6,400-square-foot estate.

Built in 1926, it was the private residence of local businessman James Bromfield until the 1950s. Pam and Abe Pallas bought the inn in 2017 from its fourth owner, Reginald Heinitsh, to turn it into a bed-and-breakfast. They kept the original floors, waved windows, pocket doors, and arched entryways, and added spacious bathrooms with clawfoot tubs and walk-in showers to all six guest rooms.

“Guests tell us pictures don’t do justice to the rooms or even the home,” says Pam. This stay is for those who like quiet, private getaways. Visitors should be sure to enjoy a meal at Marco Trattoria, a family-owned rustic Italian restaurant nearby, or catch a concert at the Brevard Music Center. 

60 Woodside Drive, Brevard; 

Colonial Inn, Hillsborough 

The Colonial Inn, built in 1838, rests on King Street in downtown Hillsborough. It operated as a hotel for centuries, then sat neglected for 17 years until its current co-owner and general manager, Elise Tyler, corralled a team of investors to revive it. It reopened its doors in November 2020 with the addition of an annex building that added 21 more rooms.

Spencer’s Tavern, on the main building’s first floor, is original to the inn — here, the countertops are made of copper, which changes as guests come and go with the touch of their skin. It’s an intentional design decision. “We wanted guests to leave an imprint with us,” says Tyler. The floors, banister on the main stairwell, and fireplaces are all original to the structure.

The fact that the space has a complex past isn’t lost on the team of owners. “We can assume this structure was built by slave hands,” says Tyler, noting that a plaque in the common area pays homage to people who helped build the inn. Also of note in the common area is a large painting that features a historical interpretation of the inn along with people of color who have connections to it, including Chief John Blackfeather of the Occaneechi tribe, who often comes in for dinner. “He loves it here and we love him right back,” says Nancy Wright, who works the front desk. The rest of the work on display is part of their Art Initiative program to support local artists. Around 45 minutes from Raleigh, Hillsborough features the nearby Eno River, Matthew’s Chocolate Shop, and many art galleries to browse.

153 W. King Street, Hillsborough; 

The Inn at Oriental, Oriental

In North Carolina’s sleepy sailing capital sits the Inn at Oriental. It’s not a nautically themed space, though: classic decor mixes with antique furniture, the dining room is bathed in deep hunter green, and four-poster beds grace every room. The home was originally built in the 1800s and served as a millinery shop and boarding house in the early years.

Lou and Lucy Athey purchased it in 2017 after migrating to this small inlet town from Amelia Island, Florida. Now entering their seventh year as innkeepers, they’ve added a cottage to the property, redone the dining room, replaced outdated carpet with laminate floors, and turned a wooden deck into a sunny common area with large windows.

Their hospitality and passion for sailing have attracted fellow seafarers from all over the world. “This year we got a Christmas card from someone from Alaska who kept their boat in the area and stayed with us,” says Lucy. “From here, folks often head to the Bahamas or down to the Caribbean. It’s a great spot to stop for sails to be repaired or to get engines checked.” Oriental itself is a very small town (there’s not a single stoplight!) but offers plenty of views of the Pamlico Sound. From the Inn, bike or walk to local places like The Bean for ice cream, The Toucan Grill for fried flounder, or the farmers market on Saturdays. 

508 Church Street, Oriental;

Inn at Celebrity Dairy, Siler City

Just outside of Raleigh, in rural Chatham County, sits the Inn at Celebrity Dairy. The building is actually made up of two different structures — an 1800s tongue-and-groove log cabin and a slightly newer farmhouse — combined by a two-story atrium. The Inn is part of a working farm, so you’ll see plenty of goats, chickens, and farmhands bustling around its several hundred acres.

The farm-fresh communal breakfast in the atrium features eggs and the award-winning chevre from the farm’s inhabitants. “I love doing the breakfast,” says owner Fleming Pfann. “It’s always local and changes with the season. We’ve done sweet potato biscuits, even collards before.” She and her husband Brit have owned the inn since the late 1970s.

The seven cozy rooms are full of antiques, spindle beds, and quilts, and two have French doors that open onto the sprawling front porch. If you can motivate yourself to leave the slow place of life at Celebrity Dairy, explore downtown Pittsboro — just 20 minutes away — where you can find Starlight Meadery, S & T’s Soda Shoppe, and the folk art scene.   

144 Celebrity Dairy Way, Siler City;   

The Zevely Inn, Winston Salem

Zevely Inn , built in 1844 in Old Salem is an antique 19th-century manor, boasting four-poster beds and roaring fireplaces original to the building in some of its 12 bedrooms. It’s named after Augustus T. Zevely, a doctor who used this house as his medical practice in the 1840s. The house sat condemned for years after being used for apartments, before the late Thomas Lantry and his business partners purchased and renovated the property in 1993. He brought it back to its 19th-century glory, reviving the antique doors, unearthing the floors, and commissioning historical accurate furnishings. “It was a total renovation because he had to add modern facilities to a building so old and fragile, it was a challenge but it turned out amazing,” says Anne Lantry, Thomas Lantry’s wife and president of Zevely House Associates, Inc., the group that owns the inn.

Each morning innkeeper Cherie Gordon whips up a fresh breakfast of breakfast casseroles, biscuits, or granola for guests, who enjoy their stay at the Zevely for the historic charm of Old Salem and the relaxing energy of the Inn itself. “It’s peaceful here. There’s space on the veranda to relax. We can even arrange a carriage ride through town,” she says. 

Located in the heart of Old Salem Museums & Gardens, check out nearby Muddy Creek Café  and Reynolda House Museum of American Art. There are loads of independent retailers and restaurants to check out in the downtown district, including Spring HouseMozelle’s, and The Katharine.  

Old Salem Historic District; 803 South Main Street; Winston-Salem;