Each spring, when the striped bass (aka rockfish) swim up the Roanoke River from the salt water of Albemarle Sound to spawn, anglers hit it big. Two months of catch-and-release, plus a few weeks when they can keep their catch during this plentiful run has earned Weldon the nickname of the “Rockfish Capital of the World.” The town draws both those who fish as a relaxing recreational activity and those who treat it as a serious sport. In addition to striped bass, shad, largemouth bass, catfish, and sunfish fill the waters in the area, just waiting to be caught. You can go out on your own to find the best spots, or you can hire a professional guide to take you to the prime locales. Using a knowledgeable local outfitter can take the stress of the logistics of planning a fishing excursion—from where on the river to set up, to which bait to use, to snapping your photo as you reel in the big one that didn’t get away.
Dining and Drinking
In North Carolina, barbecue is a cultural treasure, and in Weldon, the place to sit down to a plate of Eastern-style pulled pork is Ralph’s Barbecue. Started in the neighboring town of Roanoke Rapids in 1941 by Ralph Woodruff, the restaurant moved to its current location in Weldon in 1951. It has remained a family-run business, with Ralph’s daughter and grandson carrying on his recipes and service. Ralph’s also serves up other hearty Southern cuisine, like Brunswick stew and hushpuppies, so make sure to bring your appetite!
For an after-dinner drink, check out Weldon Mills Distillery, with an expansive patio on the banks of the Roanoke River. The distillery also offers tours of its production facility along with samples of its award-winning products, including bourbon and flavored gin and vodka. If you’re visiting in a self-contained RV, why not spend the night—the distillery is part of the Harvest Hosts family, which enables guests to set up their camper onsite to enjoy the evening.
For visitors looking to take home a souvenir of their stay in Weldon, Riverside Mill offers a collection of antiques, artisan wares, and an outlet store to suit any taste. Housed in a historic cotton mill on the river, the mill is pet friendly, so feel free to bring Fido along, as long as he’s well behaved and up for shopping.
For those seeking a more treasure-hunt-style experience, visit the Weldon Flea Market, open Wednesday through Sunday. With antiques, collectibles, and furniture, shoppers are sure to find unique goods at bargain prices.
Explore on Foot or Bike
The 7.5-mile Roanoke Canal Trail, which links the communities of Weldon and Roanoke Rapids, is the perfect place to take in the scenic views of the river and the surrounding landscape. If the walk is too far, check out a free loaner bike from Riverside Mill. Alongside the former towpath on which the trail is built, the remains of the canal system tell the story of the products transported from the mountains of the South to the East Coast seaports. The canal was also an important part of the Underground Railroad in this region, where many found their way to freedom on its waters. You can access the trailhead in Weldon at River Falls Park. The park itself offers a picnic shelter with tables and grills for a pre- or post-lunch walk or bike ride lunch as well as restrooms and a playground for the little ones.
For those seeking historic sites in the town of Weldon, the town has put together a self-guided walking tour, a description of which is available on the town’s website. Divided into four sections — Downtown, Train, River, and Canal (described above) — each trail showcases moments and places from Weldon’s history. The Downtown tour features stops such as Napolean Hill’s mural of the once bustling Union Station, with passengers boarding trains and disembarking for a stay in town, and the Flatiron Block, which was once the site of thriving storefronts along the train tracks and is now a common site for social media selfies due to its unique structure. The Train Trail leads walkers past a former train station, built in 1838, making it the oldest in the state. Another station along this tour, Union Station, which is featured in Hill’s mural, will soon be returning to action as an Amtrak station after a nearly 50-year break in passenger service. While walking the River Trail, enjoy the mural of local fish painted on the walls of a tunnel under Highway 301, constructed so that children could get from the pool on one side of the busy road to the other safely. Take a breather at River Falls Park, a scenic portion of the river with rushing water, or stop in to the Weldon Mills Distillery for a tour or a sample.