Jul 5, 2022 - Things to Do

What to do on a day trip to Saxapahaw

A rocky river winds under a bridge with an old mill on the left side of the river.

The Haw River going through Saxapahaw. Photo: Zachery Eanes/Axios

In the summer, when I am at a loss for what to do and the sun is mercilessly hot, I often drive out to the far-western reaches of the Triangle.

  • The destination, after navigating the curvy roads of Orange County's farmland, is always Saxapahaw. The tiny speck of a village — built around a former textile mill — provides a perfect clash of nature and eclectic businesses.

The big picture: For a place with only 1,700 residents, Saxapahaw offers a lot to the day traveler.

  • It boasts not only shaded trails along the Haw River to beat the heat, but a pair of fine restaurants, a brewery and, perhaps the region's best music venue.
  • Of note: It's around an hour drive from Raleigh and around 40 minutes from Durham. Parking can be difficult, so check out this map of parking spots before going.
A band performs in front of a crowded room.
The band Waxahatchee performs at the Haw River Ballroom. Photo: Zachery Eanes/Axios.

What to do:

🎸 See a show. The Haw River Ballroom, a two-floor, music-and-events venue inside of the former mill.

  • The intimate venue routinely gets great touring acts. Upcoming shows include: Lucinda Williams, Snail Mail, Kurt Vile and the Violent Femmes.

🥾 Walk the Haw River Trail and Saxapahaw Island Park. Along the banks of the rocky Haw River, easy-going trails give you access to the river. Crossing the Church Street Bridge will give you access to a looping trail and playground on Saxapahaw Island Park.

🛶 Kayak or canoe the Haw River. You can also rent a kayak or canoe from Haw River Canoe & Kayak Co. and explore the river that way.

  • A dam in the river creates what is called Saxapahaw Lake, which is deep enough to offer gentle paddling.
A wooded trail with trees on both sides.
The Haw River Trail in Saxapahaw. Photo: Zachery Eanes/Axios.

Where to eat and drink:

🍳 Saxapahaw General Store. Don't let the name deceive you. While you can shop for grocery staples at this general store, its breakfast and lunch can rival some of the best eateries in Raleigh. It wouldn't be a bad idea to make this your first stop when you get into town.

  • Most of the food is sourced from local farms in Orange and Alamance counties.

🍔 The Eddy Pub. Built with the idea of a village pub in mind, the Eddy offers a relaxing dine-in option for dinner, lunch and brunch. The house-made buttermilk biscuits were a particular standout on the brunch menu.

  • Like the general store, The Eddy also sources heavily from local farmers.
  • A tip: You probably should grab a reservation here just to be safe.

🍺 Haw River Farmhouse Ales. Founded in 2014, Haw River Farmhouse Ales has built a reputation as one of the most eclectic breweries in the region. True to its name, the brewery often uses locally sourced ingredients when it is making brews like Belgian dubbels, saisons and farmhouse IPAs.


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