From the highest mountain peaks east of the Mississippi to the tallest natural sand dune system in the eastern United States, North Carolina takes diversity to new heights. Across the state, visitors will find a rich cultural heritage, abundant history and modern cities. And 600 North Carolina golf courses provide varied terrain and challenges suitable for golfers of all skill levels.
The 300-plus miles of North Carolina coastline are dotted with picturesque lighthouses. A chain of barrier islands along the northern coast beckons visitors to familiar places such as Kitty Hawk, Duck and Cape Hatteras. Along the southern shoreline lie the historic Cape Fear Coast, Crystal Coast and Brunswick Islands. Each area has a unique style and offers spectacular beaches, events and activities in a relaxed atmosphere.
History abounds along the coast, where ships sailed and colonies formed centuries ago. Historic Bath is North Carolina’s oldest town and celebrated its tri-centennial in 2005. Visitors can enjoy Beaufort, with buildings dating back to the mid-1700s, and Pine Knoll Shores, home to one of North Carolina’s three aquariums (the other aquariums are in Fort Fisher and Roanoke Island). Tryon Palace Historic Site and Gardens, a collection of elegant Georgian buildings in New Bern, was constructed in 1770 as a residence for Royal Governor William Tryon and served as the state’s first capital. Wilmington, which today sets the stage for many film and television productions, once set the stage for significant events in the Civil War.
North Carolina’s role in the Civil War was commemorated in 2005 when North Carolina joined the Civil War Trails project, with numerous interpretive markers being placed at historic sites across the state. Bentonville Battlefield, near Raleigh in central North Carolina, is the largest battlefield in the state and site of the last major battle fought during the Civil War. Maps and itineraries of North Carolina Civil War Trails are provided in all nine state Welcome Centers and are also available for free download on the brochures page of visitnc.com.
Also in central North Carolina is Old Salem, a Moravian settlement restored to its 18th-century glory. While there, don’t miss the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts and the Old Salem Toy Museum, each teeming with antique treasures.
Besides intriguing historical attractions, central North Carolina boasts beautiful countryside and exciting city life. Charlotte is the state’s largest city and is known for its offerings of fine cuisine, cultural activities, nightlife and professional sporting events. Just north of the city, shopping takes on a whole new meaning at Concord Mills. At Lowe’s Motor Speedway, also in Concord, race fans thrill to NASCAR’s best. Many of the sport’s drivers and race shops are located here, along with museums and tours dedicated to the sport of racing.
The Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area is home to some of the most prestigious and beautiful university campuses in the country. Visitors will find great shopping, museums and cultural activities, historic neighborhoods and the historic State Capitol in Raleigh.
The North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro is regarded as one of the nation’s finest zoos and is also the largest walk-through, natural-habitat zoo in the United States. In nearby Seagrove, where the earth is natural red clay, some of the world’s best potters ply their craft, as they have for more than 200 years.
Charming small towns may beckon you to stay, but higher reaches call you westward where the mountains rise to meet the sky.
The Blue Ridge Parkway winds its way past scenic overlooks, state parks, national forests, picnic areas, campgrounds and some of North Carolina’s most spectacular hiking trails. Fishing, canoeing, whitewater rafting and camping are perfect ways to enjoy natural mountain wonders. So is an early summer visit to Roan Mountain, the world’s largest natural gardens of crimson-purple rhododendron.
Spring and summer festivals provide an opportunity to enjoy foot-tapping mountain music, regional cuisine and, of course, famous North Carolina handmade crafts. Asheville is city-center to mountain activity and boasts numerous arts and crafts shops, galleries and museums. Two of the most interesting homes in America – George Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate, a 250-room French chateau, and Carl Sandburg’s Connemara, where the renowned author published one third of his works – are located in the Asheville area.
From enchanting mountain courses to ocean-view fairways, golf in North Carolina can be played year round at 600 different golf courses.
Along with great golf, visitors can find great barbecue in any part of North Carolina. Barbecue – or BBQ, as it is lovingly called – comes sliced, chopped, pulled, on a bun or as an entrée and served up with Southern sides like hushpuppies, coleslaw, baked beans and sweet tea.
From beaches to mountains, North Carolina has something for every taste.
Photos and wording courtesy of North Carolina Department of Commerce, Division of Tourism