North Carolina is the prime destination for dining, pioneer aviation, and maritime views. Immerse in scenery within the historical Inner Banks or the untouched nature of the Outer. Stroll the ambient streetscapes of the state’s first towns amidst centuries-old architecture, and join a vibrant art scene and cultural festivals that locals know how to celebrate. Drift amidst the islands in a mindless pursuit that is easy on the eyes, and feel the worries seep away. These towns capture the General Assembly-adopted "Esse Quam Videri" official motto translating as “To be rather than to seem,” of the seemingly-modest but immensely scenic and nature-rich state.
The biggest town on this list is a hipster heaven with great hiking and beer. Asheville's eco-friendly lifestyle lends to a pristine vast scape with ambient streets emanating historic appeal through architecture and a number of fantastic Art Deco buildings. Visit the nearby Biltmore Estate, the ultimate American castle, with a scenic drive-in amidst mountain views via the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The award winning town boasts "Top 25 smallest Cities in America" recognition by the American Style Magazine, with an alluring array of attractions and unique sights doing it justice. Peruse countless eclectic stores, cultural museums, and points of interest along the streets that continuously attract a trickling of tourists from around the country. You will see that the outdoor activities followed by a brewing scene is just a cherry on-top of everything else the stunning town has to offer.
This quaint town in the High Country is a famous skiing destination during winter and a gateway into summertime pursuits at the stunning Grandfather Mountain State Park. The mountainous splendor is accentuated by spruce forests, ridge-line trails, and 2,500 acres of the backcountry. Soak-up scenery on a picnic, or scavenge through the nature trails to the iconic mile-high Swinging Bridge, boasting 5,282 feet in elevation. The highest suspension bridge in America at the Grandfather Mountain is a three-in-one attraction, along with stunning views over the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Immerse into Banner Elk's atmospheric downtown area with laidback streets stringed by cozy cafes, taverns, local wineries, and breweries, amidst an array of bed-and-breakfasts to kick-up your feet any-style. The two main streets are alined with shops and restaurants for dinners and perusing within mountainous vistas. Banner Elk is ideal for year-round adventures with North Carolina's best ski resorts, Sugar Mountain and Beech Mountain, just a short drive away to the impressive vertical runs. Enjoy best trout fishing in North Carolina during fall and admire Banner Elks trademark foliage. It is also the perfect time to visit the adorable alpacas and angora goats at the Apple Hill Farm.
The aptly-named waterside enclave is North Carolina’s gem and third oldest town. Tramp along the charming port, a former pirate hangout, in the footsteps of Blackbeard himself, with historic buildings and maritime views. Spend the morning beach-combing for unique shells, while surfers, boat fans, and fishers take on the waters. Rent a kayak and explore the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve amidst islands and salt marshes replete with bird specie.
Check-out the inviting collection of restaurants along the lovely waterfront with cafes for morning coffee over watery views and seafood dinners at sunset. The "Inner Banks" coastal town just across the line from the Outer Banks, boasts 300-years worth of history. Stroll the small historic district within the happening downtown area to absorb the full specter of "America’s Coolest Small Town."
The "Crown of the Blue Ridge" is a picture-perfect town under the dominating Grandfather Mountain stance. It is surrounded by natural wonders like the Linville Caverns and Linville Falls, and hiking trails through the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Julian Price Park, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. The town is home to the scenic Tweetsie Railroad, along with the namesake natural attraction of a protruding precipice.
After sight-seeing the enormous cliff high-above the Johns River Gorge, take a memorable ride along the famed railway. You can also go fishing, seek-out nearby farms and wineries, or, visit the museums and defy gravity at the Mystery Hill. Blowing Rock is tucked away in the mountains, only 15 minutes from Boone with a downtown replete with sights and attractions, including the pedestrian heart, Main Street. Browse through the wealth of unique shops, restaurants, and galleries, along with adjoining Memorial Park for a quick breather into nature.
The highlands town in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina near the Tennessee border, was named after the beloved pioneer, Daniel Boone. Follow his example and set camp in the natural area around that demands days-worth of exploring. The nearby wonders include Grandfather Mountain, Elk Knob State Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, and the pristine, Watauga river. Boone turns vibrant in autumn with mountains "on-fire" from the changing color of the leaves. Stroll the atmospheric streets, home to Appalachian State University, young population, and lively vibe.
The sweet town with under 14,000 residents boasts numerous buildings on the US National Register for Historic Places. Catch the annual play Horn In The West, part of Boone’s rich heritage, traditionally-performed during summer since 1952. It is an idyllic town surrounded by dramatic natural scape, where tantalizing Blue Ridge Mountains views follow you throughout ventures. The magnetic sights of the vast Grandfather Mountain might just steal the climbers and adventurous away your group.
Carolina Beach is a unique enclave with a relaxing vibe and seaside charm, complete with a famous boardwalk. It offers a real slice of heaven for any group, taste, and age, with old-fashioned arcade, food stalls, and a Ferris wheel. Enjoy scenic water views via cruise, go fishing on a daily charter for beginners or pro anglers, or delve deeper, with regular scuba diving excursions off-shore.
The “grounded” galore of natural ventures for any longevity include day hikes along the scenic trails or choosing a camp facility to become one with nature. Head to the atmospheric Carolina Beach State Park, home to many unique specie like the Venus flytrap and the area's protected natural wonder, loggerhead sea turtles, which you can spot nesting on the beach during summer.
Hillsborough is a cool town with beautifully-forested scape amidst modern attractions. It is the destination for naturalists and those seeking a respite within small-town atmosphere away from the city's hustle. The ambient streetscapes are aligned by restaurants and quaint shops in-between historic buildings and sites from early settlement, like the Mount plantation house. After a shopping spree in the downtown galore of opportunities to swipe a card, stroll the Riverwalk along the Eno River with views that strip-away all worries of the daily being.
The beautiful little town on the banks caters to all sight-seekers, from peaking into the past at Orange County Historical Museum, to ambient hundred year-old architecture along the streets, and natural wonders at the nearby Eno River State Park. Visit in time for the many vibrant events that turn tranquil Hillsborough into a lively scene with art walks, live music, farmers' markets, and festivals.
Kitty Hawk is the epitome of North Carolina’s Outer Banks islands, with quiet landscapes and untouched beaches. It is a-typical vacation town full of surprises, with intriguing name, and former, “Chickahawk,” just as puzzling. Kitty Hawk is the birth-site for the motto, "First in Flight," after Wilbur and Orville Wright’s initial gliders launch from 1900 to 1903.
Discover the string of barrier islands via cruising or self-guided boat ride with sea breeze and salty mist in the face from the warm Atlantic Ocean. Kitty Hawk is a real place of beauty with relaxing pursuits like sighting black and white light houses, stark against the unique pale beaches, to the rhythm of the waves for a sensory overload. The active enjoy trekking through the fabulous 1,800-acre Kitty Hawk Coastal Reserve with wildlife viewings.
North Carolina was born in New Bern, the second town descended onto by the Europeans settlers from the old world in the early 1700s. Explore the scenic streets a-brim with authentic buildings throughout multiple historic districts. Immerse in epic combination of nature and history at the lovely Union Point Park at the historic downtown district with picnicking, fishing, or a stroll-along under wholesome Southern vibe. Enjoy endless nature ventures at the Croatan National Forest, like swimming, canoeing, and hiking. Trent and Neuse rivers backdrop the “Athens of the South," complete with a riverfront aligned by numerous boutiques and cafes. Visit the original Pepsi Store on Middle Street Masonic Temple from when it was invented here in 1898, and admire the marvelous Athens Theatre landmark, behind the town's moniker. New Bern's vital role during the Civil War is reminiscent in historic battlegrounds and cemeteries around town.
Southport is a peaceful little hub along the scenic banks of the Cape Fear River. Stroll the aesthetic streets laden with authentic buildings behind a tree line all the way to the picturesque pier for lovely water views. There is an impressive collection of cultural sites like the Fort Johnston-Southport Museum & Visitors Center around Southport’s heritage, and the NC Maritime Museum that dives into the shipping heyday, as well as the Old Brunswick County Jail landmark. Uncover history around the charming waterways via a scenic kayak ride or boat tour.
The town was established as a port in the early federal period, and featured on countless TV shows and movies, like Dawson’s Creek, and the most romantic film adaptations from Nicholas Sparks’s novels, including A Walk to Remember and Nights in Rodanthe. The small harbor, Southport Marina emanates a tranquil vibe of an old fishing village, juxtaposed by the town's favorite Independence Day celebrations that turns the scape into a raucous party.
These picturesque towns showcase the best and unique sides of the state through wholesome attractions and natural pursuits for any level of activity. Head to a modern bar or a tavern in-between boutiques for a shopping spree, along a sea-bounding boardwalk or Riverwalk. Hike the same stretch for sights, or sit down at a cozy cafe and soak-in the morning glory of the scenic "Old North." Take an evening cruise for sunset views, or grab a waterside dinner of authentic dishes, and feel embraced in local hospitality. The endless list of historical sites and natural sights will leave diversified memories on the most-delightful getaway in life.