Tourists pass The Sunset Tee's & Hattery shop on Main St. in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Image credit Nolichuckyjake via Shutterstock

11 of the Most Charming Small Towns to Visit in North Carolina

North Carolina attracts visitors from near and far with its charming small towns full of Southern hospitality and natural beauty. From the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Outer Banks coastline, the Tar Heel State offers countless picturesque communities perfect for a short getaway or extended stay. The idyllic hamlets really exemplify the best of North Carolina's captivating culture and scenery.

Whether looking to explore historic districts, indulge in outdoor recreation, attend seasonal festivals, or simply relax in a friendly atmosphere, you are sure to find appeal in the best small towns to visit in North Carolina. So, the next time you are touring this fun East Coast state, be sure to include the following in your itinerary.


Beautiful summer day on the boardwalk waterfront Beaufort, North Carolina.
Beautiful summer day on the boardwalk waterfront, Beaufort, North Carolina. Image credit Ryan McGurl via Shutterstock

Often featured on different "America's best towns" lists, Beaufort charms visitors with its scenic seaside location and historical heritage. It harbors a fair share of historical treasures, led by the North Carolina Maritime Museum. Inside the facility is a rich collection of artifacts chronicling the state's nautical past and heritage. Furthermore, Beaufort Historic Site takes visitors on a wild journey to the 18th and 19th centuries using a cluster of historic houses depicting life in the community.

Beaufort's relaxed, natural surroundings beckon visitors to revel in the open spaces by visiting the Rachel Carson Reserve. The park features a combination of habitats housing a range of wildlife that should entice nature photographers. Meanwhile, one of the best experiences in the town involves interacting with local traders at the Olde Beaufort Farmers' Market.


The skyline of Boone, North Carolina.
The skyline of Boone, North Carolina.

College towns in North Carolina do not get more vibrant than this tiny Blue Ridge Mountains enclave. Teeming with fun experiences, Boone attracts all kinds of interests, from outdoor explorers to history buffs and culture connoisseurs. The Appalachian State University has elevated the local art scene, thanks to centers like the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts. Elsewhere, the Jones House Cultural Center offers a hint of early 20th-century Boone inside a two-story Colonial Revival mansion.

Numerous opportunities in the great outdoors enable visitors to explore the beautiful nature that surrounds Boone through biking along the rugged trails of the Rocky Knob Mountain Bike Park. Also, the local brewery scene is abuzz, and is a chance to sample refreshing craft beers at establishments like Booneshine Brewing Company.


The Main Street, showing buildings, railroad track, and water tower in the distance in Hudson, North Carolina.
The Main Street in Hudson, North Carolina. Image credit Nolichuckyjake via Shutterstock

Hudson is a pocket Hercules when it comes to touristy delights, offering a rich mix of experiences for all types of visitors. This tiny community of under 4,000 is known for its lively winery scene, featuring multiple outlets where tourists can sample tasty wine varieties. Six Waterpots Vineyards & Winery is one of the top local establishments, producing varieties like fruit, muscadine, and vinifera wines. Art lovers have much to expect in Hudson, which hosts an impressive collection of centers dedicated to the artistically inclined, such as the Mitford Museum and the Red Awning Gallery.

Elsewhere, antique collectors and souvenir hunters can find unique treasures at different outlets in the town. Stopping by Yesteryear's Antiques & Collectibles allows you to leave the town with an awesome find as a charming memory of your Hudson visit.

Bryson City

Street view of Bryson City, North Carolina.
Street view of Bryson City, North Carolina. Image credit igidreamgrafix via

A popular getaway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Bryson City sees a lot of tourist traffic on their way to exploring the most visited national park in America. However, those who choose to stick around enjoy a fun mix of experiences. Riding the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad offers an opportunity to take in the beautiful wilderness surrounding the town, with amazing photo opportunities during the trip. But if you fancy a more immersive experience, you can slip into your trainers to hike the almost 5-mile Deep Creek Loop Trail for a slight physical challenge.

With so many visitors passing through the town of Bryson City, the local dining scene has evolved to include diverse flavors in a bid to address the different tastes. Those with a soft spot for Italian cuisine should make a point of visiting Pasqualino's Italian Restaurant for authentic dishes.

Blowing Rock

Downtown street in Blowing Rock, North Carolina.
Downtown Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Image credit Cvandyke via Shutterstock

This tiny alpine community is situated on the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, delivering epic vistas of the surrounding landscapes. It was named after Blowing Rock, a popular cliff attraction perched 4,000 feet above sea level, with powerful gusts of wind that seem to return any objects cast back to the thrower. The town harbors a respectable art scene, with opportunities for culture vultures to browse interesting pieces at the Blowing Rock Art & History Museum. The facility exhibits artifacts chronicling everything from Appalachian culture to American history and art.

For outdoorsy travelers, Glen Burney Falls Trail presents the perfect way to discover the open spaces on a 3.2-mile roundtrip hike into the wilderness. The out-and-back trail promises breathtaking scenes along the way, with the highlight being a gorgeous 50-foot cascade named Glen Burney Falls.


Aerial View of the Roanoke River Lighthouse in Edenton North Carolina.
Overlooking the Roanoke River Lighthouse in Edenton, North Carolina.

A captivating experience awaits newcomers in one of the most historically significant towns to visit in North Carolina. Edenton served as the state's first colonial capital in 1722 and harbors a rich tapestry of regional history, as seen through its treasure trove of antique landmarks. At the Historic Edenton State Historic Site, guests can get a sense of the state's second-oldest town by perusing an interesting exhibit portfolio.

Edenton also houses some of the oldest homes in the state, exemplified by the Penelope Barker House. Originally built in 1782, this old-world structure dazzles visitors with its combination of Greek Revival, Federal, and Georgian architectural styles. Beyond history, travelers can enjoy laidback river trips courtesy of Edenton Bay Cruises to discover the town from the water, with amazing photo opportunities at iconic landmarks like the Roanoke River Lighthouse.

Mount Airy

Main Street Mount Airy.
Main Street Mount Airy, North Carolina. Image credit LisaCarter via Shutterstock

Mount Airy's strategic location in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains culminates in cozy outdoor scenery ideal for nature lovers and sightseers. Exploring Riverside Park offers an excellent way of reveling in its natural scenery on an easygoing picnic. The downtown corridor hosts an exciting mix of galleries, museums, restaurants, and other shops worth exploring. History enthusiasts will fancy stopping by the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History to learn more about the town's heritage.

Mount Airy is also famous for being the birthplace of Andy Griffith, who is immortalized at the Andy Griffith Museum. Guests can tour the facility to explore his legacy by combing through different memorabilia dedicated to him, and even get to witness his boyhood home at Andy Griffith's Homeplace.


Palmer-Marsh House Bath, North Carolina
Palmer-Marsh House Bath, North Carolina. Image credit LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES via Shutterstock

Bath is North Carolina's oldest town, stretching back to the early 18th century when it was established. Dotting the town is a rich collection of historical landmarks and treasures, offering a window into the state's infant years. Prominent among these is Historic Bath, which has sites like the 1744 Palmer-Marsh House that visitors can tour for a feel of old-world North Carolina. History aside, Bath presents a few cozy nature spots for outdoor enthusiasts, highlighted by Bonner's Point. This waterfront nature space is perfect for lazy picnics.

Bath's riverside location provides exciting opportunities to get on the calm waters of the Pamlico River and for a relaxed sailing adventure. Tourists can take advantage of this aboard the Bayview Ferry, with a chance to visit the neighboring town of Aurora.


The St. John's Lutheran Church building, located in downtown Salisbury, North Carolina.
The St. John's Lutheran Church building, in downtown Salisbury, North Carolina. Image credit Nolichuckyjake via

Salisbury is a mixed bag of tourist attractions, providing everything from interesting museums and beautiful parks to vibrant art venues. It hosts a quaint historic district with several structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Walking the neighborhood's quiet streets reveals treasures like the Piedmont Players Theater, which has been captivating audiences with theatrical performances since 1905. Several galleries around the town, including Rail Walk Studios & Gallery, offer visitors a taste of the bustling local art scene.

Meanwhile, visiting the Salisbury Farmers' Market is one of the best ways to explore local culture, featuring friendly interactions with traders and a chance to shop for fresh farm produce and unique handcrafts.


Downtown Manteo, North Carolina.
Downtown Manteo, North Carolina. Image credit Wileydoc via Shutterstock

Manteo is a tiny community on Roanoke Island that draws visitors with its rustic charm and diversity of attractions. As one of North Carolina's oldest towns, it harbors a collection of treasures in its historic waterfront district that is best explored with the Manteo Historic Walking Tour. This exciting guided trip features stops at notable landmarks, with insightful narrations by a resourceful guide. On the eastern edge of Manteo's downtown, visitors will come across the iconic Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse, which houses interesting exhibits and provides awesome views of the water.

If you travel with kids, the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island is a must-visit. The remarkable facility promises unforgettable marine animal encounters at its 285,000-gallon shark tank and an immersive experience with the Google 360 Tour.

Banner Elk

Downtown Banner Elk in North Carolina.
Downtown Banner Elk in North Carolina. Image credit Kristi Blokhin via

This Blue Ridge Mountain town presents the ultimate escape for ardent outdoors lovers, with fun recreation opportunities around the year. It hosts a couple of ski resorts to ensure it is never a dull time when the snow season comes along, including Beech Mountain. During the warmer months, adventurers flock to the town to explore the vast wilderness of Grandfather Mountain State Park. Hosting a mix of treacherous trails, picturesque mountain vistas, secluded campsites, and wildlife viewing opportunities, the park is a regional hub for outdoor recreation.

When you have had enough of the great outdoors, you can break the monotony with a tour of Banner House Museum. The quaint facility offers an interesting perspective of life in Banner Elk during the 19th century through various exhibits.

North Carolina's diversity of idyllic small towns provides visitors with no shortage of scenic and cultural destinations to explore. From the Blue Ridge Mountains and Piedmont region to the Atlantic coastline, each locality offers its own unique flavor and attractions. Whether seeking outdoor recreation amid natural beauty, historic charm, artistic vibes, or just a relaxing small-town ambiance, any of the above towns to visit in North Carolina guarantees an unforgettable experience, with a chance to witness the beauty and charm of the Tar Heel State.

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