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Bodie Island Lighthouse

22 Outdoor Destinations in North Carolina

Awash in natural beauty, from the coastlines to the mountains, North Carolina has got plenty of outdoor opportunities. No matter where you stay, each region of the Tarheel State is home to parks, beaches, and mountains, perfect for families and vacationers, and those looking to get away from the city.

Experience some of America's greatest outdoor recreational playground and some of its best-kept secrets with these 22 suggestions.


The Coast

With over 300 miles of coastline, North Carolina's coast is a popular destination for surfing, swimming, and beach combing. Plenty of options await you with a trip to Elizabeth City, Kill Devil Hills, Swansboro, Wilmington, and Leland.

North Carolina Outdoor Destinations

Beach Combing

1. Take a drive down the famed Outer Banks (OBX) to photogenic Bodie Island Lighthouse near Kill Devil Hills.

2. Continue down NC-12 to Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, also near Kill Devil Hills.

3. Complete your lighthouse tour and see Currituck Lighthouse near Elizabeth City.

4. Spy some of the famed coastal wild horses at the Corolla Wild Horse Tours near Elizabeth City.

5. Go south to the tidal pools of Hammocks Beach State Park near Swansboro.

6. Continue heading south to Wilmington and visit Bald Head Island Lighthouse.

7. Chill out, catch some sun, or take a hike at Carolina Beach State Park near Wilmington.

8. Hit the surf shops at Wrightsville Beach near Wilmington or relax at nearby Kure Beach.

 

North Carolina Outdoor Destinations

U.S. National Whitewater Center

The Piedmont

Home to the state's largest city, Charlotte, the Piedmont region's low lying foothills mix city life with plenty of recreational living. Visit rivers, forests, and city attractions with a stay near Charlotte, Cary, Lumberton, Gastonia, Statesville, and more.

9. Check out the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center near Cary, home to one of the largest planetariums in the country.

10. Take on adventurous whitewater rapids, stand-up paddle boarding, zip-lining, and more at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte.

11. Experience history at the President James K. Polk State Historic Site south of Charlotte.

12. See more than 175 species of birds, reptiles, animals, and plants at the McDowell Nature Center & Preserve near Charlotte.

North Carolina Outdoor Destinations

Chimney Rock

13. Relax for a day amongst the picnic tables, rivers, and forests of Lumber River State Park near Lumberton.

14. Enjoy canoe and kayak rentals at Dismal Swamp State Park near Elizabeth City.

15. Catch a fish or go rock climbing at Crowder's Mountain State Park near Gastonia.

16. Find your new favorite jewel at Hiddenite Gems Emerald Hollow Mine, near Statesville.

 

The Mountains

Situated in the western part of the state, the Appalachians' mix of rolling hills, valleys, ridges, and forests are home to the famous Blue Ridge Parkway scenic drive and the most popular national park in the country. Experience it for yourself with a stay at Asheville, Hendersonville, Maggie Valley, Dillsboro, Jefferson, Boone, Murphy, Banner Elk, and Mount Airy.

North Carolina Outdoor Destinations

Great Smoky Mountains

17. Wonder around the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville and enjoy gardens, hiking, and biking trails.

18. See the 533 million year old monolith known as Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock Park near Asheville.

19. Visit the nation's most popular national park, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Maggie Valley.

20. Hit the slopes at the Cataloochee Ski Area, one of the few ski resorts in the South, at Maggie Valley.

21. Visit Pilot Mountain State Park near Mount Airy and take snapshots of iconic Pilot Mountain.

22. See the World's Largest Open-Face Granite Quarry, also known as the official state rock of North Carolina, near Mount Airy.

Best Western Hotels Along the Way:

1

Best Western Asheville Tunnel Road

501 Tunnel Road, Asheville NC 28805-1824
Phone: (828) 298-5562  |  Fax: (828) 298-5002  |  Hotel Details & Reservations »

2

Best Western Plus Cary Inn - NC State

1722 Walnut Street, Cary NC 27511-5931
Phone: (919) 481-1200  |  Fax: (919) 467-7535  |  Hotel Details & Reservations »

3

Best Western Plus Sterling Hotel & Suites

242 E Woodlawn Road, Charlotte NC 28217-2202
Phone: (704) 525-5454  |  Fax: (704) 525-5637  |  Hotel Details & Reservations »

4

Best Western Plus Charlotte/Matthews Hotel

2501 Sardis Road N, Charlotte NC 28227-7724
Phone: (704) 845-2810  |  Fax: (704) 845-1743  |  Hotel Details & Reservations »

5

Best Western Plus River Escape Inn & Suites

248 WBI Drive, Dillsboro NC 28725
Phone: (828) 586-6060  |  Fax: (828) 586-6090  |  Hotel Details & Reservations »

6

Best Western Plus Elizabeth City Inn & Suites

848 Halstead Boulevard, Elizabeth City NC 27909-6919
Phone: (252) 331-7751  |  Fax: (252) 338-3289  |  Hotel Details & Reservations »

7

Best Western Gastonia

360 Best Western Ct, Gastonia NC 28054
Phone: (704) 868-2000  |  Fax: (704) 868-2000  |  Hotel Details & Reservations »

8

Best Western Ocean Reef Suites

107 S Virginia Dare Trl, Kill Devil Hills NC 27948-7892
Phone: (252) 441-1611  |  Fax: (252) 441-1482  |  Hotel Details & Reservations »

9

Best Western Lumberton

201 Jackson Ct, Lumberton NC 28358-1103
Phone: (910) 618-9799  |  Fax: (910) 618-9057  |  Hotel Details & Reservations »

10

Best Western Mountainbrook Inn

3811 Soco Road Route 19, Maggie Valley NC 28751-9506
Phone: (828) 926-3962  |  Fax: (828) 926-2947  |  Hotel Details & Reservations »

11

Best Western Bryson Inn

125 Plaza Ln, Mount Airy NC 27030-9798
Phone: (336) 352-3400  |  Fax: (336) 352-6171  |  Hotel Details & Reservations »

12

Best Western of Murphy

1522 Andrews Road, Murphy NC 28906-5113
Phone: (828) 837-3060  |  Fax: (828) 837-9326  |  Hotel Details & Reservations »

13

Best Western Statesville Inn

1121 Morland Drive, Statesville NC 28677-6973
Phone: (704) 881-0111  |  Fax: (704) 872-5056  |  Hotel Details & Reservations »

14

Best Western Plus Silver Creek Inn

801 Cedar Point Boulevard, Swansboro NC 28584-8015
Phone: (252) 393-9015  |  Fax: (252) 393-9098  |  Hotel Details & Reservations »

15

Best Western Smoky Mountain Inn

130 Shiloh Trl, Waynesville NC 28786-9007
Phone: (828) 456-4402  |  Fax: (828) 456-4885  |  Hotel Details & Reservations »

16

Best Western Plus Coastline Inn

503 Nutt Street, Wilmington NC 28401-3339
Phone: (910) 763-2800  |  Fax: (910) 763-2785  |  Hotel Details & Reservations »

17

Best Western Plus Wilmington/Carolina Beach

5600 Carolina Beach Road, Wilmington NC 28412-2608
Phone: (910) 796-0770  |  Fax: (910) 796-0750  |  Hotel Details & Reservations »

18

Best Western Plus Wilmington/Wrightsville Beach

5345 Market Street, Wilmington NC 28405-3505
Phone: (910) 799-4292  |  Fax: (910) 799-3994  |  Hotel Details & Reservations »

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More to See in North Carolina

  • North Carolina State Parks

    North Carolina State Parks

    Canoe your way down the Lumber River, set up a picnic on Hammocks Beach, or climb to the top of Crowders Mountain. Never a dull moment in NC's state parks.

    Hit the Trails ►
  • Cultural North Carolina

    Cultural North Carolina

    Find hotels near cultural sites like the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Old Baldy Lighthouse, and Biltmore Estate.

    Discover NC! ►
  • Kid Friendly North Carolina

    Kid Friendly North Carolina

    Explore the Tar Heel State with the whole family. Visit Carowinds amusement park, experience the history of NC, or check out Hammocks Beach along the coast.

    NC Family Adventures ►
  • North Carolina Airport Hotels

    North Carolina Airport Hotels

    Find hotels near major AL airports like Charlotte Douglas International Airport and the Raleigh–Durham International Airport.

    Hotels Near NC Airports ►
  • North Carolina Universities

    North Carolina Universities

    Your visit to North Carolina should include visits to historic and charming cities like Raleigh, Wilmington. Once there explore famous universities like Duke, UNC, and Appalachian State.

    Universities in NC ►
  • North Carolina Sports Teams

    North Carolina Sports Teams

    Across the Tar Heel state choose sporting action from the Panthers to the Hurricanes, or the Blue Devils to the Hammerheads.

    NC Sports Action ►
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