Summer is finally here, and when it’s time to take a vacation, North Carolina has something for everyone. If you enjoy sun and sand, with ocean waves lapping at your feet, you’ll want to visit the state’s beautiful beaches. Those who prefer the rugged outdoors can take advantage of hiking and biking trails in the Blue Ridge or Great Smoky Mountains. If you are not the “outdoorsy” type, a variety of shopping and entertainment options promise fun for the whole family.
1. Buxton – This historic town is located just off Cape Hatteras, an idyllic setting for fishing and water sports. Buxton is home to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, America’s tallest brick lighthouse. At 208 feet, the structure is opened for climbing every spring. Known for its picturesque sunsets, this hamlet on the Outer Banks offers a variety of accommodations, from seaside campgrounds to luxury waterfront rentals.
2. Duck – Offering a plethora of recreational opportunities, Duck has a reputation for water sports and beautiful beaches. Enjoy kayaking, deep-sea fishing, and parasailing. Besides waterfront recreation, visitors are drawn to the quaint cluster of locally-owned shops and art galleries in the center of town. Duck is also known for its pet-friendly beaches and the Soundside Boardwalk, where you can enjoy captivating views and sunsets.
3. Kure Beach – If you’re looking for a more laid-back setting, Kure Beach is “off the beaten path”, featuring quiet beaches and a waterfront park. Home to the oldest fishing pier on the Atlantic Coast, Kure Beach is a short distance from the North Carolina Aquarium, which offers fun activities for the whole family. Kure Beach is known for its relaxing, small-town atmosphere.
4. Boone – Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Boone provides ample opportunities for outdoor adventures. Horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, and whitewater rafting are just some of the activities you can enjoy. Cruise along the Blue Ridge Parkway and take in the natural scenery. The kids will love the amusement park rides at Tweetsie Railroad Park. Higher-altitude excursions await at High Gravity Adventures, an aerial outdoor recreation park where children ages four and up can explore a variety of climbing elements.
5. Lake Gaston – The coast isn’t the only place to relax in the sun. Lake Gaston, straddling the North Carolina and Virginia border, features boat ramps, marinas, and a public park. The 20,000-acre lake offers water-skiing, tubing, and wake boarding for water sports enthusiasts. It’s also a popular spot for boating and fishing. Visitors can take advantage of dining and shopping opportunities in nearby surrounding towns. Rent a cabin or stay at the popular Thousand Trails RV and Camping Resort.
6. Emerald Isle – The small town of Emerald Isle is known for its local character and all it has to offer. Enjoy kayaking, deep sea fishing, scuba diving, and snorkeling as you explore this scenic stretch of coastline. Free concerts are held throughout the summer at EmeraldFest. Plenty of shopping, dining, and sightseeing opportunities await when you’ve had your fill of outdoor fun.
7. Bryson City – On the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains, Bryson City is a landmark of high country recreation, exploration, and culture. Rent a cozy cabin near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where you can enjoy nature tours and hiking and biking trails. Take a ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad and explore more of the region. Bryson City is also home to a blueberry farm, The Deep Creek Tube Center Gem Mining Company, mini-golf and arcade parks, and museums.