North Carolina boasts one of the most diverse landscapes in the country, making it a popular state for the film and television industry. From the beautiful beaches through vibrant cities to the mountains, North Carolina has a little bit to offer all kinds of tourism.
Currency – $USD
Electricity – 110V – Type A & Type B Standard Plugs
Time Zone – Eastern Time Zone (GMT -5 hrs)
Popular Tourism Seasons – The coastal region of North Carolina sees a typical tourism season May – September. The mountain region, however, experience year-round tourism with summer visitors in the warmer months and mountain skiers in the winter months.
Primary Airports – Asheville (AVL), Charlotte (CLT), Fayetteville (FAY), Greensboro (GSO), Greenville (PGV), Jacksonville (OAJ), New Bern (EWN), Raleigh (RDU), Wilmington (ILM)
Primary Train Stations – Charlotte (CLT), Durham (DNC), Raleigh (RGH), Fayetteville (FAY)
Major Highways – Interstates 40, 95, 85, 74, 77, and 26 pass through the state. Highway 74 between Wilmington and Hendersonville is a four-lane divided highway that is slowly being converted into interstate-grade a few miles at a time, providing travelers a quick and easy route across the southern edge of the state. Highway 17 is a four-lane, divided highway that allows travelers to reach all the coastal towns and beaches in the state.
Best Transportation – Amtrak provides nice access along the I-95 corridor and central portions of the state, including Fayetteville, Raleigh, and Charlotte. Flying to and around North Carolina is very easy with lots of daily commuter flights. Driving is still the best option for transportation once you are in the state, but flying is the best option to get to the state in the first place.
Explore the Outer Banks – Take a few days to drive along the pristine beaches of the Outer Banks, and take the North Carolina Ferry from Ocracoke to Cedar Island.
Family Vacation on the Crystal Coast – The Crystal Coast of North Carolina includes the beach towns of Emerald Isle, Pine Knoll Shores, Salter Path, and Atlantic Beach. This stretch of beach on a barrier island offers a great escape for the family, local restaurants, the North Carolina Aquarium, and Fort Macon State Park.
Cape Fear Region – At the heart of the Cape Fear is the bustling small country city of Wilmington. With a vibrant downtown scene for craft breweries, local food, and unique shopping, you could spend an entire vacation within 15 square blocks. Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach gives you a chance to have some fun in the sun, and Southport is a popular day trip destination.
The Brunswick Islands – Just south of Wilmington is Brunswick County, home to several island and small towns to explore. Popular tourist destinations like Southport, Sunset Beach, and Ocean Isle Beach offer plenty of places to eat, sleep, and play during your visit.
The Blue Ridge Parkway – A long section of the Parkway winds across the mountains of Western North Carolina from Cumberland Knob Recreation Area to the end in Cherokee. Along the way you’ll find exciting places to explore like Julian Price Lake, the Linn Cove Viaduct, Grandfather Mountain, Linville Falls, Mount Mitchell State Park, and Craggy Gardens.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park – A large portion of the country’s most-visited national park is located in Western North Carolina. Popular destinations like Mingus Mill, watching the elk at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, and driving along Heintooga Ridge Road will keep visitors busy for days.
Cape Fear – Southeast Region
The Cape Fear region of North Carolina is centered around Wilmington, a friendly coastal city. With access to nearby Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, and Kure Beach, visitors are never far from the sand and surf. But you don’t have to leave Wilmington at all with a vibrant and entertaining downtown, lots of museums and history to explore like the USS North Carolina Battleship, and areas like Greenfield Lake.
Carolina Beach and Kure Beach are great places for a day to explore the beaches of the region. The Carolina Beach Boardwalk offers access to local shops and eateries, and nearby Carolina Beach State Park gives you a place to hike, fish, and put your boat in the water. Kure Beach is home to a small fishing pier, a North Carolina Aquarium, the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, and the North Carolina Ferry to Southport.
The Brunswick Islands – Southeast Region
Brunswick County is far southeastern North Carolina is one of the fastest-growing counties in the state and boasts plenty of towns and beaches for tourism. The towns of Leland, Shallotte, Southport and Calabash offer local eateries, places to shop, and beautiful coastal views. Each year Southport plays host to the largest Fourth of July festival in the state, taking over the town with arts & crafts, live music, a parade, and amazing fireworks. Oak Island, Caswell Beach, Holden Beach, Ocean Isle Beach, and Sunset Beach offer plenty of places to eat, shop, and sleep with views of the beaches, marshes, and Intracoastal Waterway.
Known as The Queen City (and also as the banking hub for the U.S.) Charlotte is a big city surrounded by country towns in central North Carolina. The Uptown area has lots of museums, entertainment, local places to eat, and long lists of things to do before you leave the city. Home of the NFL Carolina Panthers, the uptown area is filled with blue and black on game days as loyal fans travel from across the country to attend home games.
Charlotte is divided into several neighborhoods, each with a unique flair and attraction. The South Blvd. area is a busy stretch of road leading south of the city center with lots of hotels and eateries, making it a popular place for short term visitors. NoDa is a popular arts, crafts, and brewery neighborhood known for providing entertainment and shopping experiences for tourists of all kinds.
The surrounding area also has lots to offer this region. Nearby Lake Norman and Lake Norman State Park offer a chance for tourists to get out on the water for the day, enjoy some hiking and nature trails, or just enjoy a small picnic with a view of the lake. The small town of Waxhaw has a lot of history to share along with great local eateries, all just twenty minutes from Charlotte.
Western North Carolina
Beginning in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and continuing across the peaks of towering mountains, this region of North Carolina is home to some of the most landscapes and interesting places to visit in the state. Sort of anchored by the big city with a small town feel of Asheville, this region offers lots in the way of unique places to stay, eat, and shop.
Smaller towns along the foothills such as West Jefferson, Sparta, and Lenoir provide easy access along four-lane divided highways to bigger mountain towns like Boone, Blowing Rock, and Black Mountain. Deeper into the mountains tourists will find the small and charming towns of Hendersonville, Brevard, and Cherokee.
The Blue Ridge Parkway begins in Cherokee as it climbs across Richland Balsam, the highest point on the entire national scenic highway. From here the Blue Ridge Parkway continues through popular places such as Mount Pisgah, across the French Broad River, past Mount Mitchell State Park and Craggy Gardens, Linville Falls and the Linn Cove Viaduct, and Grandfather Mountain.
Scroll through the map and click on any marker to view photography from that location.
Scroll through the map and click on any marker to view travel stories I have written about that location.
Here are a few of the most recent blog posts about North Carolina. Click here to view all posts about the state.
I almost didn’t pull into the parking lot. I almost didn’t walk up those stairs. I almost didn’t see one of the most stunning overlooks on the entire Blue Ridge Parkway. But fortunately I did pull into the parking lot, walk up the short flight of stairs, and spent two hours one morning just admiring […]
If you happen to be driving through Cherokee into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park just before sunset chances are good you’ll spot an elk. Or several elk. Sometimes as many as two dozen will leave the dense forest behind in favor of feeding in the large field at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. But before […]
cleThe resilient USS North Carolina catches your attention across the Cape Fear River in downtown Wilmington. You can’t help but notice this mighty battleship dominating the skyline along the waterway. A hop, skip, and a drive across the iconic Cape Fear Memorial Bridge and I was standing at the entrance to the Battleship North Carolina […]
The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most iconic road trip destinations in the country. People come from far and wide to enjoy the scenic overlooks, exciting hiking, and winding roads of the two-lane Parkway through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and North Carolina. It’s not hard to find a list of things […]
A massive wind storm toppled nearly every tree in the area hundreds of years ago, leaving only the stumps behind that made early visitors think of tombstones. Then in 1925 an intense fire burned through the area and the local flora has been slowly recovering ever since. These natural events and two beautiful waterfalls have […]
A large sign welcomes visitors to the “Highest Elevation on the Blue Ridge Parkway Motor Road”. At 6,053′ above sea level the Richland Balsam Overlook is the highest point on the entire Parkway and provides a stunning view of the lower mountain landscapes surrounding the peak. Take a selfie with the sign, enjoy a picnic, […]