Natural attractions in North Carolina range from sandy beaches in the
east to high mountain ranges in the west. Charlotte, the largest city, is a thriving
convention and entertainment center. The barrier islands along the coast include resorts,
fishing villages and stretches of national seashore. North Carolina is full of exciting
National Parks as well as home to the some of the countries premiere
Disneys Family Fun magazine recently named North Carolinas Outer Banks the #1 beach in the
Southeast. A great family vacation place, you can experience a variety of exciting activities,
including jet skiing, windsurfing, surfing, kayaking or sailing. The Outer Banks is also home
to such attractions as the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Wright Brothers National Memorial,
Fort Raleigh National Historic site and many other intriguing cultural, historical, and natural
Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Stretched over 70 miles of barrier islands, Cape Hatteras National Seashore is a fascinating
combination of natural and cultural resources, and provides a wide variety of recreational
opportunities. Once dubbed the "Graveyard of the Atlantic" for its treacherous currents,
shoals, and storms, Cape Hatteras has a wealth of history relating to shipwrecks, lighthouses,
and the U.S. Lifesaving Service. These dynamic islands provide a variety of habitats and are
a valuable wintering area for migrating waterfowl. For thousands of years this expanse of
curving islands have survived the constant battering of the ocean during storm. The long
narrow conglomerate of beaches, dunes and marshlands stretch out into the Atlantic Ocean and
curve back around sheltering the main coast of North Carolina.
- Visitor Center
The Hatteras Island Visitor Center (located at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in Buxton)
is the main interpretive center in the park. It is open year-round, and houses a variety
of exhibits on park themes, a book store, and restrooms.
The hiker will find several trails, including the Buxton Woods Nature Trail near the Cape
Hatteras Lighthouse, the Hammock Hills Nature Trail on Ocracoke Island and the Bodie Island
Pond Trail and Dike Trail, both in close proximity to the
Bodie Island Lighthouse.
Most of the beach and sound area is open to fishing, and during the spring and fall, many
consider this spot to be the best fishing on the East Coast. There are several boat ramps
maintained by the National Park Service and most local marinas
offer charter services.
Camping must be done in designated campgrounds. All campgrounds are open during the
summer season and come with a modest camping fee. These campgrounds have many amenities
including showers, tables, outdoor grills and restrooms, but no utility hookups are
provided. Dumping stations are located near Oregon Inlet, Cape Point, and Ocracoke
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
This national park, in the states of North Carolina and Tennessee, encompasses 800 square
miles of which 95 percent are forested. World renowned for the diversity of its plant and
animal resources, the beauty of its ancient mountains, the quality of its remnants of American
pioneer culture, and the depth and integrity of the wilderness sanctuary within its boundaries,
it is one of the largest protected areas in the east.
- Visitor Center
The Sugarlands Visitor Center, near Gatlinburg, TN, is open year-round and offers an
orientation program and natural history exhibits. Oconaluftee Visitor Center, near
Cherokee, NC, is also open year-round and its exhibits focus on mountain life of the
late 1800s. Adjacent to the visitor center is the Mountain Farm Museum, a collection
of historic farm buildings. Cades Cove Visitor Center, near Townsend, TN, (closed in
winter), sits among preserved historic buildings representing isolated farming
communities of the 1800s.
More than 800 miles of trails provide opportunities ranging from ten-minute saunters on
quiet walkways to weeklong adventures deep in the forest. There are about 170 miles of
paved roads and over 100 miles of gravel roads. The "backroads" offer a chance to escape
traffic and enjoy the more remote areas of the park. During the summer and fall, the park
provides regularly scheduled ranger-led interpretive walks and talks.
LeConte Lodge, accessible only by foot or horseback, sits atop 6,593-foot Mt. LeConte,
the Park's third highest peak. Reservations are required and the lodge is opened
mid-March to mid-November. A variety of lodging facilities are available in the outlying
communities. Frontcountry Campgrounds has ten developed campgrounds. Cades Cove in Tennessee
and Smokemont in North Carolina are open year round. The other campgrounds are generally
open from late March/April to early November. Camping fees range from $12 to $20 per
night. Backcountry Campsites camping is free but requires a permit. Most campsites use
self-registration at visitor centers or ranger stations, but shelters and rationed sites
Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest and National Recreation Trail
This ancient hardwood forest has been preserved as a tribute to the poet of "Trees," who was
killed in action during World War I. The winding two-mile recreational trail passes under
enormous yellow poplars (some over 100 feet high). The 3,800-acre preserve has the most old
growth trees in the eastern United States. The figure eight looping trail is a perfect family
hike through a dark and enchanting primeval forest. About half a mile into the trek, the trail
comes to the center of the eight, where a plaque has been placed in honor of Kilmer.
Wright Brothers National Memorial
Wind, sand, and the dream of flight brought Wilbur and Orville Wright to Kitty Hawk, North
Carolina, where they achieved the first successful airplane flights on December 17, 1903.
With courage and perseverance, these self-taught engineers relied on teamwork and the
application of scientific process.
The first stop is the visitor center, where the story of the Wright
Brothers is told through exhibits and full-scale reproductions of the 1902 glider and the
1903 flying machine. A large granite boulder near the reconstructed 1903 camp buildings,
marks the spot where the first airplane left the ground. Numbered markers indicated the
distance of each of the four flights made on December 17, 1903. One of the 1903 camp
buildings duplicates the one used by the brothers as a hangar for the 1903 Flyer. The
other is similar to the one used as a workshop and living quarters; it is furnished with
items much like those the Wrights used when they were there. The Wright Memorial Shaft
crowns Big Kill Devil Hill, a 90-foot dune of once-shifting sand that has been stabilized
with grass. The 60-foot pylon, constructed of gray granite from Mount Airy, North Carolina,
honors the Wright Brothers and marks the site of the hundreds of glider flights that preceded
the first powered flight.
North Carolina is a hotspot for golfing vacations. The golf courses in North Carolina are
among the world's finest and most accessible. From the mountains to the coast, North Carolina
is home to a variety of beautifully conditioned golf courses that are always prepared to
challenge players of all levels. When you play golf in North Carolina, you can challenge the
subtle dignity of world-famous Pinehurst No. 2 and the numerous other courses that dot the
famous Sandhills. Or visit the North Carolina coast where you can walk along fairways that
meander along the ocean and then relax on the beach. Or you can stand high on an elevated tee
and revel in beautiful mountain scenery.
State Capital: Raleigh.
Entered the Union: November 21, 1789 as the 12th state.
State Motto: Esse quam videri (To be rather than to seem).
Origin of Name: In honor of Charles I of England.
State Bird: Cardinal.
State Flower: Dogwood.
State Nickname: Tar Heel State.