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North Carolina offers a wide range of opportunities for relaxation, fun in the sun and adventure, along with being a state rich with culture and importance in American history. The Old North State enjoys a moderate climate in the summer, averaging 70 or so degrees, and in the wintertime it dips down into the mid 40s. No matter what time of year we decide to visit, we can be assured that there’s plenty to do, whether it be hiking in the majestic Great Smoky Mountains in spring and summer, or skiing and snowboarding in the winter.
Let’s start off in New Bern, the second oldest city in North Carolina. There are so many fun and interesting things to do in this city, from investigating her many historical sites to cruising down any of several rivers in a sailboat or canoe. At the top of the list of historical monuments, we have the Tryon Palace, which was the home of British Royal Governor William Tryon. The fully restored residence was built in 1770, and the grounds feature four separate homes, containing a collection of art and antiques that must be seen to be believed.
A fun site to visit while in New Bern is the “Birthplace of Pepsi.” It’s a pharmacy on Middle Street, where a local soda jerk created the beverage that would later be known as Pepsi-Cola. The store features all kinds of Pepsi-related merchandise, so be sure to grab a few souvenirs while you’re there.
Getting out on the road, we head south on the US-17 for a little more than twenty miles, then take state highway 58 for another twenty-six miles, which brings us to Emerald Isle. The town is a beautiful part of the Crystal Coast, and draws as many as 50,000 tourists during summertime. It’s a perfect place to break out the beach gear, grab a rod and reel and drop a line off the pier and wait for a nibble, or go jogging along the shoreline, or biking along one of Emerald Isle’s many bike paths. On the second Friday of the month, Emerald Isle hosts Friday Free Flicks; the movies are always family-oriented in theme, and it’s recommended you bring chairs and a blanket for your own comfort.
A short four-mile trip east on the US-70 takes us to Cedar Island. While we’re here, we should take advantage of the local horse stables, which allow us to rent horses for a ride along the beach. It’s a real rush! Also, the Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge is a gorgeous place to take a boat out on the water and explore 15,000 acres of nature preserve. Bring the camera!
At Cedar Island, we take the ferry over to Ocracoke. The ferry is able to accommodate even the largest RV, so no worries there. Once we get back on dry land, there are several fun things to do, ranging from checking out exhibits devoted to notorious pirates, to parasailing, to renting a Jeep for a ride down the miles of sandy beaches, which is a real blast.
It’s a twenty-mile trip eastbound to Hatteras, home of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, a popular visitor spot. While in Hatteras, we can rent jet skies and waverunners for a bit of high-speed fun out on the crystal blue water.
Leaving Hatteras by way of Highway 12 north, we arrive at Roanoke Island, roughly 60 miles later. Roanoke Island is the setting for one of the biggest unsolved mysteries in American history: namely, how a colony of 117 men, women, and children vanished without a trace 400 years ago. Make sure to visit the Fort Raleigh Historic Site, where an outdoor drama depicts this baffling situation.
Seventeen miles further north on Highway 12 brings us to the birthplace of aviation, Kitty Hawk. The Wright Brothers National Memorial stands as a proud monument to these pioneers of modern flight; exhibits tell the story of their tireless efforts to put man in the air, and full-size replicas of the glider and the flying machine are on display. Climb up Kill Devil Hill while you’re there and stand on the very spot the Wright brothers performed their tests and experiments.
Proceeding west on US-64 takes us on an 18-mile trip to Manteo, which is a prime place to pull over and enjoy antiquing in the town’s shopping district. If we’re feeling outdoorsy, Manteo offers plenty of chances to charter a sailboat or go on a bicycle tour of the surrounding environs. The North Carolina Aquarium features the opportunity to examine various types of fish, river otters, and sharks in an array of saltwater habitats. It’s a great place to spend a big chunk of the day – especially watching the mischievous little otters!
Sixty-six miles further west on the US-64, and a quick merge with the US-17B, leads us into our final destination of Edenton. This is truly a beautiful city, established in the 17th century, and still retains a good portion of its historical buildings. A guided walking tour of the historic district provides a fascinating look at a town that has been hailed as one of the most beautiful in the South. Its quiet charm and breathtaking views across Edenton Bay make it an ideal spot for a romantic getaway.
While cruising through North Carolina, be sure to treat yourself to the Outer Banks’ barrier islands. Cape Hatteras alone boasts apparently infinite expanses of unspoiled beaches, and the lighthouses at Hatteras, Ocracoke, Bodie Island, Roanoke Marshes and Currituck Beach comprise a fascinating tour that will entertain the whole family.
No trip to the Outer Banks is complete without taking part of some of the finest fishing on the Eastern Seaboard. Charter a boat for an afternoon at sea, and reel in as many mackerel, flounder, trout and stripers as possible. With these rich waters, you’re likely to be eating fish for days to come!
With everything we’ve seen on our trip through North Carolina, it’s highly likely we’ll want to pass this way again, like so many travelers before us, and like so many more who have yet to discover her charming, relaxing beauty.