Road trips always have something unforgettable about them, and many road trippers can attest to that. North Carolina certainly has got plenty of great places to make any road trip undeniable even for the road trip newbies. It’s historic lighthouses, delectable barbecues, NASCAR races, museums, state parks plus many more offer every road tripper something to hold on to when it comes to adventure thrill favorites. So don’t wait, just check out our sampling of North Carolina Road Trip Destinations now!
The state boasts of abundant outdoor adventure to immerse yourself in. If you’re into hiking, skiing, relaxing by the beach, or visiting historic sites, North Carolina has your needs sorted out. You can also learn things to do in North Carolina before starting your road trips. The state also has got interesting histories from famous personalities behind it including the Wright Brothers.
We have already done the legwork to come up with some of the best destinations you might want to visit for an elevated outdoor adventure thrill. Include these destinations in your upcoming North Carolina road trip itinerary and you’ll never regret it.
We know how much you need a vacation, check out the slides below to quickly create your North Carolina road trip itinerary and head out now!
- 1 Blue Ridge Parkway – America’s Favorite Drive
- 2 Cape Hatteras National Seashore – Lighthouse & More
- 3 Newfound Gap Road – Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- 4 The Biltmore Estate – One of The Best North Carolina Road Trip Destinations
- 5 Linville Gorge and Falls– Grand Canyon of the East
- 6 Battleship North Carolina – Top Spot For US Navy Buffs
- 7 NASCAR Escapade – Charlotte Motor Speedway
- 8 North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences – Oldest In State
- 9 Nantahala Scenic Byway
Blue Ridge Parkway – America’s Favorite Drive
Blue Ridge Parkway is the favorite one in North Carolina road trip destinations. Due to its prominence among road trippers, this scenic drive is referred to as “America’s favorite drive. It spans a length of 469 miles having been designed by Stanley Abbot a landscape architect who had envisioned a road that would offer more than just connecting Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park.
The drive features picturesque views of the Blue Ridge Mountains plus that of the surrounding areas. Blue Ridge Parkway is mostly popular among bicyclists and motorcyclists due to the endless beauty witnessed on the drive. Also, several hiking trails branch off from various picnic areas, pull-offs, and campgrounds along the road.
During the foliage season in October, you’ll find the parkway highly crowded so you might want to schedule your road trip here on summers to enjoy the amazing colors of rhododendrons and azaleas.
Apart from its natural beauty, Blue Ridge Parkway also houses several museums and visitor centers, a number of which are opened on a seasonal basis. Mabry Mill is opened during summer and autumn and features demonstrations including cutting boards in the sawmill, corn grinding in the mill, and blacksmithing. Other museums include The Folk Art Center opened all year round and Museum of North Carolina Minerals which features detailed exhibits showcasing the mineral resources of the region.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore – Lighthouse & More
This is one of the most attractive scenic roads in North Carolina road trip destinations. It’s the place you need to visit when you need to connect with nature’s beauty. Driving on this scenic road allows you to explore historic sites, pristine seashore, natural areas, lighthouses, and museums.
Set off on your escapade at Ocracoke town then cruise towards Points Harbor or vice versa. But note that choosing Ocracoke as your kick off point will require you to board the ferry from Swan Quarter Ferry or Cedar Island. Without question, your camera needs to be with you and ready to capture the breathtaking scenery you’re going to encounter along US-158.
Just after you’ve passed Jockey’s Ridge State Park, you might want to head west on route US-64 leading to Roanoke Island. At the island, you’ll get a chance to explore the 16th century Elizabeth II
reproduction, an English merchant ship among the 7 ships that arrived here in 1585. You’ll also get to have a hands-on experience where you’ll get to set the sail, swab the decks, or raise the anchors.
Newfound Gap Road – Great Smoky Mountains National Park
This is the route you need to be on when you crave for that exhilarating thrill of adventure. Newfound Gap Road has got numerous features as you cruise along including stone bridges, tunnels, twists and turns plus more. This will present you the chance to explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to comprehend why it receives the highest influx of visitors in the United States.
This road trip commences at Gatlinburg in Tennessee and ends in North Carolina’s Cherokee. You can opt to follow the route the other way around. During this trip, you’ll come across the highest point on the drive, Newfound Gap Overlook, which is just on North Carolina entry point and has unsurpassed views spanning a wide coverage into Tennessee.
The beauty of this drive is one of its kind and very recommendable for new couples seeking to strengthen the bond between them. Just don’t forget to bring your camera along.
The Biltmore Estate – One of The Best North Carolina Road Trip Destinations
This is one of the must-see spots in North Carolina. Biltmore Estate is a top attraction in Asheville, lying on an 8,000 acreage. On this estate rests the Vanderbilt Mansion, the largest privately-owned home in the US.
Vanderbilt Mansion boasts of 250 rooms highly decorated with impressive antiques, artwork, and architecture of its kind. It also features collections of vintage accessories and clothing which add up to its beauty. The estate has one of the most expansive gardens and includes the Rose Garden featuring over 250 varieties and the Italian Garden decorated with ornate sculptures and pools.
The Biltmore Estate also has a managed forest, first one in the US, deer park, and several miles of walking trails and level paths throughout the estate. Also featured here include bountiful dining options in the entire estate, and entertainment and shopping at Antler Hill Village.
Linville Gorge and Falls– Grand Canyon of the East
Nicknamed “Grand Canyon of the East”, it’s one of the most scenic and the deepest gorge in Eastern USA. Linville Gorge is situated at Pisgah National Forest and has Linville River entering it at the Linville Falls with a drop height of 90 feet as it continues for about 12 miles within the sheer rock walls.
The hiking trails here can be accessed at the Milepost 316 found on Blue Ridge Parkway and offers magnificent views on a 1.6-mile hike easily traversed on a round trip. During the trip to Linville Falls Visitor Center, you should also visit the stunning Duggers Creek Falls, which is just 0.3 miles trekking distance away.
Other attractions nearby include the Crabtree Falls and incredible picturesque views from Hawksbill Mountain and Table Rock Mountain.
If you’re a buff of the battle vessels and the US Navy, pack up and get set for this road trip. The USS North Carolina, found in Wilmington was the first among 10 battleships that joined the US fleet in World War II after its construction on April 9, 1941.
This warship is adequately armed: it consists of 9 sixteen inch, forty-five caliber guns in 3 turrets and 20 five inches, thirty-eight caliber guns in 10 twin mounts. This ship was once the greatest marine weapon and now is availed as an attraction to visitors who are allowed to wander through it touring the officer’s and sailor’s quarter, mess hall, and the extensive deck to view the intimidating artilleries up close.
NASCAR Escapade – Charlotte Motor Speedway
A road escapade in North Carolina wouldn’t be considered complete without a visit to Charlotte Motor Speedway for NASCAR. Whether or not you’re a NASCAR fan, you’ll definitely conclude that this is a great road trip in the state.
The races might be held in May; however, the tracks are open all year round for fans to tour. Afterward, cruise to the north to the racing legend Dale Earnhardt’s hometown of Kannapolis in North Carolina. Visit the Dale Trail across his early days’ neighborhood to see the area where Earnhardt’s racing passion first began.
Next, move to Mooresville, which is the home ground of several racing team garages, including DEI and Penske. Many of these garages are equipped with big showrooms where you’ll get to see some of the historic winning cars as well as watch the technical stuff behind the scene.
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences – Oldest In State
This is North Carolina’s oldest museum, which is primarily dedicated to the state’s natural history. The museum is composed of two buildings: Nature Research Center and Nature Exploration Center, each filled with interactive learning sessions, educational presentations, and exhibits.
Nature Exploration Center also consists of permanent exhibits including topics from North Carolina coastal regions and exhibits exploring the state’s history and origin of gemstones. There are also sections that delve into the exploration of rainforest and tropics habitats as well as a resident 2-toed sloth. You’ll also encounter the only true skeleton of Acrocanthosaurus nicknamed “Terror of the South” available on display.
Nature Research Center just next door focuses majorly on exploration and science that are important in learning about the natural world. The exhibits featured here include collections from the Atlantic Ocean, deep space exploration, and the study of things such as the science of the weather patterns to minute things like DNA.
Nantahala Scenic Byway
If you’d like to travel through the state’s best backcountry, then you need to travel the Nantahala Scenic Byway. The 43-mile-long byway cruises through Nantahala National Forest and the Great Smoky Mountains.
Scenic views on this drive include watching the breathtaking change of tree leaves color during fall. You can also drive through this road during summer to enjoy some amazing watersports such as whitewater rafting, kayaking, and canoeing. If you’re not into watersports, you can take the little bend on the road ahead to enjoy some quaint antique shopping and viewing Native American artifacts and goods.
Wrapping Up North Carolina Road Trip Destinations
Feeling like hitting the road right away? These top road trip destinations in North Carolina are surely going to quench your craving of exhilarating road adventure thrill. Don’t forget to bring along a camera to capture the stunning views for a lifetime memory.
I hope you enjoyed our sampling of North Carolina Road Trip Destinations. Book your vacation rental now at Rental Trader. For any more information, fill our web form or give us a call, we will be happy to help you.