North Carolina travel guide

North Carolina thrills you with swashbuckling pirates and spectacular mountain highways, sensational beaches and a gamut of historic sites.

White sand and surf lure sun worshipers and adrenaline junkies to the state’s 480km (300 miles) of barrier island beaches; surfers paddle out to ride the renowned swell at Cape Hatteras; hang-gliders launch off dunes the size of small mountains at Jockey’s Ridge; and wild horses roam the beach at Corolla in the Outer Banks.

If flopping on the sand doesn’t do it for you, try North Carolina’s historic attractions. Think Europe has the stately home market tied up? Think again. Built in the late 1800s, Biltmore House is the USA’s largest home and is reminiscent of a French château. Or you can head underground at Reed Gold Mine, site of the country’s first documented gold discovery. The state’s oldest town is Bath, but you’re more likely to find traces of Blackbeard here than Jane Austen.

Come autumn, convoys of sightseers cruise the Blue Ridge Parkway, a 406km (252-mile) scenic drive through mountains and dense forests, to snap the state’s kaleidoscopic colours. 

But North Carolina’s pièce de résistance is its world-class ice climbing. While you can stand and gaze at plummeting waterfalls in summer, hacking your way up them with crampons and an ice axe is a sure-fire way to crank up the adrenaline. Starshine, a 60m (200ft) route on Whitesides Mountain, is considered one of the gnarliest.

Looking for some city action? Famed for its NASCAR racing, Charlotte is also home to the US National Whitewater Center and the outstanding Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. Raleigh meanwhile boasts over 40 free attractions, including the terrific North Carolina Museum of Art.