10 Most Beautiful Towns in North Carolina
10 Most Beautiful Towns in North Carolina
Video: Walking through downtown Charlotte, North Carolina, USA Cities USA 2022, September
North Carolina has a lot to offer nature lovers. There’s a windswept, sun-whitened Atlantic coast to the east, while the west-forested Appalachian Mountains are visible after an amazing view. State residents have built cities, towns and villages to match the beauty the land already provides. Check out our picks for the 10 most beautiful towns in North Carolina.
Asheville really sells itself a lot, from beer to big hikes. It has earned a reputation as a small hipster haven, focusing on living locally and organically. Architecture buffs will also enjoy wandering around downtown, which has many fantastic Art Deco buildings. The city was hit hard during the Great Depression and took a long time to rebuild, so some of the original buildings have been replaced or otherwise altered. Speaking of fine buildings, the Biltmore Estate, the ultimate American castle, is very close and visitors with a car can walk through Blue Ridge Park through the mountains.
Only the second city founded by European immigrants in what would become North Carolina, New Bern goes all the way back to 1710, when immigrants from Switzerland named it after the capital of their country. It is now one of the most historic cities in the state, with several historic districts full of buildings listed on the state historic register. It was once called the Athens of the South because of its Masonic Temple and Athens Theater, both of which still exist today. If you visit in spring or summer, you will see some of the thousands of cream myrtle trees in beautiful bloom. Perhaps the city’s biggest claim to fame is that it is the birthplace of Pepsi Cola.
All of North Carolina’s Outer Banks islands are a paradise for laid-back beach lovers, as they are harder to get to and therefore less developed. Kitty Hawk is especially worth a visit because it’s where Wilbur and Orville Wright first flew out of their plane, which is why North Carolina’s state motto is “First in Flight.” Once you get to this chain of barrier islands, you’ll be greeted by the smell of salt water coming off the warm Atlantic Ocean, the pale colors of the beach, and maybe even one of the state’s few light houses, all painted in their own pattern of black and white. Kitty Hawk is the perfect place to relax to the rhythm of the waves.
If you’re a fan of Gone with the Wind or are looking for a taste of Old South romance, you should come to the small village of Pinehurst in the Piedmont region (middle of the state). Home to more than 13,000 people, the village has a steady stream of visitors for the resort and golf. It is Pinehurst’s most famous resort, home to nine golf courses, and the Pinehurst No. 2 course is a frequent stop on the PGA Tour. They also have some great old buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, and the permanent greens of the Piedmont will never disappoint.
High in the Blue Ridge Mountains near the Tennessee border is Boone, a town named for beloved American pioneer Daniel Boone, who is said to have often stayed in the area. Home to Appalachian State University, Boone has a lively atmosphere with plenty of opportunities for young people, despite its small population of less than 14,000. Most of Boone’s attractions are natural wonders, such as Mt. Dede and Elk Knob Gothic Park. The Blue Ridge Parkway is nearby, as well as the pristine Watauga River. Fall is a fantastic time to visit when the changing colors of the leaves illuminate the mountains.
The quaint little town of Bath is an ideal destination for history buffs, as it is North Carolina’s oldest town by five years (it was founded in 1705, five years before New Bern). Its heyday periods were the colonial period and the very early years of the United States, and the historic downtown has changed little since then. In addition to the historic sites is the coast, where tourists can take a boat or rent jet skis to get out on the water. One of Bath’s most famous former residents was the famous pirate Blackbird, who lived in Bath briefly.
The largest port city in North Carolina, Wilmington has something for everyone. The beach is right around the corner, and if you don’t want sand on your feet, you can wander the Riverwalk, dubbed the best American Riverfront by USA Today. Wilmington was also founded in the first half of the 18th century by colonists, so it has a number of historic buildings. The university, one of the most popular in the North Carolina system, has attracted more and more young people to the area, so there’s always something cultural to do on the weekend.
It may be near Dismal Swamp, but Elizabeth City is nothing short of bleak. A historic port city, Elizabeth City became very successful in the 19th century after the construction of Dismal Swamp made shipping easier, and it has remained the center of its region ever since. Because of its period of success, it boasts the largest group of front end style homes and mansions, so it’s another great place to imagine what the Old South might have been like. They really use their local craftsmanship in this region, so you’ll find all kinds of stores and galleries in historic downtown Elizabeth.
Now a quiet, heavily wooded town in the Piedmont, Hillsborough was once a site of considerable tension between colonists and the British government in the run-up to the War of Independence. The main street leads up the hill, and you’ll encounter many charming restaurants and cute stores in addition to the historic buildings along the way. This is another good spot if you want to hike, as it’s very close to Eno River State Park. The Eno, a much-loved part of the community, is one of the oldest rivers in the country.
A port of call since the early Federal period, Southport is good enough that many people will be able to recognize it without having been there. Many television shows and movies have been shot there, such as Dawson’s Creek and most film adaptations of writer Nicholas Sparks’ books, such as A Walk to Remember and Nights in Rodanthe. The small harbor of Southport Marina gives the town an old fishing village feel that the locals really appreciate. A great time to visit Southport is Independence Day, when thousands of people come to the Fourth of July festival.
11 Most Charming Small Towns to Visit in North Carolina
North Carolina boasts many beautiful landscapes from which to explore, from the sunny Atlantic coast to the densely forested Appalachian Mountains. Although the state has its towns, those looking for a more unusual atmosphere may find some of the smaller towns more appealing. A charming place with a rich history, head to one of these coastal and mountain towns in North Carolina to discover plenty of recreational activities, natural beauty and entertainment for the whole family. Perfect for a weekend getaway, take a look at these charming North Carolina towns.
Enjoy the beautiful scenery in Asheville, North Carolina.
Asheville (Hotel Prices and Photos)
While many may not think of Asheville as a small town, it has won many awards, including one of the 25 smallest towns in America according to American Style magazine. The city’s many eclectic stores, cultural museums and historic sites draw visitors from all over the country, and the vast array of outdoor activities and breweries are just the icing on the cake. Stroll downtown to admire the beautiful Art Deco buildings, visit Biltmore Manor to see an American castle, and, if you want a ride, bask in the mountain scenery along Blue Ridge Boulevard.
New Bern (Hotel Prices and Photos).
The second city founded by European immigrants and later becoming North Carolina, New Bern is a historic city full of southern charm. Located along the Trent and Nose rivers, this city dates back to 1710. Because of this, you can appreciate its many historic districts with buildings on the state historic register. Also the birthplace of Pepsi Cola, visit the Pepsi store on Middle Street for memorabilia, or find a day to check out the Masonic Temple and the Athens Theater, both of which have earned the city its nickname, “Athens of the South.” Nearby In the Croatian National Forest, those in need of some nature therapy can spend an afternoon swimming, canoeing and hiking, or head to Union Point Park in historic downtown for a picnic or fishing along the pier.
Dawn near Boone
Boone (hotel prices and photos)
Named for the famous American American explorer Daniel Boone, Boone has a rich history. Boone, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, is a college town that is home to Appalachian State University. The town has a kind of small-town appeal, where you’ll find that its four seasons create a playground for recreational activities, from hiking to biking. Mountain lovers flock to Boone as adventurers can hike the Mile High Swing Bridge to Grandfather Mountain or take a trip to Elk Nob State Park. In addition to its quaint downtown area, the park has plenty of space as the Greenway Trail boasts Junaluska Park, Boone Jaycee Park and North Street Park, which are perfect for a day of barbecues and picnics.
Bath (Hotel Prices and Photos)
Bath, founded in 1705, is the oldest city in the state. Located on the Pamlico River, here you can learn about the city’s first settlers and how the city would become the first port. History buffs will get a chance to explore the town’s rich history, and a visit here would not be complete without a stop at St. Thomas Episcopal Church. Built in 1734, the church is the oldest church building in North Carolina. A combination of historic landmarks and coastal charm, sit down at Bonner’s Point and admire the sunset or enjoy a range of outdoor adventures, particularly swimming and fishing in Pamlico Sound.
Hillsborough, North Carolina
Hillsborough (Hotel Prices and Photos)
Hillsborough, a beautiful wooded town in the Piedmont, is consistently considered one of the “coolest” towns in the state. Historic buildings surrounding charming restaurants and quaint stores add to the small-town atmosphere. Travelers interested in the history of the early settlers who inhabited Hillsborough can explore some of the most popular spots downtown, including the home at Air Mountain Plantation, while those willing to lend their credit card for a workout will find plenty of options in the downtown stores. Take a walk along the Riverwalk, take a historical tour of the Orange County Historical Museum, or stroll through nearby Eno River State Park.
Blowing Rock – NC’s oldest landmark
Blowing Rock (Prices and Photos).
Tucked away in the mountains, Blowing Rock is known as the Crown of the Blue Ridge, just 15 minutes from Boone. Aptly named for Blowing Rock, a huge cliff high above the Jones River Gorge, visitors will find plenty of outdoor activities and entertainment for the whole family. Go fishing or hiking at Moses Cone Memorial Park, take a ride on the Twitsey Railroad or explore the gravity phenomenon on Mystery Hill. The heart of the village is on Main Street, a pedestrian area with stores, galleries and restaurants. Memorial Park is at the center of it all, while nearby attractions include Grandfather Mountain, Linville Caves and Linville Falls.
Pinehurst (Hotel prices and photos)
Reminiscent of the Old South, Pinehurst is home to parks and greens considered a haven for North Carolina golf. Take a walk at the historic Pinehurst Resort golf course, where you’ll find nine golf courses. Since 1897, Pinehurst’s No. 2 course has been a frequent stop on the PGA Tour. Many of the buildings are also on the National Register of Historic Places, known for their design and significance to golf history. Explore downtown and you’ll find that the city has more to offer than golf, as it offers boutiques and family-friendly restaurants, and those interested in other sports can play soccer, baseball, field hockey or tennis in their selection of parks and greens.
Beaufort (Hotel Rates and Photos)
One of North Carolina’s seaside beauties, Beaufort is a small coastal town and the third largest city in the state. Founded in 1709, visit the North Carolina Maritime Museum to see more than 300 exhibits from Queen Anne’s Revenge, the Blackbeard ship that sank in Beaufort Bay, or view exhibits on the area’s natural landscapes. A must-see in the area, take the ferry to Shackleford Banks, a barrier island on the National Seashore of Cape Lookout, to see a beautiful herd of wild horses. Perfect for an evening stroll, explore historic Front Street and find a picturesque downtown with plenty of stores and restaurants.
Brevard (Hotel prices and photos)
Offering a wide range of scenic views, Brevard is known for its natural beauty. The town is just 30 miles from Asheville and is part of the state’s Falls Land, which has more than 200 waterfalls. Full of bustling activity, head to Main Street during the day to see stores and restaurants, while those in need of an outdoor adventure will have plenty of activities to fill the route. The town’s location makes it close to both the Pisgah National Forest and the Dupont State Recreational Forest, where parts of The Hunger Games were filmed. A great place for hikers who enjoy hiking, mountain biking and rock climbing, even kids can get in on the action at Sliding Rock, a 60-foot natural waterfall with a natural pool at the end.
Hot Springs (hotel rates and photos)
Perfect for a weekend of peace and quiet, Hot Springs offers a relaxed outdoor setting. Named for the natural hot spring waters that have made this picturesque area a resort destination, the springs were first discovered by Native Americans and are said to have healing properties. The only hot spring in North Carolina, this laid-back town offers plenty of natural beauty where you can hike part of the Appalachian Trail or spend the day tubing, swimming and kayaking in Spring Creek and the French Broad or Laurel Rivers, After your outdoor adventures, shop at local craft shops and dine at one of the many local restaurants, or take a picnic and climb Max Trail, a 5,000-foot bald mountain with panoramic views.
Banner Elk (Hotel Rates and Photos)
Banner Elk is a charming little mountain village along the Elk River that is perfect for those seeking solitude. The town is located just 15 miles from Boone, between Sugar Mountain and Beech Mountain Resort, two of the largest ski resorts in North Carolina, as this town is a Mecca for winter sports enthusiasts. A great year-round choice, you’ll find water sports like swimming, fishing and canoeing on Wildcat Lake, and Lake Watauga is another hot spot for outdoor recreation. Known for its annual Wooly Worm Festival, here you can celebrate the onset of snow season and take part in exciting worm races.