Summertime is a great time to take a break and enjoy time away from work and school. If you’re looking for some unique day trips or getaway ideas there are some amazing places you can get to without booking a flight or even using a full tank of gas. From the beaches to the mountains, we have an embarrassment of riches in North Carolina.
Here are some of our favorite spots to visit:
SEVERAL HOURS AWAY….
Lake Waccamaw State Park Take a short detour on the way to Wilmington and you’ll find one of the most unique bodies of water in the world. Lake Waccamaw is part of the Carolina Bays, egg-shaped wetlands found from the Carolinas to New Jersey. There are many theories on how the Carolina Bays were created, from aliens to meteor showers, but experts believe they most likely were formed by wind. A limestone bluff reduces the acidity levels, making the lake an ideal home for several creatures that aren’t found anywhere else. Three fish, two species of mussels and two types of snails are endemic to Lake Waccamaw, meaning that’s the only place in the world you’ll find them. The lake is also home to alligators, chorus frogs, white-tailed deer as well as lots of different birds and plants. This state park has a 700-foot boardwalk that reaches into the shallow, tea-colored water. It’s great for fishing and watching wildlife. There are also more than seven miles of hiking trails and a campsite.
North Carolina Aquarium Roanoke Island This is a little longer of a drive but so worth it! What an experience for all to see our native sea life and know that it’s all about the conservation of these animals. Check out the sea turtles!
Coastal Lighthouses You’ll need more than a day to check all these out! There are seven lighthouses along the North Carolina coast from Old Baldy to Ocracoke. You can learn more about the lighthouse sites and plan your adventure with help from the fantastic travel blog Road Trips & Coffee Coastal Lighthouse Tour.
A FEW HOURS AWAY….
The Biltmore Estate The magnificent country house of George and Edith Vanderbilt back in 1895 is the largest private home in America. George was a bachelor when he planned this 8,000 acre estate with 35-bedrooms and 65-fireplaces. The gardens surrounding the home are nothing short of spectacular. Check out the updated horticulturist report to find out which flowers are blooming and where. Take a break with a free wine tasting at the state-of-the-art winery (that’s a converted dairy barn). Did you know you can also ride the trails on horseback, go clay shooting and learn falconry? This summer there are two immersive art exhibits, one features the works of impressionists Monet, Renoir, Cezanne and more. After that ends in July, an exhibit celebrating the life and work of Leonardo de Vinci opens a few days later.
Blue Ridge Parkway Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway is a MUST DO. The road winds through the Appalachian Mountains, offering spectacular views at every turn. There are many spots to stop, take pictures, hike to waterfalls and just enjoy nature. Trust us. Just go.
CLOSE TO HOME….
Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden This magical garden is just next to Charlotte in the town of Belmont. You can spend a leisurely day roaming the grounds or visit during one of their special events like jazz evenings, hummingbird photography or sip and paint.
Whitewater Center You don’t need to drive to the mountains to go whitewater rafting. We are so lucky to have the Whitewater Center in our backyard. At this 1,300 acre outdoor playground you can go rafting, canoeing, kayaking, rock climbing, ziplining, hiking, mountain biking and so much more. In the middle of this oasis you can rest at a biergarten that features up to 60 craft brews while watching paddlers on the competition channel. The Whitewater Center often hosts international competitions and Olympic trials for canoe and kayak slalom teams. There are live music events and yoga classes (on land or stand-up paddle boards). A full day at this place will leave you simultaneously exhausted and refreshed and you can be home in less than an hour.