Suggest hitting the Carolina Outer Banks - drive down Highway 70 towards Morehead City and follow signs for Cedar Island Ferry. You want to camp for a few days on Ocracoke Island - awesome, safe, breezy. But you must book your ferry in advance to make sure you have a spot - not difficult at all. Inexpensive motels as well. I think you will really enjoy it!
By far, some of the most beautiful state parks in the country. One of the things I absolutely love about North Carolina State Parks is the fact that they are FREE!! YES! Some states require you to pay a fee to even enter the park; usually anywhere from $3 to $7 or more just to enter the park!
Even though it's free to enter the park, you still have to pay for camping or boat launching, which are inexpensive (Around $5 US for boat launching; $15-$20 US for camping).
This is a state park located on US-70 between Raleigh and Durham. You would think that the hustle and bustle of Raleigh, Durham, and Reaearch Triangle Park there was no such thing as peace and quiet. Not true if you come to this place. Even though it's in the city limits, it's actually away from the downtown centers.
I used to ride my bike on the gravel trails here, and I also did some hiking here as well. This is a good place to go if you really need a break from all the demands of city life and work.
This is a really nice park, and I highly reccommend it.
I hope to develop tips and/or travelogues covering our compelling Scenic Byways throughout my North Carolina pages as the months go by but in case, as I often do, you get tired of the race pace on the interstates before I get those pages developed, go to the website below to learn about more relaxed, slower-paced ways to see the true beauty of our state.
We went gem mining again , this time in Spruce Pine, on New Years Day. It was the only mine open. We lucked out, my son found a very nice Sapphire I am having made into a ring, I found a Emerald, and my daughter found several smaller Sapphires and a Garnet.
The owner was very nice and explained a lot of details about mining and cutting gem stones to us.
Gem mining is the major attraction in Franklin, just south of the Smokey Mountain Park.
We went to Rose Creek Mine outside of town ( hard to find!) . They let you dig a bucket of dirt with gems out of a pile ( you are not actually IN the mine, they do the hard work for you!!) and then you get to wash it and look for gems. I found a beautiful Garnet and had it made into a ring at one of the jewelers in Franklin.
The kids had a blast, and came home with a bucket of gems.
Located approximately 4 miles from NC-214 is Lake Waccamaw State Park. Although Lake Waccamaw itself may not have much to offer, this state park is a must see. Number one, it's free to enter. Secondly, it's free to swim. Third, you can ride bikes down the off-road paths and wooden walkways. Fourth, there are a few campsites around for those of you who are like me and love camping. Finally, the scenery is beautiful, and you just might catch a glimpse of an alligator or two swimming in a nearby bog.
To get here, follow US-74/76 West from Wilmington for about one hour. Take the exit off of US-74/76 to NC-214 East. Follow NC-214 East approximately 6-7 miles to Jefferson Road, take a left. Then follow until you reach Bella Coola road. Follow for approximately 3-4 miles. The park will be on your left.
Some of the best surfing on the East Coast is here. Like stated before, North Carolina has the mountains, foothills, and beaches, nicknaming it "Variety Vacationland." Unfortunately, due to Hurricanes and other natural disasters, the beaches constantly have to be built up. In Kure Beach, there are jettys used to help build the beach back up naturally. Carolina Beach on the other hand, uses dredging to build it's beach up. This is a picture of Carolina Beach, where I grew up.
Mingo Falls is a beautiful place , and is not on the "usual" tourist's place to visit. It is located about 10 miles north of Cherokee. A "must see" for lovers of scenic beauty. Be prepared to walk up 163 stairs to get to the falls, and, of course, 163 down.
Cherokee is a tiny town at the base of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Here you will find a museum, indian village and few other remnants of Native American life and attempts to preserve it. The remainder of the town is overun by rampant commercialism and sad attempts to exploit stereotypes images of Native Americans. And there's a casino too (see Tourist Trap tips).
Despite the negative comments, Cherokee is an interesting place to visit, even if its only your base for exploring Great Smoky Mountains National Park as it is a more toned down tourist town in comparison to Gatlinburg to the north of the park. The small museum is worth a visit if you have the time. Basing yourself in Cherokee also allows you to drive southwest through the beautiful Nantahala Recreation Area, a more peaceful and naturally scenic portion of North Carolina.
This park is not so well known, but the 300 foot chimney and Hickory Nut Falls are fairly recognized sights. The privately run park is about a half hour south of Asheville and there's a steep entrance fee to get in. But its a fun place to hike and see some of great scenery, including Lake Lure which is nearby. For more information, feel free to visit my Chimney Rock Park page.
North Carolina has its share of big important museums. I tend to prefer to go to the little out of the way ones.
Eva Blount Way began her collection with a collection of buttons she inherited and she added to it until she had 80,000. I was particularly interested in the button collection because my grandmother also collected buttons.
The museum also includes old coins, shells, early American kitchenware, furniture, old farm tools, Civil War guns and World War helmets. Other items on display range from rocks and stones from Will Roger’s stable and the Wall of Jericho to three prenatal babies in jars (given to Mrs. Way by the town doctor), an 8 legged pig, several snakes killed by Mrs. Way; one stuffed, swallowing a wooden egg, another made into a necktie, a dress worn by a local 700-pound woman (she died in bed and had to be craned out the window), a ten-inch-wide ball of string (saved by Mrs. Way), a flea bride and groom (may be viewed with a magnifying glass), and jars of Mrs. Way's home canned products (now well over 30 years old). The museum sells souvenir cookbooks. Mrs. Way started showing her collection in her own home as a way to raise money for the Red Cross. It is now housed in the Town Hall which is on the National Register of Historic Landmarks.
The website says it is open 1-5 PM everday except Wednesday except on major holidays, but that doesn't include Saturday or Sunday, as it is not open on weekends. Also 1 pm is somewhat flexible - it opens when the attendant gets there. Free, but donations desired.
This is a tiny island at the end of US Highway 421. At low tide, you can walk on the pathway shown here to the island and explore. Be warned, however, at high tide, you will be stuck and have to wait about 11 hours to get back, so be sure you plan your trip over accordingly.
One additional note: The rocks on the path are very slick! Be sure you wear old tennis shoes and run on the oyster beds (yes, it sounds crazy, but the traction you get is well worth it)!! When you get to the end, a real treat awaits the archaeology buff: Indian Oyster Beds over 5,000 years old!!
These areas you have to be careful in...number one, lots of alligators. Number two, they are protected. Carolina Beach State Park, where this was taken, has hiking trails that go through these marshlands, so they are more easily accessable.
There are plenty of great parks where one can completely forget about the urban life.. fantastic plants, circling hawks , not to mention all other little birds.. just a pity, they are so fast at running away. However, turtles are not so quick, so here a picture taken at my friends' pond at their cabin wich is somewhere one hour from Raleigh/Apex.
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