17 Most Beautiful Places to Visit in North Carolina

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
Our travel recommendations are based on our personal experiences and research, written by locals and travel experts with deep familiarity with the destination. When you book a hotel or tour that we link to, we may earn a commission.

North Carolina is also known as Old North State and Tar Heel State and has a lot of places and sights that are worthy of a visit. Besides the many cities and towns there’s a lot of nature to be explored. Have a look at some awesome pictures I found of the most beautiful places to visit in North Carolina.

1. Lake Lure

Lake Lure, North CarolinaSource: digidreamgrafix / shutterstock
Lake Lure, North Carolina

There is no doubt that Lake Lure is one of the most beautiful places to visit in North Carolina. The history of the town dates back over a hundred years and it has been a popular filming spot for Hollywood, with movies such as Thunder Road and Dirty Dancing having been partially filmed in the Lake Lure area.

Tours of Lake Lure are popular, with one of the most stunning parts of this corner of the state being the gorgeous Lake Lure Flowering Bridge.

2. Bryson City

Bryson City, North CarolinaSource: digidreamgrafix / shutterstock
Bryson City

Bryson City is one of the oldest settlements in North Carolina, with Native Americans having lived in the area for at least 14,000 years. The town is notable for being surrounded by mountains, which gives it incredible scenery that has to be seen to be believed.

River rafting is one of the most popular things to do in Bryson City, while taking a trip on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is well worth it too. Cooper Creek Trout Farm & Pond and the Smokey Mountain Trains Museum are among the other excellent days out in Bryson City.

3. Nags Head

Nags HeadSource: FloridaStock / shutterstock
Nags Head

Nags Head is one of the most popular tourist locations in North Carolina due to its many superb beaches and wonderfully relaxed atmosphere. Jockey’s Ridge State Park is the main landmark in the town, offering stunning views of Nags Head and beyond.

The park is also notable for having the tallest natural sand dune system in the eastern United States, while a choice of several historic cottages in the town itself make it a great place to spend a long weekend.

4. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Cape Hatteras LighthouseSource: Stephen B. Goodwin / shutterstock
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is a particularly notable North Carolina landmark due to the fact it is the tallest brick lighthouse structure in the United States. The lighthouse is open seasonally but only the fittest should take on the climb to the top as there are almost 250 steps to get up.

Although it is a long trip to the top, climbing the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is a unique experience and the views are well worth the effort. The lighthouse was moved slightly inland in 1999 due to land erosion.

5. Chimney Rock State Park

Chimney Rock State ParkSource: Alexey Rotanov / shutterstock
Chimney Rock State Park

Some of the best scenery North Carolina has to offer can be enjoyed at Chimney Rock State Park. The signature 315-foot spire overlooking Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure is the highlight of the park, which has a range of child-friendly nature explorations and more challenging hikes.

Trout fishermen love to spend time at the Rocky Broad River, while the nearby Rumbling Bald Climbing Access is one of the most popular spots within the park. The Devil’s Head balancing rock is a must for anyone visiting the park, while many of the final scenes of the 1992 adaptation of The Last of the Mohicans were filmed at Chimney Rock State Park.

6. Emerald Isle

Emerald IsleSource: Bryan Pollard / shutterstock
Emerald Isle

Summer season is a fantastic place to visit Emerald Isle, which is definitely one of the most beautiful places to visit in North Carolina. Despite the population growing exponentially during the summer, Emerald Isle retains a family feel, with Water Boggan a must-visit for anyone with kids.

Emerald Forest Golf is another terrific day out for all the family when visiting Emerald Isle, while there are lots of great spots for kitesurfing and fishing in the area too.

7. Freedom Park

Freedom Park, Charlotte, NCSource: cpaulfell / shutterstock
Freedom Park, Charlotte, NC

Freedom Park is one of the most relaxed spots in Charlotte, with the park among North Carolina’s most beautiful places too. Festival in the Park – recognized as a Top 20 Event by the Southeast Tourism Society – attracts 100,000 visitors every September, with people flocking to watch films in the stunning setting over a five-day period.

Right next to the park is the Charlotte Nature Museum, where families can learn all about the animals and plants that can be found in the Piedmont area.

8. Grogan Creek and Cedar Rock Falls

Grogan Creek FallsSource: Jess Whitney / shutterstock
Grogan Creek Falls

Deep within Pisgah National Forest in Transylvania County is Grogan Creek and Cedar Rock Falls, the latter of which is a 20-foot falls that is without a doubt one of the most stunning sights anywhere in North Carolina. To find Cedar Rock Falls, simply head downstream from Cedar Rock and Grogan Creeks. Some of the falls are not the biggest, but they are all extremely photogenic.

9. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National ParkSource: anthony heflin / shutterstock
Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The most visited park in the United States, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a must for anyone on a vacation in North Carolina. The park, which straddles the border of the state and Tennessee, is home to the Appalachian Trail which runs right the way through its heart.

The observation tower at Clingmans Dome is one of the best spots within the grounds of the park, offering incredible views across the stunning vista. Cades Cove is the park’s single most frequented destination, offering churches, barns and log cabins.

The Mountain Farm Museum and Mingus Mill at Oconaluftee within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are worth visiting too.

10. Merchants Millpond State Park

Merchants Millpond State ParkSource: Pi-Lens / shutterstock
Merchants Millpond State Park

Merchants Millpond State Park is perfect for anyone who wants to try kayaking or canoeing during a trip to North Carolina. The large cypress swamps are also home to a number of alligators, while fishing, biking and hiking are all popular activities within the grounds of the park. The park is built around a 200-year-old, 700-acre millpond and Lassiter Swamp and can be found near Gatesville.

11. Charlotte

Charlotte, NCSource: mandritoiu / shutterstock

As the main city in North Carolina, visiting Charlotte is a must for anyone vacationing in the state. With Freedom Park and Discovery Place among the most beautiful spots in Charlotte, there is loads to do for all the family.

Sports fans in particular will find lots to love in Charlotte, as it hosts two NASCAR Sprint Cup races and the NASCAR All-Star Race, as well as an NFL team – the Carolina Panthers, and Charlotte Hornets of the NBA.

Top things to do in the city include the Levine Museum of the New South, Carolinas Aviation Museum and the Carowinds theme park, which has some of the best rollercoasters anywhere in North Carolina.

12. Sliding Rock

Sliding Rock, North CarolinaSource: Jill Lang / shutterstock
Sliding Rock

Waterfalls tend to be beautiful and serene, but Sliding Rock in North Carolina is also heaps of fun. Located in the Pisgah National Forest, near Brevard and Asheville, thousands of kids and adults slide down the falls every year.

Some 11,000 gallons of water flow down the rock each minute and Sliding Rock is extremely popular on hot summer days, when large queues can form at the site. But if it is busy, soaking up the wonderful sights and sounds of the Pisgah National Forest are a great option too.

13. Kitty Hawk

Kitty Hawk, North CarolinaSource: Stephen B. Goodwin / shutterstock
Kitty Hawk

Kitty Hawk is one of the most important historic sites in North Carolina, as it is where the Wright Brothers made their first controlled powered airplane flights.

Based on the Outer Banks of North Carolina in Dare County, Kitty Hawk has a wide range of plant and animal life at a 461-acre maritime forest reserve called Kitty Hawk Wood, while there is also a small and relaxed beach community of residential cottages and hotels.

14. Beech Mountain

Land of Oz, Beech MountainSource: Janell Queen / shutterstock
Land of Oz, Beech Mountain

The yellow brick road from abandoned theme park The Land of Oz in Beech Mountain is one of the strangest and most beautiful sites in North Carolina. The Land of Oz opened in 1970 but closed after just a few years, but there is still a lot of physical evidence of the now-defunct park, as well as the yellow brick road, that remains today.

Beech Mountain itself is the highest town east of the Rocky Mountains, with the Beech Mountain Ski Resort one of the few places to ski in this corner of the United States.

15. Blue Ridge Mountains

Blue Ridge Mountains, North CarolinaSource: Dave Allen Photography / shutterstock
Blue Ridge Mountains

The Blue Ridge Mountains are among the most beautiful natural sites in North Carolina. The Blue Ridge Parkway is great for driving enthusiasts, offering quite astonishing views across the state.

Within the Blue Ridge province itself are two of the state’s major national parks: the Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Altapass Orchard – an Appalachian cultural and historical center – is a great spot to visit during a trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains.

16. Durham

Durham, North CarolinaSource: Sean Pavone / shutterstock

As one of North Carolina’s largest cities, Durham is also among its top tourist attractions, drawing millions of people every single year. The city is home to some of the state’s most important historic sites, such as Bennett Place, where the negotiations that effectively ended the Civil War took place.

The annual Bull Durham Blues Festival also takes place in Durham, which hosts a diverse local music culture. Eno River State Park is one of the most beautiful places in Durham, while visitors should also take time to check out the Little River Regional Park and Natural Area and the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, which can be found on the campus of the famous Duke University.

17. Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls, North CarolinaSource: Steve Heap / shutterstock
Bridal Veil Falls, North Carolina

Bridal Veil Falls is definitely one of North Carolina’s most beautiful places to visit. The 120-foot falls are among the tallest in this part of the United States, while the area was also one of the filming locations for the Hunger Games franchise, starring Jennifer Lawrence.

Hiking to Bridal Veil is possible from either the High Falls or Fawn Lake parking areas within DuPont State Forest. Bridal Veil Falls are far from the only waterfalls within the park, with Wintergreen Falls and nearby High Falls, Triple Falls and Hooker Falls all worth seeing during a trip to North Carolina.

17 Most Beautiful Places to Visit in North Carolina:

  • Lake Lure
  • Bryson City
  • Nags Head
  • Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
  • Chimney Rock State Park
  • Emerald Isle
  • Freedom Park
  • Grogan Creek and Cedar Rock Falls
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • Merchants Millpond State Park
  • Charlotte
  • Sliding Rock
  • Kitty Hawk
  • Beech Mountain
  • Blue Ridge Mountains
  • Durham
  • Bridal Veil Falls