There are countless things to see and do in North Carolina, from the highest mountains on the east coast to rolling hills and 300 miles of beaches. The Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains are two of the most-visited attractions in the National Park Service or visit the past on Civil War trails and historic sites. However you define a great vacation, you‘ll find it here! Choose from recommended vacation rentals in and near North Carolina.

1. Appalachian National Scenic Trail

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is over 2,180 miles and crosses through the scenic, wooded, pastoral, wild, and culturally resonant lands of the Appalachian Mountains. It was built in 1937 by private citizens and is now managed by the National Park Service, US Forest Service, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and thousands of volunteers. Plan for a day hike, or get bold and trek the entire length of the trail!

2. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee and is world renowned for its diversity of plant and animal life. Here, thousands of people experience the true beauty of its ancient mountains and learn about the Southern Appalachian mountain culture each year. In fact, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is America’s most visited national park, and with over one-half million acres, it’s also one of the largest natural areas in the east.

3. Trail of Tears Historic Trail

The Trail of Tears Historic Trail stretches 5,043 miles and across nine states. It commemorates the forced removal of Cherokee from their homelands in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee to live in Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. You can retrace the trail on foot, by vehicle, over water, by bicycle or horse and visit the sacred sites that tell the story of suffering and intolerance.

4. Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway travels 252 miles along the ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina and is an experience is unlike any other. This slow-paced and relaxing drive reveals stunning long-range vistas and close-up views of the rugged mountains and pastoral landscapes of the Appalachian Highlands. There’s also plenty of things to do, like camping, biking, hiking, local art, and cultural and historic sites.

5. Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Cape Hatteras National Seashore is a haven for recreation and reflection. The seashore is constantly changing from the forces of water, wind, and storms, and the plants, wildlife, and people who live here continually adapt. Spot sea turtles nesting on sandy beaches and deer seeking shelter in the maritime woods. You can also enjoy the beach, kayak the sound, or climb the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

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6. Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site

Through his poetry, Carl Sandburg provided a popular voice for the American people of the twentieth century, and at the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, you can explore Sandburg’s legacy. Take one of the guided tours to learn about the Sandburg family. They’re offered throughout the day except on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day.

7.Cape Lookout National Seashore

Explore the undeveloped islands of Cape Lookout, three miles off-shore. There’s something for everyone at Cape Lookout, like horse watching, shelling, fishing, birding, camping, lighthouse climbing, and touring historic villages. Just remember to bring all of your supplies with you and take all your trash when you leave. Stay for a few hours, or more than a day. There’s tent camping available and plenty of rustic vacation rentals in the park, perfect for getting away from it all.

8. Fort Raleigh National Historic Site

Welcome to England’s first home in the new world. Fort Raleigh National Historic Site protects and preserves some of England’s first New World settlements from 1584 to 1590. This site also preserves the history of Roanoke Island including the stories of the Native Americans, European Americans and African Americans who’ve lived here. See the 1869 Monument which marks the beginning of one-site preservation efforts, or the First Light Freedom monuments which commemorate the Roanoke Island Freedman’s Colony set up during the American Civil War. You can also explore the maritime forest along the 1.25 mile Freedom Trail or the .3 mile Thomas Hariot Trail.

9. Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

On March 15, 178, the largest battle of the Revolutionary War’s Southern Campaign was fought at the small North Carolina backcountry hamlet of Guilford Courthouse. This battle proved to be a turning point for British military operations in the Revolutionary War. Start your day at the Visitor Center to learn about the battle through the exhibits, film, battlefield map presentation and excellent collection of books. Then, explore the actual ground of the battle on your own or with one of the scheduled ranger programs.

10. Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail

Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail stretches 330 miles through Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina. It follows the route of Virginia and North Carolina militia men who crossed over the Blue Ridge Mountains into eastern North Carolina and marched towards South Carolina in search of British Major Patrick Ferguson and his army. In South Carolina on October 7, 1780, the militia wiped out Ferguson‘s army, killing him and taking over 500 prisoners. The trail uses existing state highways marked with the distinctive trail logo and includes 87 miles of walkable pathways.

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