I enjoy a good road trip. And, while I’m conflicted about the recent decline in gas prices, $1.70/gallon gasoline certainly makes exploring your backyard a little easier. Over the past six months, my first as a resident in the great state of North Carolina, I’ve had the opportunity to visit many charming locations throughout the state.
Just having returned from a 2-day trip to Asheville I can confidently say that this is one of the coolest towns I’ve ever been to. It has an amazing arts district supported by a huge amount of local talent, a buzzing local music scene, and a wide choice of bars, restaurants, and cool shops. It also has the Biltmore estate, the largest home in the US with 250 rooms, and the best green grocery store that I’ve ever been to. It’s a little bit of a drive from Chapel Hill, but well worth it.
There are tons of great backpacking destinations in NC. The Mount Rogers National Recreation Area is actually just across the border into Virginia but is a very manageable drive from Chapel Hill. I did a two-day backpacking trip back in September and thoroughly enjoyed it. The scenery was amazing, the trails were well-marked and interesting, and there were plenty of locations to pitch a tent. Amusingly, there are wild ponies that roam around the entire park.
I stopped here for several hours on my way back from Mt. Rogers and wish that I had had more time to explore. I wandered around historic Old Salem, learned about the history of the area, and and some delightful baked goods made in a traditional 1800′s bakery.
Oak Island is a gorgeous beach town about as far south in NC as you can get. Go here to enjoy the surf and the sun, but don’t expect nightlife or shopping. My weekend at Oak Island was honestly one of the best beach vacations I’ve taken because of the combination of remoteness and beauty. There are some excellent restaurants in the downtown area. This link has some pictures of my Oak Island and Mt. Rogers trips.
Hillsborough is just a short drive North from Chapel Hill. It’s a very small town with one main strip, and the shops are very cute and the residents exude southern friendliness. The Blue Bayou Club often has live music and is a really good time.
I knew when I decided to come to Kenan-Flagler that I’d enjoy the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area. I didn’t realize how much the rest of the state had to offer. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to say the least.