A Traveler’s Guide to the Hidden Gems of Coastal North Carolina

When people think of North Carolina’s coastline, they often picture bustling beach towns and popular tourist destinations. While these places have their charm, Coastal North Carolina has a treasure trove of hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

According to the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce, visitor spending across the state saw an increase of 45% in 2021. Visitor spending was $79 million a day in 2021 statewide. This shows that North Carolina has emerged as a popular tourist spot. Visitor-generated taxes brought in $6.4 million daily, boosting the state’s economy significantly.

From serene, secluded beaches to charming historic towns, this region offers a variety of experiences for the intrepid traveler. In this guide, we’ll take you on a journey through some of the lesser-known, yet utterly enchanting, destinations in Coastal North Carolina.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore: A Wild Paradise

Cape Hatteras National Seashore, located on the Outer Banks, is a hidden paradise for nature lovers. The stunning landscapes here are truly wild and unspoiled, offering visitors a chance to connect with the raw beauty of the North Carolina coast.

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, an iconic landmark, is a must-see and you can climb to the top for panoramic views. The beaches at Cape Hatteras are perfect for beachcombing and shelling, and the windswept dunes provide an enchanting backdrop for sunset strolls.

Fishing enthusiasts will be delighted with the abundant opportunities to catch everything from trout to drum. According to the NPS, individuals aged 16+ must buy a Coastal Recreational Fishing License for fishing in North Carolina’s waters. This license can be purchased on a 10-day, annual, or lifetime basis.

Whether you’re a photographer, birdwatcher, or simply seeking solitude, Cape Hatteras National Seashore promises a tranquil escape from the bustle of more crowded beaches.

Roanoke Island: Where History and Mystery Converge

Roanoke Island is a small but historically rich destination where history and mystery intertwine. Start with a visit to the Lost Colony, where the first English settlers mysteriously vanished in the late 16th century.

You can witness outdoor drama performances that bring this enigmatic tale to life. The charming town of Manteo, on the northern end of the island, is another highlight.

Stroll along the waterfront boardwalk, visit the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse, and explore the quaint shops and eateries. Roanoke Island is a place where you can literally walk in the footsteps of early American history. This makes it a must-visit for history buffs and anyone intrigued by unsolved mysteries.

Camp Lejeune: A Marine Legacy

Camp Lejeune is a prominent Marine Corps base located near Jacksonville, North Carolina. This base has a rich history and plays a pivotal role in the nation’s military operations.

The Camp Lejeune water contamination disaster is an unfortunate memory of this base’s former residents. The tragedy took place in the mid-20th century when toxic chemicals, including VOCs and heavy metals, contaminated the base’s drinking water supply. These contaminants exposed thousands of military personnel and their families to health risks, leading to a pressing need for assistance and compensation.

According to TorHoerman Law, affected individuals are still fighting legal battles to hold the responsible parties accountable. According to JD Supra, over 1,100 federal lawsuits and 93,000 administrative claims have been filed by the victims of the tragedy.

The U.S. DOJ recently introduced the Elective Option to help fast-track claim resolution. It is a Camp Lejeune compensation offering that provides tiered payouts of up to $550,000 to the claimants. The plaintiffs can choose to accept these smaller settlements or continue to fight for a larger one.

While visiting Camp Lejeune, take some time to pay your respects at the Lejeune Memorial Gardens. It is a solemn and beautifully landscaped tribute to the brave men and women who have served in the United States Marine Corps. The gardens also feature several memorials honoring Marines and sailors who have made the ultimate sacrifice, making it a place of reverence and reflection.

Ocracoke Island: A Hidden Paradise

Ocracoke Island, accessible only by ferry, offers a secluded paradise that is perfect for those seeking a quieter coastal experience. The village on the island is charming, with historic buildings and a relaxed atmosphere. But the real draw is the natural beauty surrounding it.

The island is renowned for its pristine, uncrowded beaches, making it an ideal destination for beachcombing, swimming, and watersports. Ocracoke’s 1823 Ocracoke Lighthouse is another historical gem, still guiding ships through these treacherous waters. With no chain restaurants or big crowds, Ocracoke Island offers an idyllic escape for those looking to unwind in serene surroundings.

Beaufort: North Carolina’s Hidden Gem

Beaufort, one of North Carolina’s oldest towns, is a hidden gem along the coast. This charming coastal town is rich in history and maritime culture. Strolling along the picturesque waterfront, you’ll be greeted by historic homes, centuries-old oak trees, and a laid-back, welcoming atmosphere.

The North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort is a must-visit for maritime enthusiasts, showcasing the region’s maritime history and artifacts from shipwrecks. Dining options here are top-notch, offering fresh seafood and locally-inspired cuisine. With its historic allure and captivating waterfront, Beaufort is a true hidden treasure along the North Carolina coast.

Hammocks Beach State Park: A Natural Haven

Hammocks Beach State Park, located near Swansboro, is a natural haven where you can escape the crowds. Here, you can immerse yourself in the tranquility of the maritime forest and pristine coastline. The park encompasses Bear Island, a secluded barrier island accessible by ferry.

Explore the park’s salt marshes and paddle through the calm waters, providing opportunities for kayaking, paddleboarding, and birdwatching. Hiking trails meander through lush forests, providing the perfect backdrop for nature enthusiasts.

Bear Island’s wide, sandy beaches are perfect for relaxation, and the limited access ensures a peaceful and unspoiled experience. Hammocks Beach State Park is a hidden gem for those who seek solitude in nature.

Bath: A Quaint Colonial Town

Bath, a small colonial town on the Pamlico River, offers a delightful step back in time. Founded in 1705, this historic town is one of North Carolina’s oldest, and it has retained much of its colonial charm.

Visit the Bath State Historic Site to explore the Palmer-Marsh House, a perfectly preserved example of Georgian architecture. The town is also famous for its association with Blackbeard the pirate.

Stroll along the quiet streets, take in the riverside views, and enjoy the peaceful ambiance of this quaint colonial town. This will make for a charming and educational stop on your coastal adventure.

Final Thoughts

Coastal North Carolina is a captivating destination for travelers seeking something diverse. It reveals a world of natural beauty, historical intrigue, and cultural richness.

From the rugged, unspoiled landscapes of Cape Hatteras to the enigmatic history of Roanoke Island, this region showcases a spectrum of hidden gems. Hammocks Beach State Park provides a sanctuary for nature enthusiasts, while Bath’s colonial charm offers a step back in time.

Coastal North Carolina offers a unique travel experience, making it an ideal choice for those looking to escape the ordinary.

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