Nags Head/Kitty Hawk: The Wright Brothers National Memorial (www.nps.gov/wrbr) is big-time history on the cheap: $4 for the museum/grounds. Climb the sand dunes and hike the trails at Jockeys Ridge State Park. Hike through Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve. (www.outerbanks.org)
Washington: With a pretty and walkable downtown on the Pamlico River estuary, and a landing outfitted with trees and greenery, Washington (www.originalwashington.com) is a delight. Visit the Estuarium ($4; $2 for kids; www.partnershipforthesounds.org), an environmental center that explores the fragile salt-and-fresh-water ecosystem. The kinetic Whiting Toler sculpture in the lobby is a kid-pleaser.
Edenton: Were talking about a beautiful Colonial town whose well-preserved heart is well worth a stroll (www.edenton.nchistoricsites.org). Dont miss the Cupola House. Go to the deck of the Barker House for a prime view of the towns beautiful old homes lining Edenton Bay. (www.visitedenton.com)
Bald Head Island: Do a day trip by taking the ferry ($24.75 roundtrip; $14.75 for kids), then renting a golf cart where the ferry lands. Better yet: Rent a condo or villa near the beach, forest or marsh. Check for package rates. Slightly more than 83 percent of the 12,000-acre island is given over to nature. Go biking, hiking, in-line skating, fishing, crabbing, swimming or beachcombing. (www.baldheadisland.com)
New Bern: The main draw is Tryon Palace ($15, $6 for kids; www.tryonpalace.org), an exacting replica of the residence built here for the last royal governor. Stroll the mansion and gardens and enjoy the N.C. History Center, a lavish new interactive attraction a block away.
Manteo: The main town on Roanoke Island is the site of Sir Walter Raleighs famous Lost Colony, so youll find the summer-only Lost Colony outdoor theater (ticket info: www.lostcolony.org), Fort Raleigh National Historic Site (www.nps.gov/fora/index.htm) and the Elizabethan Gardens ($8, $6 for kids; www.elizabethangardens.org).