How far do you need to drive to have an unforgettable experience? Not as much as you’d think. Here are 12great things to try right here in the Carolinas.
Stand atop Mount Mitchell
With the highest peaks east of the Mississippi, 6,684-foot Mount Mitchell offers stunning, panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. You can navigate an extensive network of hiking trails that leads to the top, or simply park near the summit and follow a 980-foot path to a stone observation platform. On clear days you can see for nearly 100 miles, a view that encompasses seemingly endless ridges and valleys blanketed in spruce-fir forests. Details: http://1.usa.gov/2NNrZ7.
Dip toes in the surf at Hatteras
Jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Hatteras is the most southeasterly point of the Outer Banks, a 200-mile stretch of barrier islands. A short continental shelf and shallow sandbars help create superlative waves, making the area a favorite playground among surfers and kiteboarders. With so many coastal destinations overrun with development, Cape Hatteras remains relatively unspoiled and pristine. Details: www.nps.gov/caha/index.htm.
Roar down the Nantahala
Rising near the Georgia-North Carolina border, the Nantahala River has an 8-mile stretch that’s one of the country’s most popular rafting destinations. It’s a family-friendly adventure but one that also provides plenty of thrills. There are about a dozen commercial outfitters in the area that provide guided whitewater rafting trips, including the renowned Nantahala Whitewater Center. But before you take the plunge, take heed: Even in the summer, Nantahala’s temperature averages about 55 degrees, and that first splash will take your breath away. Details: www.noc.com.
Stroll along Charleston’s Battery Park
This scenic waterfront park and promenade in Charleston is a great way to soak up and explore the historic charm of the city. Situated near the bustling downtown area along the shores of the Charleston peninsula, Battery Park is the site of a defensive seawall used during the Civil War. Today it features beautifully landscaped lawns, shady oak trees, a stately gazebo and dozens of historic antebellum homes. Details: www.charlestoncvb.com.
Play golf or tennis at Kiawah
Sure, it’s not cheap, but there’s a reason that time and time again top publications have voted luxurious Kiawah Island Golf Resort, in South Carolina, one of the best family, golf and tennis destinations in the country. Situated on a beautiful barrier island, the resort boasts postcard-like views of the ocean and impeccable service, along with two tennis complexes and five championship golf courses, including the Ocean Course, which hosted the 2012 PGA Championships. Details: www.kiawahresort.com.
Glide through North Carolina’s capital
It takes about 20 minutes of practice and you have to wear a helmet, but you can see downtown Raleigh in a whole new way via Triangle Glides’ Segway tours. Choose from five different tours, including one that cruises through the vibrant and bustling Fayetteville Street District, known as “North Carolina’s Main Street.” Details: www.triangleglides.com.
Amble the Myrtle Beach boardwalk
Yes, the area is often crowded with tourists, and there’s no shortage of cheesy souvenir shops, but the Myrtle Beach boardwalk remains an iconic part of the S.C. coast. The city unveiled a revamped $6 million, 1.2-mile boardwalk in 2010, and since then a number of new shops and restaurants have opened along the boardwalk in the heart of downtown. There’s also the new SkyWheel complex, which features a 200-foot-tall Ferris wheel. Details: http://bit.ly/GATja.
Gaze at Lowcountry fishing boats
11th Street Dockside, in Port Royal, S.C., is a laid-back little seafood shack in the heart of the Lowcountry that offers everything from fresh flounder and shrimp to lobster and crabs. Located in this small, historic town on the Beaufort River, the restaurant overlooks scenic Battery Creek, where fisherman moor their boats and families stroll along walking trails. Details: www.11thstreetdockside.com.
Ride your bike at a ski destination
Western North Carolina is predominantly known as a skiing destination. But in recent years there have been initiatives to make it a year-round sports attraction. Beech Mountain, just north of Boone, recently unveiled the Beech Mountain Adventure Trail Park, which features an 8-mile network of biking trails popular among locals. And Beech Mountain Resort is scheduled to open two chairlift-assisted bike trails in 2013. Details: www.bikebeechmountain.com.
Picnic at Columbia’s Riverfront Park
This scenic, 167-acre park in downtown Columbia is a popular destination for the area’s families, runners and bikers. Situated along the picturesque Broad River next to the historic Columbia Canal, the park hosts several festivals throughout the year and features picnic areas, playgrounds, a brick amphitheater and pedestrian bridge. Details: http://bit.ly/KfuadL.
Munch burger at Poe’s Tavern
Often overshadowed by nearby Charleston, Sullivans Island is nonetheless a charming, low-key coastal town with its own unique allure. There are no hotels or motels in the island, but there is a handful of eclectic bars and restaurants, including Poe’s Tavern, a lively spot that pays tribute to former Sullivan’s Island resident Edgar Allan Poe. With only about 2,000 residents on the island, you’re sure to rub elbows with some of them on the spacious patio as you dine on Poe’s famous Angus Chuck burgers. Details: www.poestavern.com.
Kayak with dolphins at Hilton Head
The pristine waterways around Hilton Head Island, S.C., are ideal for exploring via kayak or canoe. You can go it alone or consult one of the boating rental and guided tour companies, such as Outside Hilton Head, to help your family paddle along the many creeks and inlets, or even out in the ocean where you’re likely to spot bottle-nose dolphins. Details: www.outsidehiltonhead.com.
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