Discover Summer in Coastal N.C.

Fort Fisher Aquarium

Items marked with an asterisk (*) are within the N.C. Dept. of Natural and Cultural Resources.

Beaufort County

*Goose Creek State Park - The eight miles of trails at Goose Creek State Park lead visitors through a broad range of coastal experiences—live oaks draped in Spanish moss, wetlands along the Pamlico Sound and a cypress swamp viewed from an extensive boardwalk. Swim, boat or camp at this scenic coastal park.

*Historic Bath State Historic Site - Meander the streets of this historic waterfront community, which was the first incorporated town in NC. Home to Blackbeard the Pirate – visit July 15 for the free Pirates in the Port event.

North Carolina Estuarium - Visit the world’s first Estuarium, one of North Carolina’s most innovative environmental centers, and learn more about the places where the river meets the sea.

Aurora Fossil Museum – Go fossil hunting at the Aurora Fossil Museum! Dig for shark teeth, coral and other small fossils at this museum built around fossils recovered from the nearby phosphate mine.

Turnage Theater – Watch a movie, listen to musicians jam, or take in an art exhibit at this iconic theater in Washington, now owned by Arts of the Pamlico.

Belhaven Memorial Museum – Begun as the private collection of Eva Blount Way, affectionately known as “Miss Eva,” this unique museum includes a collection of more than 30,000 buttons from around the world, a flea bride and groom, antique dolls and toys, antique furniture and farm tools, period clothing and much more.

Brunswick County

*North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport - A regional history museum that tells the story of the Cape Fear region's people and their relationship to the water, including a special focus on pirates of the Lower Cape Fear and blockade runners.

*Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson State Historic Site - A Civil War fort and the ruins of an early colonial settlement.

Old Baldy – North Carolina’s oldest standing lighthouse, Old Baldy, located on Bald Head Island, was constructed in 1817. Climb to the top of her 108 steps to take in the view and explore the restored keeper’s cottage on the property.

Oak Island Lighthouse - With a light that can be seen for 24 miles, this lighthouse is one of the world’s most powerful. The last lighthouse to be built in N.C., it was completed in 1958. Call two weeks in advance to arrange to climb the series of ships ladders that take you 131 steps to the top.

Walk in the footsteps of the stars – Brunswick County towns have been the location of many major motion pictures and television shows, including “Firestarter,” “Nights in Rodanthe,” “Iron Man 3,” “Sleepy Hollow” and many more. The Southport Museum and Visitor's Center provides a map for a self-guided tour of film locations shot in downtown Southport.

Explore Civil War Sites – In addition to Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson, Brunswick County has many additional significant Civil War heritage sites, including Fort Johnston and Fort Johnston Hospital in Southport, Fort Caswell on the eastern tip of Oak Island, Fort Holmes on Bald Head Island, and St. Philips’s Episcopal Church in Southport, used by the Union Army as a hospital for their troops.

Frying Pan Tower – Spend the night in a tower in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean! Originally a Coast Guard Station, Frying Pan Tower is now privately-owned and has been restored and converted into some of the most unique accommodations in N.C.

Kindred Spirit Mailbox – On Bird Island in Sunset Beach stands the Kindred Spirit Mailbox, where visitors share their hopes and dreams in the mailbox’s journal. Stop by and leave your own message for others to find.

Camden County

*Dismal Swamp State Park - Dismal Swamp State Park allows a unique wilderness experience in a landscape that has been witness to everything from American Indian hunting parties to the Underground Railroad.

Camden County Historic Jailhouse - Home to the Camden County Heritage Museum, the historic jailhouse is a well-preserved reminder of local methods of incarceration in the early 1900s and also documents the history of Camden County with changing exhibits.

Carteret County

*North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores – An aquarium offering visitors the opportunity to meet the thousands of aquatic animals that call all regions of North Carolina home.

*Fort Macon State Park - A park with multiple personalities, featuring a perfectly restored Civil War-era fort, museum-quality coastal education center and unspoiled shoreline for swimming, surf fishing and beachcombing. Be sure to check out the summer concert series!

*North Carolina Maritime Museum at Beaufort - The official repository of artifacts recovered from Blackbeard’s flagship, Queen Anne’s Revenge and home to exhibits highlighting North Carolina's coastal culture.

Rachel Carson Coastal Reserve – The Rachel Carson Coastal Reserve is an undeveloped complex of islands just across Taylors Creek from downtown Beaufort. Take a field trip by boat through the site on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the summer to see stunning views and wildlife, including the reserve’s wild horses, and learn more about our state’s coastal resources.

Cape Lookout Lighthouse – With its black and white diamond design, Cape Lookout Lighthouse is one of the icons of the North Carolina coast. Located on one of the barrier islands that comprise Cape Lookout National Seashore, the lighthouse is accessible only by private ferry. The 207-step climb to the top can be strenuous, but will reward you with panoramic views.

Village of Portsmouth – Once a thriving port town, the Village of Portsmouth was deserted by its residents long ago. Now part of Cape Lookout National Seashore, many of the village’s historic buildings have been preserved to allow visitors a glimpse of a typical Outer Banks fishing village of the last century. 

Core Sound Waterfowl Museum – Learn about the culture, community and environment of Down East North Carolina in this museum that celebrates the rich waterfowl heritage of the area.

Chowan County

*Historic Edenton – The state’s first colonial capital, Edenton was established in the late 17th century. Today it features an extensive historic district with architectural styles spanning 250 years, such as the 1767 Chowan County Courthouse National Historic Landmark. Visit August 7 for National Lighthouse Day events.

Barker House – On Oct. 25, 1774, 51 women in Edenton formed an alliance to protest “taxation without representation.” Known as the Edenton Tea Party, it was the earliest organized women’s political action in American history. The Barker House was home to the movement’s leader, Penelope Barker, and is now home to the Edenton Historical Commission.

Craven County

*Tryon Palace – Walk in the footsteps of colonial governors at the historic homes and gardens crowned by a grand palace, all at North Carolina’s first state capitol.

Bank of the Arts – Enjoy art exhibits and concerts in the gallery of this former bank building which is now home to the Craven Arts Council & Gallery. The Council sponsors downtown New Bern ArtWalks on the second Friday of the month.

Croatan National Forest – Go fishing at Catfish Lake, hike one of the forest trails, or go camping at 159,000-acre national forest. Recreation areas for camping, picnicking, swimming, canoeing, hiking and wildlife observation.

Eastern Carolina Aviation Exhibit – The aviation exhibits on display at this center in Havelock preserve the rich heritage of Marine Corps aviation in eastern North Carolina. Learn about the history of aviation, from the Wright brothers to current aircraft, and get an up-close view of the aircraft on display.

Currituck County

Currituck Beach Lighthouse - Made of approximately 1 million red bricks, the Currituck Beach Light Station opened and began protecting our shores in 1875. Its unpainted exterior differs from the more common black and white color scheme of other N.C. lighthouses. Climb its 220 steps for a panoramic view of Currituck Sound and the Atlantic Ocean.

Historic Corolla Village – Next door to the lighthouse sits a charming village full of restored historic homes along unpaved, tree-lined streets. The homes are now home to shops and businesses, including the Wild Horse Museum.

The Whalehead – Step back in time at the 1920s-era Art Nouveau-style historic Whalehead mansion in Corolla. Built by the wealthy Knight family in the 1920s, the restored mansion is now open year-round for public tours.

Corolla Wild Horses – Descended from Spanish Mustangs brought to the Outer Banks by early explorers, the Corolla wild horses have roamed freely in the N.C. Outer Banks for 400 years. Several companies offer wild horse tours, or you may just see them walking along the beach. But don’t get too close – it’s illegal to come within 50 feet of the horses.

Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education – Pay a visit to this educational facility dedicated to exploring the wildlife and natural history of coastal N.C. Run by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, the center offers both indoor and outdoor attractions for visitors.

Weeping Radish – North Carolina’s oldest microbrewery, Weeping Radish brewery offers behind the scenes tours of the beer-making process along with beer tastings. Have a bite of classic German fare in the restaurant pub while enjoying one of Weeping Radish’s authentic brews.

Dare County

*North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island - An aquarium exploring the waters of Outer Banks. Marvel at the largest collection of sharks in the state, touch stingrays and see sea turtle conservation work in progress.

*Outer Banks History Center - A regional archives and research library focused on materials that document the history and culture of the North Carolina coast and adjacent areas.

*Roanoke Island Festival Park - A celebration of the first English settlement in America, including a hands-on historic site with a kid-friendly museum, 16th century replica ship and American Indian town.

*Jennette's Pier - A world-class fishing pier off the Outer Banks that also includes interactive science exhibits, aquarium displays and a beach access.

*Jockey's Ridge State Park - The tallest living sand dune on the Atlantic coast and a premier location for kites, sightseeing and sunsets with a view arcing from the ocean to Roanoke Sound.

*Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum - A regional history museums that tells the story of thousands of shipwrecks that dot the North Carolina coast.

Bodie Island Lighthouse – At the entrance to Cape Hatteras National Seashore stands Bodie (pronounced “body”) Island Lighthouse, the third lighthouse built in this location. The original Bodie Island Lighthouse was built in 1847, on the south side of Oregon Inlet. Abandoned 12 years later due to a poor foundation, the lighthouse was rebuilt in 1859, but was blown up in 1861 by retreating Confederate troops who feared the Union would use it to their advantage for navigation. The current structure was completed in 1872.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse – Further south along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore is the nation’s tallest and most recognizable lighthouse, the Cape Hatteras Light. It is commonly referred to as “America’s Lighthouse” and was completed in 1870. In 1999 the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was moved a half mile inland, to save it from the encroaching Atlantic.

Wright Brothers Memorial – Visit the birthplace of aviation in Kill Devil Hills, where Orville and Wilbur Wright achieve man’s first successful powered, controlled flight on Dec. 17, 1903. The site is now a National Historical Memorial and museum. It’s also a great place to fly a kite.

The Lost Colony outdoor drama – Performed on the site where the actual events occurred, “The Lost Colony” tells the story of America’s first unsolved mystery. What happened to the colonists -- including Virginia Dare, the first English child born on American soil -- who tried to carve out a home on Roanoke Island, and then disappeared?

Hyde County

Ocracoke Lighthouse – The oldest still-operating lighthouse in America, the Ocracoke Light is a short ferry ride away on Ocracoke Island. Fully automated, the lighthouse no longer needs a resident lightkeeper for its daily needs. The U.S. Coast Guard now oversees the operation of the light. The lighthouse is not open for climbing, but the site is open for visitors.

Village of Ocracoke – Explore beautiful Ocracoke Island, with its 16 miles of pristine ocean beaches, all of which are owned by the National Park Service as part of Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Explore shops and galleries, go fishing or boating, even take a ghost walk through town.

MATTIE Arts Center – Take a class or view and purchase the work of local artists at this arts center located in Swan Quarter.

Jones County

Foscue Plantation – Just 10 miles south of New Bern, the Civil War-era Foscue Plantation has been in the same family for eight generations. The house has been restored to its original condition and contains many original antebellum furnishings. The home is open for tours on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Back in Time Museum – With a theme of memories of past years spent on the farm, this museum at Riggs Farm boasts a collection of antique farm tools and tractors.

Trent River – Enjoy boating, camping, fishing and water sports on the Trent River, which meanders through Jones County and continues through Craven County.

New Hanover County

*North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher - An aquarium that takes a broader look at the state's natural environment while focusing on the lower Cape Fear. Feel the smooth skin of a gliding stingray and marvel at free-flying butterflies and roar with the dinosaurs.

*Fort Fisher State Recreation Area - Fort Fisher State Recreation Area offers visitors the opportunity to alternate between nearly six miles of pristine beach and trails through salt marsh brimming with wildlife.

*Fort Fisher State Historic Site - A Civil War fort that tells story of the fall of Wilmington during the Civil War and served as a World War II training facility.

* Heritage Dive Site - Divers can explore one of the best-preserved shipwrecks on the N.C. coast, the Civil War blockade runner Condor, at N.C.'s first heritage dive site in Kure Beach. 

*Carolina Beach State Park – One of the only places in the world where the Venus flytrap grows in its natural environment, Carolina Beach State Park also boasts a marina providing access to some of North Carolina's best fishing spots, a secluded camping area beneath towering trees, and miles of hiking trails.

*Battleship North Carolina - One of the most decorated battleships of World War II that now serves as a memorial to all North Carolina veterans.

Kure Beach Fishing Pier – Take a stroll or cast a line off the oldest fishing pier on the Atlantic Coast. The original wooden pier built in 1923 by L.C. Kure didn’t last the year, but in 1924 Kure pioneered the use of reinforced concrete to build a new, longer pier. Today the pier is owned by L.C.’s grandson. 

Tour Hollywood East – Wilmington, N.C. is known as “Hollywood East” for the numerous films and TV shows that have been filmed there. Take a tour of locations that hosted productions such as Iron Man 3, One Tree Hill and Dawson’s Creek, to name just a few.

Onslow County

*Hammocks Beach State Park - A crown jewel of the North Carolina coast, Hammocks Beach State Park includes a three-mile-long, undeveloped barrier island accessible by ferry or by canoe or kayak.

Onslow County Museum – Learn more about the history, culture and environment of Onslow County

Montford Point Museum - Learn about the first African American Marine Corps recruits who trained at Montford Point Camp in Jacksonville in the 1940s. Photos, documents and artifacts preserve the history and stories of these groundbreaking Marines.

Coast Guard Station – Take a course in boating skills and safety at the Coast Guard Station in Swansboro.

Pamlico County

Oriental History Museum – Uncover the everyday household items and local memorabilia that represent the town of Oriental’s celebrated maritime history. Open Friday-Sunday, the museum also hosts special events throughout the year.

Croaker Festival – Held the first weekend in July, Croakerfest is Oriental’s largest arts and crafts festival.

Pasquotank County

*Museum of the Albemarle - A regional museum capturing the history of northeastern North Carolina and showcasing American Indians, watermen, farmers, craftsmen and other communities. The museum celebrates its 50th anniversary this year – come help us celebrate!

Arts of the Albemarle - This world class arts facility houses The Jaquelin Jenkins Gallery, home to over 250 artists; The Maguire Theatre, a state of the art performance space; and the School of the Arts.

Dixieland Motorsports Complex – See stock car, motorcycle and go-cart races at this speedway in Elizabeth City.

ECSU Planetarium – Take a guided tour of the solar system at Elizabeth City State University’s Planetarium. All shows are free, and by reservation only.

Port Discover – A fun-filled, hands-on science center for kids of all ages. Open year-round and admission is free.

Pender County

Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital – Visit and adopt an injured sea turtle at this rescue and rehabilitation center in Surf City. North Carolina beaches attract large numbers of nesting sea turtles each year, and every year some of them become sick or injured. The Sea Turtle Center opened in 1997 with a small group of dedicated volunteers who saw the need for a facility to care for these gentle creatures and then release them back into the wild.

Moores Creek National Battlefield – Site of the first significant victory for the Patriots in the American Revolution. This decisive victory spurred the creation of the Halifax Resolves on April 12, 1776, which instructed North Carolina's delegates to the Continental Congress to vote for independence.

Black River – Kayak along one of the few remaining pristine waterways, past some of the oldest trees in eastern America. Within the Three Sisters Swamp are hundreds of bald cypress trees, many more than 1,000 years old. The river flows through Sampson, Pender and Bladen counties before emptying into the Cape Fear River near Wilmington.

N.C. Blueberry Festival – Celebrating the official state blue berry, this festival held in mid-June in Burgaw features a car show, street fair, recipe contest, barbeque cook-off, a 5K run, special exhibits, and a variety of other events. The first cultivated blueberry production in North Carolina began in the Pender County area in the 1930s. Today, Pender County ranks second in blueberry production for the entire state.

Film tours – Visit the Pender County locations used in popular movies and TV shows, including The Secret Life of Bees, Dawson’s Creek, Tammy, Sleepy Hollow and Under the Dome.

Missiles and More Museum – Learn about Operation Bumblebee, the U.S. Navy's secret guided missile testing program that operated on Topsail Island in the 1940s; the Women Air Force Service Pilots, or WASPs, of WWII; the pirates of the Carolinas; and more at this museum in Topsail Beach.

Perquimans County

Travel the S-shaped swing bridge – The historic coastal town of Hertford boasts the only S-shaped swing bridge still in use in the United States. It was built in 1929 to replace a drawbridge over the Perquimans River. It’s said the moonlight view from the bridge inspired Benny Davis to write the popular 1920s song “Carolina Moon.”

Newbold-White House – The oldest brick house in North Carolina, the Newbold-White House in Hertford tells the story of Abraham and Judith Sanders, a colonial Quaker family.

Northeast Dragway – Visit this dragway on summer Friday evenings to check out a local drag race on the one-eighth mile track.

Perquimans Arts Gallery – View and purchase the work of over 100 local artisans at this gallery in Hertford.

Tyrrell County

Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge – Go hiking or geocaching or take a guided tour at this national wildlife refuge, home to a variety of wildlife including great blue herons, white-tailed deer, otters and black bears.

Buckridge Coastal Reserve – The largest of North Carolina’s ten Coastal Reserves, the Buckridge site is situated between Alligator River and Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuges. The reserve is part of the East Dismal Swamp, a wetlands complex that encompasses more than 320,000 acres in Dare, Tyrrell, and Washington counties. The majority of the site contains non-riverine swamp forest, peatland Atlantic white cedar forest, and pond pine woodlands.

Palmetto-Peartree Preserve – Enjoy hiking, camping, paddling, hunting and fishing at this nature preserve located just five miles east of Columbia.

Washington County

*Pettigrew State Park - Pettigrew State Park is a jumping off point for exploring 16,000-acre Lake Phelps and its surrounding landscape by land or water.

*Somerset Place - The prototypical Antebellum plantation, and of the state's largest before the Civil War. It’s also a popular and beautiful wedding venue.

Port O’Plymouth Museum – Interpreting Plymouth’s Civil War history, the museum includes a fully operable, to-scale replica of the CSS Albemarle.

Davenport Homestead - Take a trip to Creswell's Davenport Homestead and see what everyday life was like over 200 years ago. Built around 1790, the property is the oldest surviving homestead open to the public in the region.