Document focusing on Eastern NC towns and cities to visit when traveling or vacationing in this region, and we will begin the process of listing various tourism attractions in each location.
All information in this article will list cities and towns east of Raleigh NC to the Outer Banks, and south to the Brunswick County beaches, up through the Crystal Coast to the coastal NC / VA border and then over to Roanoke Rapids.
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Outer Banks And Coastal NC
Cities and towns in this region going from south to north are Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, Bald Head Island, Topsail Island and North Topsail Island, Jacksonville, Swansboro, Morehead City, Emerald Isle, Atlantic Beach, Beaufort, Cape Lookout, Shackleford Banks, Ocracoke Island, Cape Hatteras, Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, Corolla, the Pamlico Sound, and Elizabeth City.
Counties include Brunswick County, New Hanover County, Pender County, Onslow County, Carteret County, Hyde County, Pasquotank County, and Dare County.
The NC beaches are a perennial favorite vacation and travel destination for visitors all over the world that come to see quiet and quaint small town southern hospitality attractions. The beaches are clean and nourished, uncrowded, and have endless miles of sprawling sand dunes separating the beaches from populated areas and homes.
This region is internationally famous for world-class diving and fishing, (both inshore and offshore), lighthouses, wild horses that roam free on the many barrier islands, and miles and miles of open water to explore saltwater marshes, coastal shorebirds, nature and wildlife reserves, and remote beaches.
The city of Wilmington in New Hanover County is the most densely populated area along the coast in Eastern NC and has a large airport that serves the area. Additionally, Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach, the town of Carolina Beach, and Bald Head Island are an easy drive to Interstate 40 that goes to Raleigh NC. Wilmington also has a medium sized University (University of North Carolina at Wilmington) along with abundant shopping malls, hotels and motels, public transportation, medical centers, and tourism related businesses.
The Town of Topsail Island North Topsail Island are small beach communities that attract vacationers who love quiet and unspoiled white sand beaches, aqua blue waters, and family owned hotels and motels. This area is about a 30 minute drive to Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach to the south. This area is located in Pender County.
The city of Jacksonville NC is a medium sized area in Onslow County that is mostly known for it’s large Marine Corps military base called Camp Lejeune. This city has an abundance of hotels and motels, shopping, and restaurants and a small regional airport with commercial airline service.
Further up the coast is the Town of Swansboro which is located in Onslow County, but is a very small town that has historical importance and offers vacationers a very quaint feel. The area is best known for it’s seafood restaurants, and small shopping areas along the downtown waterfront.
Swansboro borders Carteret County and the Crystal Coast cities of Morehead City, Emerald Isle, Atlantic Beach, and Beaufort.
The Town of Morehead City is the largest municipality in Carteret County and most known as a tourism area. This location hosts the Big Rock Blue Marlin Fishing Tournament, NC Seafood Festival and several other large scale festivals. It’s downtown waterfront area is dotted with charter fishing boats, seafood restaurants, and small scale shopping.
Next to Morehead City is Beaufort NC and it is the state’s third oldest city steeped in significant historical homes, cemeteries, culture, and heritage. Beaufort is home to the annual Pirate Invasion, Beaufort Music Festival, and Maritime Museum.
On Bogue Banks, the beach towns of Atlantic Beach and Emerald Isle are vacation areas that offers visitors very remote beaches, little to no commercialization, beautiful vacation homes, extensive sand dunes and over two dozen barrier islands.
Atlantic Beach is home to Fort Macon State Park and the NC Beach Music Festival. Emerald Isle is a small town located at the western end of Bogue Banks that is known for it’s quiet beaches that caters to visitors who just want to relax in quiet surroundings.
The Town of Morehead City and Beaufort are also known for their ties to the commercial fishing industry and recreational fishing given their proximity to the warm gulf stream waters.
All towns and cities in Carteret County make up the southern Outer Banks.
Shackleford Banks and Cape Lookout are two attractions that people love to visit. Shackleford is known for it’s small herd of wild horses that live on this barrier island, and Cape Lookout is known for it’s brilliant lighthouse and national seashore.
Further up the coast along the core Outer Banks in Hyde and Dare counties, lies the towns of Cape Hatteras, Buxton, Nags Head, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, and Ocracoke Island.
This coastal region is very remote, and only accessible by one Highway and many of the barrier islands are only accessible by the NC Ferry System. If you travel or visit this area of Eastern NC then you will experience a place like no other in the United States.
This area has world-class diving, recreational and commercial fishing, dozens of small estuaries to explore, a diverse nature and wildlife ecosystem, and beaches you can walk on for days and never see another person.
All industry in this area is family owned hotels, motels, and shops.
Coastal Plains Cities And Towns
New Bern NC is a medium sized city that sits on the Neuse River that has a historical district and harbor that attracts significant tourism to the town. New Bern is accessible by traveling Highway 17 and Highway 70 in Craven County and is 35 minutes from Greenville and Morehead City. This area has a small regional airport with commercial airline service.
The City of Greenville is Eastern NC’s second largest city and home to East Carolina University and hosts the regions large teaching hospital called Vidant Hospital. Greenville is 30 minutes from Rocky Mount. The local airport has commercial airline service.
The City of Kinston lies on Highway 70 and sits between Goldsboro and New Bern. This is a medium sized city with abundant shopping and lodging. Kinston does have a small regional airport.
The City of Goldsboro was once a bustling area because it was home to Pope Air Force Base that is now controlled by Fort Bragg in Fayetteville NC. Goldsboro is a medium sized city about 45 minutes from Raleigh and 20 minutes to Kinston on Highway 70.
The City of Wilson sits between Goldsboro and Rocky Mount and is a regional business center with not much tourism.
The City of Rocky Mount is an area just east of Raleigh that is a local business center.
The City of Fayetteville is home to Fort Bragg military base (Army) which is NC’s largest military installation next to Camp Lejeune. This area does have a small regional airport. Fayetteville is home to the 82nd airborne division.
Elizabeth City sits in the northern part of the region just before the Virginia border and is very close to the core Outer Banks. Elizabeth City is home to a small state university and a large residential community.
All Eastern NC cities in the coastal plains region are not well known for extensive travel and vacation destinations, but there are small local areas of interest.
Which Eastern NC towns have you visited and what are some small tourism attractions that you can tell us about?