Hit the Road: Our Favorite North Carolina Travel Destinations

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In need of a quick getaway this spring and summer? Our staff shares a few of their fave nearby destinations perfect for day or weekend trips!

The lighthouse on Ocracoke, a favorite travel destination for Chatham Magazine's managing editor Anna-Rhesa Versola
Ocracoke Lighthouse. Photo by Anna-Rhesa Versola

My family’s happy place is Ocracoke, a tiny barrier island off the coast of North Carolina. From Pittsboro, it’s about a four hour drive to Cedar Island where you roll onto a ferry. Two hours later, you follow Highway 12 to the only village on the island. We usually rent a home at the edge of Springer’s Point, a nature preserve along the sound. We ride bikes to small shops, like Mermaid’s Folly, and restaurants like Dajio. Our favorite eatery is Thai Moon, which has the best Thai food in the state. During the day, we hang out at one of the many beaches. I enjoy hunting for pretty shells while my husband is fishing and our daughters are jumping the waves. – Anna-Rhesa Versola, Senior Staff Writer

Asheboro Zoo. Photo by John Michael Simpson

Our family enjoys the New Hope Valley Railway – it’s a fun train ride for the kids. Plan to arrive early to enjoy the model railroad and the outdoor museum. We love the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, too – it’s perfect for curious kiddos to see all kinds of animals, big and small. Stop by The Table for breakfast or lunch before your visit – it’s got great gluten-free options! – John Michael Simpson, Staff Photographer

I love the Outer Banks, and one of my favorite islands to visit is on Cape Lookout. From Harkers Island, you can take a ferry or boat over to the cape, with the option to stop at Shackleford Banks, where you can explore and catch a glimpse of the wild horse herds that inhabit the island. Once you arrive at the cape you can climb the lighthouse (it’s scheduled to reopen in 2025 after renovations) and enjoy swimming and relaxing on the beach. After a day in the sun, stop by nearby Beaufort for a meal or shopping. – Renee Ambroso, Digital Content Specialist & Heart of NC Weddings managing editor

I can’t even count all the times my friends and I have made day trips to Jordan Lake. The best thing about it is that these can be more like half-day trips – the public beaches have all the benefits of the North Carolina coast without having to drive three hours! The water is chilly, but a quick dip is the perfect way to cool down after a full day in the sun. I’ve also gone to see the sunrise during the winter, and found a dock to have a sunset picnic during the spring! Next thing on my bucket list is spending a night on the campground. The possibilities are endless; it’s an adventure in our own backyard. – Leah Berry, editorial assistant

I love a quick getaway with girlfriends to Wrightsville Beach. It’s less than a two hour drive from here. We stay at the newly renovated and modern Holiday Inn to save a buck, eat at cute, casual beach bars for great margaritas and fish tacos like Shark Bar and Kitchen or dine late on the waterway at Bluewater Waterfront Grill. It’s the perfect short getaway. – Ashlin Acheson, Director of Creative Operations

I love spending my summer weekends in Wilmington, North Carolina. After a sunny day at Carolina Beach’s Freeman Park, I like to eat at The Kitchen Sink for dinner. Afterward, I head over to Boombalatti’s for the best nondairy coffee ice cream. Visit Airlie Gardens, eat an acai bowl at Zeke’s Beans and Bowls, relax with a drink at High Tide Lounge & Tiki Bar, have some coffee from Bespoke, eat the tastiest brunch at Blue Surf Cafe, learn all about Wilmington’s ghosts on a tour, take a tour of the Historic Thalian Hall and, most of all, enjoy the sights and sounds of the sun, sand and surf. – Lindsay Scott, Graphic Designer/Production Coordinator

Up-close shot of Smokehouse at Steve's chicken biscuit and grits, which Jessica Stringer will travel to Graham for

Spend time outside in Graham and Burlington, two charming towns just a hop, skip and a jump away from Chatham. Start with brunch at the Smokehouse at Steve’s in Graham and order the hefty chicken biscuit and grits. Enjoy a walk through Burlington’s Springwood Park or stroll downtown. Forgotten Road Ales in Graham has amazing sour ales and an expansive patio with a disc golf course in back. And, perhaps best of all, Forgotten Road is dog-friendly! – Jessica Stringer, Editor, Chapel Hill Magazine

Our family has been heading to Bald Head Island for more than 30 years. Tip: Plan your trip around a full moon so you can enjoy bagpipes, a bonfire and a stunning moonrise at the year-round Howl at the Moon event held at Beach Access 39 and sponsored by Maritime Market. You really do get to howl at the moon with your fellow islanders! – Sally Scruggs, Creative Director, Triangle Digital Partners

Kure Beach is a bustling beach town. We love going in May or October when the weather is warm, but it’s not overcrowded. We always stop by The Veggie Wagon on the way into town for a seasonal beer on tap and to pick up some ready-made dinners and local vegetables. Spend a long weekend surfing and building sandcastles on the beach, or take a ride to Southport on the ferry. Hike through Fort Fisher and spend an afternoon at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. – Rory Kelly Gillis, President, Triangle Digital Partners

My husband, James, and I love to visit Asheville any chance we get. It has a great small city vibe, amazing restaurants, art galleries and, of course, hiking in the nearby Pisgah National Forest. A perfect day for me would be to book an early spot at Sauna House (it’s opening a Durham location soon, and I can’t wait!). Then I’d grab my dog Casper and head to Burial Beer Co. (which also has a Raleigh taproom!) for lunch and whatever new IPA they’re pouring. Next, I’d take a stroll through Screendoor, a huge antique and vintage warehouse, or the charming used bookshop Bagatelle Books. I’d then want to watch the sunset over the Blue Ridge Mountains at The Montford rooftop bar – I love that they use North Carolina spirits, like Sutler’s Gin out of Winston-Salem and Durham’s Krupnikas honey liqueur, in their signature cocktails – and grab dinner at Plant, an award- winning vegan restaurant that has somehow perfected a cashew cheese that tastes exactly like brie. – Morgan Cartier Weston, Managing Editor & Digital Growth Strategist

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