The 7 Most Scenic Small Towns In North Carolina
North Carolina’s generally mild climate is perfect for year-round outdoor activities. Complete with mountain views and a coastal location, the state seems to have it all. Its many small towns, such as the ones below, serve as scenic getaways from the region’s incredible adventures.
Part of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the town is complemented by the “ancient gneiss outcrop” of the same name, a large protruding rock that causes the wind to blow upwards and objects to appear to float skyward. The Gilded Age estate owned by textile magnate Moses H. Cone is a scenic 3,600-acre landscape of upland fields and forests, perfect for hiking or horseback riding. The old Tweetsie Railroad takes one to the top of Sugar Mountain, from which you can ski, or take the Wilderness Run roller coaster for the return trip. The quaint highland town itself boasts every amenity in a beautiful setting, including upmarket restaurants, sidewalk cafes, boutique shops and charming guesthouses, plus a large park of the city for some outdoor downtime.
The idyllic town named after famous explorer and pioneer Daniel Boone is located in northwestern North Carolina with the Blue Ridge Mountains as a backdrop. The town, famous for its arts and cultural initiatives, has hosted the play Horn In The West every summer since 1952. Boone is also a jaunt to famous Grandfather Mountain via the Blue Ridge Roadway which is popular with adventurers. Elk Knob State Park is ideal for calming walks, hikes, and exploring the vast, spectacular natural landscapes. As a college town, its quaint King Street has a youthful atmosphere with overflowing shops and restaurants while being the historic Main Street. Most places to walk in Boone have been around for generations.
Town of Bryson
Located in the western part of North Carolina, Bryson City is the small gateway town to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, making it one of the most scenic in the state, awaiting adventurous explorers and enthusiasts of photography. The great outdoors include everything from the majestic Smoky Mountains, to wild streams and scenic hills, to the Tuckasegee River that meanders through the city. For more laid-back countryside viewing, an antique train car courtesy of the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad offers all the sights in full view from the comfort of its seat. The journey takes one from the bottom of the valley and, passing through several tunnels, brings one to the Nantahala Gorge.
This idyllic town in the Blue Ridge Mountains is a great getaway for exploring the area’s waterfalls, apple orchards, and pretty hiking trails, like the one at Dupont State Park. The pedestrianized Main Street in the rejuvenated town center features terraced restaurants, various shops and entertainment venues, all set against the beautiful mountain backdrop. The city attracts many writers and literature lovers for the inspiring views, the Flat Rock Playhouse and the nearby Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site. There’s also a Gem Mine, the Appalachian Pinball Museum, and the Team Ecco Aquarium and Shark Lab with live sharks for family fun.
Capital of the state in its past and second oldest city in North Carolina, picturesque Edenton is a real gem whose streets are lined with historic buildings and houses from the 18th and 19th centuries. The tranquility of the coastal location and the surrounding landscape induce true relaxation, making Edenton a perfect place for a romantic getaway to feel alone together. Pathways with massive old trees hiding the beautiful churches and stately homes lead to the expansive waterfront area with fantastic views of Albemarle Sound, where bald cypresses in the water are nearly 2,000 years old. A trolley tour offers a trip through the city’s historic landmarks, while the 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse is one of the few remaining screw-pile lighthouses in the country.
The small town of New Bern is undeniably a quaint gem, steeped in history, strolling around feels like you’re on a film set or in an outdoor museum. As the second oldest European colonial city in North Carolina, New Berm was first settled by the Swiss who erected the city after their birthplace in Switzerland. The city’s four neighborhoods, listed on the US National Register of Historic Places, feature unique characters and atmospheres and offer historic buildings to admire. Must-visits include the 18th-century Tryon Palace and Georgian-style Coor-Gaston House, while the city itself is the renowned birthplace of Pepsi Cola.
While many know Southport for its sleepy and picturesque cityscape, it has a rich and varied history complemented by coastal charm. It is located on the Atlantic coast in Brunswick County in southern North Carolina. Spanish explorers discovered the region in the 16th century. Installed by the British in later years, Southport’s facade retains a deeply rooted blend of the two colonies. 18th-century Fort Johnston is North Carolina’s first state fort, while the town’s wooden fishing pier jutting out to sea offers an Instagram-worthy shot of the pretty collection of buildings . It might come as no surprise to learn that this town was used as a filming location for the iconic Dawson’s Creek series, as well as other series and films.
The drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway to access many of these scenic spots is already an experience to die for with breathtaking panoramic views of the Appalachians. With the perfect year-round climate for seasonal activities, these small towns welcome visitors with great skiing in the winter, gorgeous foliage in the fall, and ready-to-go summer activities and entertainment.