A North Carolina Destination for Autumn Colors in an RV

This is the most colorful season of all and a perfect time for an autumn RV trip to North Carolina. As you enjoy the yellow, red and orange leaves, you can also take advantage of the many activities and attractions available to you and your family. It’s a lovely time of year and nothing could be better than a vacation to the North Carolina forests and mountains.

Botanical Gardens at Ashland, NC

Botanical Gardens at Ashland, NC

Have Asheville, North Carolina as your home base. There is colorful foliage around town as well as in the surrounding area. Mid-October is the beginning of the changing leaves and offers breathtaking views of a panorama of hues. The peak will be around late October so you can stay a few weeks to experience a full fall display.

While in town, stop at the Botanical Gardens at Asheville. It is located right next to the University of North Carolina. There is no charge to visit and you will see a wide variety of trees, both native and exotic. Hiking around these gardens provides you a unique way to experience fall. The Southern Appalachian Mountains collections of plants are something you won’t want to miss.

Of course, you can’t pass up taking the Asheville Urban Trail around downtown Asheville. This is like an outdoor museum, with plaques explaining the history of the region, sculptures and other works of art. It is an easy loop which takes about two hours to walk and will thrill you with history, culture and inspiration.

At the North Carolina Arboretum at the beginning of the Blue Ridge Parkway, you will get in some more hiking, but this time through forests of pine, hardwood and other species of trees, many turning with gorgeous fall colors right now. You’ll discover ten miles of hiking and biking trails, but may prefer the Carolina Mountain Trail above the others to see the forest and stop at an overlook for a view.

While here, you can decide on a further adventure. Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway provides outstanding views of fall foliage displays.  Even with the current government shutdown of national parks, this parkway is open, although visitor centers and campgrounds are closed for now. Enjoy the mountain meadows, the scenic overlooks and the peace and solitude of this gorgeous region. Stop at Craggy Gardens to have a quiet picnic and hike a trail or two.

Not many miles from Asheville, you can visit Dupont State Forest to get some additional fall beauty. There are more than 80 miles of trails, and the best thing of all is the numerous waterfalls to see. Triple Falls is a favorite as well as Hooker Falls and High Falls. Hooker and High Falls require only a moderate hike, where Triple Falls has an approaching trail that can get quite steep. Explore as you will find three other waterfalls that will take your breath away.

Be on the watch for wildlife as you tour this beautiful section of North Carolina. You will want to bring your camera gear too, so you can take home photo-memories of your autumn RV trip.

Picture credits: The picture of The Botanical Gardens in Ashland, NC is from the Wikimedia Commons. It is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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Take a Thrilling RV Trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Picture of the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Fall

Blue Ridge Parkway in the Fall

North Carolina and Virginia offer some gorgeous sights for the RV vacationer. The best route for enjoying the views is the Blue Ridge Parkway. There is really no better way to experience these Eastern forests, mountains and blooming flowers. Attractions are numerous and just waiting for your visit.

Traveling north on the byway begins in Asheville, North Carolina. Tour the art community and discover some amazing history by seeing the Biltmore Estate, a 250-room French Renaissance chateau. And if you love to wander garden trails go over to the North Carolina Arboretum. You will see a bonsai collection there that will have you yearning to learn that art.

Take your time as you head north on the parkway. The overlooks allow you to gaze out on the diverse landscapes of the Great Smoky Mountains. When you reach Spruce Pine, North Carolina, stop at the Museum of North Carolina Minerals to look over the hundreds of minerals and gems that were found in this area. Kids with you? They will love the interactive displays at this museum, but so will the grownups.

You will most certainly want to explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park while here. The outdoor recreation in this park has no equal anywhere else. The rushing rivers and panoramic views serve to remind us of the fragility of our natural world and urge us to get out and enjoy it anytime we have the chance. You can hike, bike and fish here until your heart’s content.

Take a guided tour of the Linville Caverns when you reach Marion, North Carolina on your journey. This is an attraction you won’t want to pass up as you are getting the unique opportunity to explore the inside of a mountain! Then you will continue on into Virginia to stop at the Natural Bridge. Hike the Cedar Creek Nature Trail. Be sure to begin conversation with the staff at Monacan Indian Village to find out what life was like here more than 300 years ago.

You will find all kinds of options for RV camping as you travel the Blue Ridge Parkway. Plan ahead and scope out where you’ll stay as you move south to north. Each RV park is unique and all have great amenities.

The best time of all awaits you in Shenandoah National Park. Take Skyline Drive for some breathtaking vistas. Don’t miss any one of the incredible overlooks. And don’t forget your camera! Cascading waterfalls in the park are a favorite and many come just to see them.

There is really no end to all the outdoor recreation, marvelous wilderness views and wildlife you can enjoy in Shenandoah National Park. You would think that this is the perfect ending for a perfect vacation. However, one more thrill is ahead. In Front Royal, you can stop to get a guided tour of the Skyline Caverns. This has been a wonderful adventure and you are welcome back again any time for a fun RV vacation.

Picture credits: The picture of the Blue Ridge Parkway is by the National Park Service.

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A Spring Adventure to North Carolina Outer Banks

Picture of the Outer Banks from Space

NASA Picture of the Outer Banks

A wonderful adventure for those who love the ocean, history, cultural exhibits, and gardens – the list goes on. An RV vacation to the North Carolina Outer Banks provides it all. Relax to the sound of the Atlantic Ocean pounding the shore, the quiet nights and the calm sunny days. The northern beaches of the coast and the fascinating islands all give a visitor an experience that can be found in no other place. RV Camping is plentiful, too, on the Outer Banks, and you have a wide choice of campgrounds that will accommodate RV motorhomes.

The outdoors enthusiast will love checking out Cape Hatteras National Seashore. You can beachcomb for shells of incredible variety, birding is the best, and paddling the inlets is an opportunity to see all sorts of wildlife. The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is a must-see while you are here. You can climb to the top if you are ready for an extremely strenuous climb, much like climbing the stairs in a twelve-story building. Within the boundaries of Cape Hatteras National Seashore you’ll find four campgrounds, all accommodating RV motorhomes.

Learning about wildlife is always a great thing, and you can find out so much about our natural world at the Outer Banks wildlife refuges. At Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge in Nags Head, you can wander the trails and see upland, wading and shore birds. Salt Flats Trail and North Pond Wildlife Trail are ideal to get into the natural environment and watch wildlife in their normal habitat. Would you like to see larger wildlife? At Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge you may spot some black bears, wolves and you will definitely see some alligators.

Picture of Jockey's Ridge State Park

Jockey’s Ridge State Park

Jockey’s Ridge State Park is a wonderful destination for hiking on some self-guided trails. You can witness some of the tallest sand dunes in the U.S. here. A wonderful place to get away from it all! Try your hand at hang gliding here as well! Now is your chance! Kite fliers, here is the ideal place to practice your hobby!

The Nature Conservancy at Nags Head Woods Preserve is a maritime forest where you can hike on a trail that fits your level of ability. There are hikes that are easy and some that are strenuous. Choose the best one for you. This barrier island contains some unusual animal and plant life. Then be sure to stop at the Wright Brothers National Memorial to discover where Wilber and Orville Wright had their first successful flight. At the visitor center you can see some historic displays and other exhibits and educational movies.

The Fort Raleigh National Historic Site is one spot that visitors make it a point to see when traveling the North Carolina Outer Banks. At the north end of Roanoke Island, this park illuminates the early drama of the Lost Colony, and you will love to see all the many sights available here. The mystery of these lost colonists is still not solved, but perhaps you may get an idea as you tour this park.

Explore Elizabethan Gardens in Manteo if you love the Elizabethan period, or even if you don’t really know what that is. This 16th century garden commemorates the lost colonists. In fact, this is where those colonists lived before they disappeared forever. Enjoy the beautiful camellias, hydrangeas and other native plants.

Now for a unique time at Roanoke Island Festival Park. This is a family attraction which lies on the island and provides a view into what life was like for the early settlers. Be sure to see the Island Adventure Museum and the Elizabeth II sailing vessel which shows how those settlers traveled to this land. The ship is a representation of one of the seven ships that traveled from England to the New World in the late 1500s.

Another fascinating attraction is the George Washington Creek Boat Shop, a working boat shop where you can see for yourself how boat construction is accomplished. You must also stop by the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse and gaze out to sea as the early light keepers did so long ago.

An RV trip along the Outer Banks is certainly something to experience. It is an adventure those of all ages can enjoy. The sparkling Atlantic Ocean, the sandy beaches and crashing waves are only one small part of North Carolina’s coastal wonders. You will want to come back again to enjoy all the Outer Banks has to offer.

Picture credits: The picture of the Outer Banks is from the Wikimedia Commons. It is in the public domain. The picture of Jockey’s Ridge State Park is from the Wikimedia Commons. It is in the public domain.

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Take a Spring RV Vacation to Pisgah National Forest

Picture of the Linville Gorge in the Pisgah National Forest.

Linville Gorge in the Pisgah National Forest.

Spring in the Appalachian Mountains has no compare. What a thrill to spend a spring vacation in this gorgeous area! The Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina offers so much for those who want to get away from it all and bask in the beauty of nature. Towering peaks, sparkling waterfalls and dense forests all provide the inspiration you have needed all year. Hiking, fishing, biking or horseback riding provide only some of the outdoor fun you’ll find here. RV camping is plentiful too. Stay at the Black Mountain Campground where you will have lovely campsites with tables and fire rings with grills. Although there are no hookups, you will have showers and restrooms with flush toilets handy.

The Appalachian Ranger District of the forest is one of the best areas to visit. This region stretches from the eastern edge of Great Smoky Mountain National Park to the Blue Ridge Parkway near Tennessee. Some of the best trails to hike or bike here are the Bear Pen Trail, with cascading waterfalls and lots of camera-ready sights, and the Staire Creek Trail, taking you through some lush forests with streams and more waterfalls.

Near the Tennessee state line in the Appalachian Ranger District you can reach Max Patch, an incredible view from 4,629 feet up. This is an ideal place to fish, hike or view all the wildlife in this area. Wildflowers will be in bloom this time of year, too. Picnic, gaze out at Mount Mitchell and the Great Smoky Mountains. Views like you won’t believe!

In the Pisgah Ranger District, the Lake Powhatan Recreation Area offers great fishing. There are thirteen man-made lakes and ponds into which you can cast a line. Hike the loop trails or take the more challenging trails for added excitement. When you take the Shut-In Trail, you will get to hike through a black bear sanctuary and get an experience like you’ve never had before. If you love fishing, catch some rainbow or brown trout in Bent Creek or the French Broad River. Lake Powhatan has plenty of great places to fish along the shore or from the fishing pier by the dam.

Make your way to the North Carolina Arboretum, a lovely area with gardens, hiking trails and exhibits of plants, including a fine bonsai collection. There are 434 acres of inspiring beauty where you can collect your thoughts and prepare yourself for even more adventures to come.

Of course, perhaps the greatest adventure is traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway. The scenic vistas will take your breath away. Originally built to connect Great Smoky Mountain National Park with Shenandoah National Park, this byway is a drive you will never forget – 469 miles of nature at its best.

Another place to stop and explore is the Bent Creek Experimental Forest. Day hiking is a favorite here on the Cold Knob Connector Trail, Chestnut Cove Trail or Boyd Branch Trail. You can also fish, ride horses or just settle in for a delicious picnic at a quiet spot.

Yes, nothing like a trip to Pisgah National Forest for an inspiring spring RV vacation!

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A Springtime RV Trip to North Carolina’s Croatan National Forest

Picture of the Sign for the Croatan National ForestInching northward as the spring weather warms, you will find North Carolina a marvelous destination for an RV trip. Croatan National Forest, on the eastern coast of the state, provides a wealth of wildlife, amazing pine forests and plenty of outdoor spring fun for the whole family. With more than 160,000 acres to explore, you will be hard put to do everything you’d like in one trip. RV camping (PDF) is no problem in the forest and you will find the site of your dreams to make your home base during your visit.

You are surrounded by water in Croatan National Forest. You have the estuaries, tidal rivers, and swamps on all sides. The Bogue Sound has some of the best fishing around. Canoeing is always fun on the creeks and marshes. The wildlife you see will include black bears, deer, alligators and turkeys.

Before you leave for Croatan National Forest, you should study up on one of the unusual plants you will come upon – the carnivorous Venus fly-trap. You will better understand how they survive as they get nutrients from insects instead of the boggy soil into which they extend their roots. A fascinating experience – to witness a Venus fly-trap in its natural habitat.

Grab your mountain bike and head for the Neuse River Recreation Area within the forest. Here under the trees you will unwind and leave all your cares behind. It is a lovely spot on the shores of the river with a wonderful beach where you can spread a towel and listen to the waters running by. The Neuse River Trails offer easy hiking or biking along a paved trail and boardwalk.

Cedar Point Recreation Area is another must-see. Located on the White Oak River with salt marshes surrounding, you will find saltwater fishing and much more in this spot. This is a wetland famous for its beauty and quietude. The coastal forest invites you in for some great walking and hiking.

If you want a boat trip to outdo any other, try the Saltwater Adventure Trail where you can stop at a number of sights along the way. Even novices can enjoy this trip. A real adventure would be to explore the entire trail, but be prepared. It could take you up to seven days.

Brice’s Creek Trail is a part of the Saltwater Adventure Trail and is an additional treat to your water adventures. However, if you want to fish, Catfish Lake is the place to go. There is a boat ramp where you can launch a flat bottom boat. Catch some catfish or perch!

A North Carolina RV trip is well worth the time and energy, especially when you are going to visit Croatan National Forest. The coast will provide you with great weather for your spring adventure. You will discover a part of the country that is unique and beautiful. You will certainly want to return again for more fun.

Picture credits: The sign for the Croatan National Forest is from the Wikimedia Commons. It is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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An Autumn RV Trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Picture of the Blue Ridge Parkway on Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina

Blue Ridge Parkway on Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina

For breathtaking fall foliage, you must take the Blue Ridge Parkway through North Carolina and Virginia. An RV trip along this blazingly beautiful route will remain in memory for many years to come. Stop and get some delicious apple cider, enjoy a hay ride and a number of fall festivals.

Start your adventure in Asheville, North Carolina and travel north on the byway. But before leaving Asheville, stop and see the Biltmore Estate for some history of the area. Tour the estate and see the acres of lovely gardens winery and more. Then stop by the North Carolina Arboretum for more garden trails and an amazing bonsai collection.

A fun stop along the way is the Museum of North Carolina Minerals near Spruce Pine, North Carolina. See the more than 300 types of minerals and gems located on this beautiful parkway. The interactive displays are fun for the whole family.

You will want to take your time as you drive the Blue Ridge Parkway because there is so much to see and do. Stop at the many overlooks and get out your camera to capture the beauty. Explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and all the plants and animals that make this area their home. Drive to see rushing mountain rivers and enjoy panoramic views. There is also plenty of hiking, biking and fishing for the outdoor recreation lovers.

You will find a multitude of things to do along the way. One you may enjoy is the Linville Caverns in Marion, North Carolina. This attraction is open every day through November. You will be guided through the caverns for some incredible sights. The Natural Bridge is another place to stop and take a breather. In Natural Bridge, VA, this is a spot of wonder, a place to see how nature truly can make a majestic mark on our land. Learn about how people lived here 300 years ago by chatting with the Living History staff in the Monacan Indian Village.

Plan ahead as you move onward through Virginia because you will find RV camping at Montebello Camping & Fishing Resort. You can rent a paddle boat to get out on the water and can fish all year round. RVs are welcome!

Of course, you can’t miss checking out all there is to do in Shenandoah National Park. Hike to see lovely waterfalls and incredible vistas of wooded hills all bright with fall colors. You may want to stay here for a few days to take in everything. Then moving on to the end of the parkway, be sure to also visit Skyline Caverns in Front Royal. If you have kids with you, they will love the miniature train ride.

Yes, a Blue Ridge Parkway RV trip has nothing else that can quite compare, especially with autumn beauty marking your way.

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Take an RV Trip along the Outer Banks

Picture of a Sign for the Cape Hatteras National SeashoreEnjoy an RV excursion along the Outer Banks to listen to the crashing of the ocean waves, feel the peaceful breezes blowing across sandy dunes and experience the outdoor fun available. Take U.S. Highway 158 and NC 12 north to south and your journey will be a fulfilling one. As you drive through Cape Hatteras National Seashore, you will see plants and animals, lighthouses and so much more. The best time to go is from spring to fall, but allow extra time in summer as this route is very popular and you may find delays on the ferries.

Begin your RV adventure at Kill Devil Hills, NC where you can stop and see where the Wright Brothers made their first heavier-than-air flight. There is a lot to do right here in Kill Devil Hills and you may want to spend a few hours exploring. Find a whole list of available campgrounds and choose the right one for your RV camping spot. A bit further along down the road, be sure to stop at the Bodie Island Lighthouse. This lighthouse was constructed and started operation in 1872 due to so many shipwrecks occurring off these Outer Banks.

Keep going and when you reach Pea Island Wildlife Refuge pull over so you can investigate and absorb this incredible area. Wander the salt flats, marshes, beaches and dunes. There are over 360 species of birds here and twenty-five species of mammals. Witness the ducks, swans and shore birds that make this shoreline their home. Grab a taste of history at the Chicamacomico Life Saving Station a bit further down the coast. This was the predecessor of the Coast Guard, with two stations and five outbuildings to explore. Open from the middle of April through November.

Hatteras Island is really a fabulous place to relax, enjoy some wonderful seafood restaurants and slow down a little in your travels. Try some kite boarding or wind surfing. This is a natural retreat where you can do what you like for a time and let the workaday world worries just melt away. Be sure not to pass up visiting the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the tallest on the American coast. Climb to the top and take in the sights.

At the Hatteras-Ocracoke Ferry Terminal you will find the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum. Stop in for a short tour and marvel over the numerous exhibits and artifacts. The nearby waters contain a long list of ships that were wrecked and you can discover the fascinating history of the brave mariners who lost their lives off these shores.

Catch the free ferry to Ocracoke Island and get the unique opportunity to see Ocracoke Island‘s beauty. This spot was where Blackbeard operated and you will love visiting the Ocracoke Island Visitor Center so you can learn all about this amazing fishing village. Don’t forget the Ocracoke Lighthouse either, the oldest lighthouse on the North Carolina coast.

Your trip has come to an end at this point, and you can head home. But not before you stop at Teach’s Hole to pick up some pirate souvenirs. You can take home some trinkets for friends, neighbors and relatives that they will treasure forever after. You will enjoy the exhibit here all about this wild pirate. The whole trip has been one of making memories, and you will love recalling how much fun you had on your RV trip along the Outer Banks.

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North Carolina’s Cullasaja River Gorge – a Great RV Destination

Driving through the lush landscapes of North Carolina is a relaxing yet at the same time an invigorating vacation experience. Driving this Southern route in an RV is even more inviting, as you have everything you need with you at all times. The Cullasaja River Gorge is one destination that attracts many to a scenic drive that tops just about any on the East Coast.

Starting in Franklin, NC you will take U.S. Highway 64 through some lovely river country, the Cullasaja River being the major attraction. This tributary of the Little Tennessee River has cut a beautiful canyon named the Cullasaja River Gorge. Waterfalls, animal life, birds and National Forest land – all yours on this marvelous drive. Spring through fall is the best time to come.

In Franklin you will find RV camping at Cullasaja RV Park, with full hookups and fun activities. No matter the time of year, this North Carolina town offers a number of events and festivals that the whole family will enjoy. In July, the Franklin Folk Festival is a favorite, with many themes that cover different aspects of pioneer days in this area. Also in Franklin, you will find access nearby to the Appalachian Trail and other hiking trails you are sure to love.

Take off on the Mountain Waters Scenic Byway (U.S. 64 and NC 28) which takes you through rural countryside and hardwood forests. You will be in the Nantahala National Forest with its multitude of outdoor recreational opportunities. Picnic in any one of the many day-use areas. You can climb, fish or hike – it’s all here for you!

The most famous attractions in Cullasaja River Gorge are the fabulous waterfalls. This National Scenic Byway provides access to some amazing hikes and views of beautiful cascades. You can hike to the Bridal Veil Falls along a wooded trail. Just take the trailhead which is located across the road from the parking lot. It takes about two and a half hours out and back.

Two other waterfalls you’ll see as you drive this byway are Dry Falls and Quarry Falls. You can walk behind Dry Falls, witnessing its 75-80-foot cascade in a unique way. However, you must be sure to protect your valuables from the spray, otherwise they will get wet. Quarry Falls is also called Bust-Yer-Butt Falls, so watch your step!

Be sure to visit the magnificent 250-foot Cullasaja Falls on your RV journey. There is a small pull-off area at the side of the road, so be sure to pull completely off the road so you won’t endanger others in their travels. If you are up to it, you can hike there on a steep trail through rough terrain. Another falls you can stop and see is Glen Falls. It takes a 2.5-mile trek to reach it, but you will avoid the crowds as it is not on the main highway.

The last stop on your Cullasaja RV adventure is Highlands, NC. If you love to go birding, this is definitely the spot! There are also plenty of trails where you can hike and enjoy nature. This RV trip has certainly shown you the best of North Carolina and will remain in memory for a long time to come!

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Take Time to Smell the Roses (and Other Wildflowers)

If you’re looking for an ideal way to see the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, consider driving along the Newfound Gap Road, also known as US Route 441. This 33-mile road traverses the entire park, and is the only road that does so. You can drive the length of the road in one hour as part of a longer vacation, or you can stop at all of the points of interest for many hours of enjoyment. When you do this, your motorhome really comes in handy, as you can make dinner, decide to stay for the night, or just be in the comfort of your RV rental while enjoying the scenery.

Be aware that the park’s busiest season is the summer tourist season in June through August, as well as leaf peepers who come to view the spectacular fall foliage in October. However, the wildflowers are in bloom as early as mid-March, and are abundant in April making for excellent motorhome vacations while the other tourists are still scarce.

You can drive the route from either end, starting at Gatlinburg or Cherokee. The Sugarlands Visitor Center is located less than one mile from Gatlinburg. The visitor center can provide you with maps of the park, displays of the park’s natural history, and well-informed park rangers that can answer any of your questions regarding the best sights to see on that particular day.

If it’s a warm day, you may spot other RVs on the pull-offs beside the road. Join them and splash in the crystal waters of the Little Pigeon River. After just a few miles, you’ll reach the best view in the entire park, the Campbell Overlook, where you can see Mt. LeConte, the third highest mountain in the Smoky Mountain range.

If you want to leave your motorhome and walk around, you can take a “quiet walkway” that lets you see the remains of a number of homesteads that used to occupy this area of the Smokies. Look at the remnants of foundations and chimneys, and imagine what it was like to live there.

Large parking areas at the trailheads allow tourists to park and either take the two mile hike to admire the ever-changing views of the Smokies, including a view of Mt. Mingus, or take the challenging five mile hike up to the LeConte Lodge and intersection with the Appalachian Trail. You can also get out and walk a short distance on the Appalachian Trail as you pass through Newfound Gap itself.

An easy hike is the half mile to the observation tower on top of Clingmans Dome. From this highest point in Tennessee, you can see seven different states on a clear day. There is also a 4.2-mile round-trip hike to Andrew’s Bald, which contains truly amazing displays of flowers in June.

There are also two picnic areas in the park, although you can stop and eat in the kitchen of your RV at any of the pull-offs or parking areas.

Finally, you can stop at the Oconoluftee Visitor Center before leaving the park, and see the Mountain Farm Museum. This remarkable museum consists of buildings of the original pioneers that have been relocated from throughout the park.

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An Active North Carolina RV Excursion

Looking for some excitement for your next family getaway, but not sure which direction to go? What if I told you there’s a way to travel by both land and sea? No, I don’t mean a hovercraft rental. I’m talking about traversing the outer reaches of North Carolina’s coast via RV and ferry, with several stops along the way to stretch not only your legs, but the most active imaginations. With two dozen ferry boats that run daily along the eastern edge of the state — from Knotts Island, which hugs the Virginia state line, to Fort Fisher and the Cape Fear area — the North Carolina Department of Transportation provides road warriors plenty of opportunity to explore this chain of islands. And on these tiny slivers of land, big adventure awaits. (Before setting out on your journey, remember that reservations may be required to secure a spot on board.)

Begin by rolling south on Route 158 towards the Outer Banks and keep an eye out for the blue-and-white signs leading to the free Currituck/Knotts Island Ferry. After a 45-minute boat ride across the Currituck Sound, you’ll arrive on quaint Knotts Island. While the island is primarily residential, visitors are warmly welcomed with two public vineyards, a U-pick orchard, the Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge, artist and craftsman shops, and the Sandy Point Resort Campground. As the birthplace of Ducks Unlimited, Knotts Island also makes an ideal layover spot for the sporting enthusiast. Though the ferry rides to and from the island provide beautiful views of the sound, the best way to take in the marshy vistas is by kayak or canoe. Stillwater Touring Company offers guided paddling tours of the area, including a popular 5.5-mile trek to Carova Beach, where wild horses can often be spotted roaming the shoreline.

Returning to Currituck and heading further south, cross into Kitty Hawk via the Wright Memorial Bridge. Here, you’ll discover endless options for adventure, including a bit of air travel at Kitty Hawk Kites’ Hang Gliding Training Center. Try spreading your wings over the mountainous dunes of Jockey’s Ridge, the tallest natural sand dune system in the Eastern U.S. The site also serves up opportunities for sandboarding (think snowboarding minus the cold stuff). If you’re still looking for an adrenaline rush, hit Kitty Hawk Sports, which can set you out sailing, sea kayaking, kite surfing, and wind surfing.

If you’re a fan of history (and heights), this stretch of highway is perfect for lighthouse learning. North of Kitty Hawk in Corolla, the Currituck Beach Lighthouse has been flashing its Fresnel lens since 1875 and is currently open for climbing. Aim your RV in the other direction past Nags Head to visit the Bodie Island Lighthouse. While you can’t scale this black-and-white standard that guards Oregon Inlet, you can visit the restored keeper’s quarters and stand under the 150-foot high structure. Continue down the slender strip of Route 12 to find the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the country’s tallest brick beacon, which is open to explorers willing to make the strenuous climb up 248 spiraling stairs.

From Hatteras, pick up the free ferry across Hatteras Inlet to Ocracoke Island (a 40-minute trip), home to miles of secluded beaches, even more lighthouses, wild ponies that descended from Spanish mustangs, and legends and lore from the days of Blackbeard. Still feeling restless? Check out the jet-ski rentals and parasailing opportunities. And for those that need a rest, the tiny fishing village hosts Teeter’s Campground, where you can hook up and stay the night. If you do choose to stay over, be sure to bring along a flashlight, since there are about as many ghost crabs on the beaches as there are ghost stories in this historic spot, and chasing the skittering critters at night is a great way to play.

The ferry ride from Ocracoke to Cedar Island is the longest of this journey at two hours and 20 minutes — as such, the fee is $45 for vehicles over 40 feet long (most cars are charged $15). While this small coastal community doesn’t offer nearly the adventure of its northern neighbors, travelers will find the Driftwood Campground, Motel, and Restaurant, as well as the Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge, where you can rest your wheels and kick up your heels for some peaceful kayaking, fishing, and beach combing.

And if you’re not quite ready to set the parking brake on your getaway, you can continue southward to the Cape Fear region. Kayaking, backpacking, camping, and surfing abound in Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach. And not far from the South Carolina border, another ferry ($15 for vehicles over 40 feet) awaits to take you from the historic Civil War site Fort Fisher to the maritime town of Southport.

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