This blog post was updated on August 2, 2021.
Signs for “boiled peanuts” start to present themselves with the same frequency as signs for gas stations. The mountains are behind you and the North Carolina coast, and its strange way of preparing peanuts, is at your feet. After cruising through North Carolina a few months ago, it wasn’t so much the western points of the state, the sites Hunger Games enthusiasts are heading to now, that drew me. It was the simple, salty and subtle coastline I wanted to keep driving along even when the road ended. Test the waters and stop at these points on your North Carolina road trip.
Find The Outer Banks’ Horse Power: Any respectable road trip along North Carolina’s coast demands a little horse power. Known as the Banker Ponies, the Outer Banks are home to several herds of wild horses, descended from Spanish mustangs. How they got to these banks is really a bit of mystery. Some say they swam ashore after shipwrecks by explorers in the 1500s. Others claim they were merely castoffs that remained castaways from failed settlements. Drivers should cruise up to Corolla to see the northernmost herd of wild ponies. The island of Ocracoke also boasts its own settlement of ponies.
For a truly unique experience however, ditch the wheels and get on a boat to Shackleford Banks, home to the southernmost herd of Banker Ponies. Part of the Cape Lookout National Seashore, visitors must take a boat ride out to this island where the Shackleford ponies roam.
Take Flight To The Wright Brothers National Memorial (photo): Aviation aficionados won’t want to whiz by the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, right on the North Carolina coast. It is the site of the first successfully manned powered flight. Wilbur and Orville Wright were drawn to Kill Devil Hill, the tallest sand dune on the Outer Banks, to test out their “flying machine.” On December 17, 1903, Orville would take flight, becoming a piece of history as the first completely successful manned flight in the world.
A visit to the Memorial shows you the open filed where the first few flights from the brothers took off and landed. On top of Kill Devil Hill, there is a large monument to the Wright Brothers. From this vantage point, suddenly and maybe only just for a moment, flying doesn’t see so terrible, but rather remarkable.
Be sufficiently spooked by the Old Burying Ground in Beaufort: Beaufort is not just a place to park your 15 million dollar yacht and retire. The town of the Crystal Coast of North Carolina tells of its seafaring and Revolutionary War days through the Old Burying Ground. With lazy hanging tree branches keeping these souls contained, you can pick up a brochure at virtually any shop or hotel in Beaufort that details the tales within this old graveyard. From a British solider buried standing for fear of parting with his boots to a girl in a barrel of rum, this place is chilling in its history. Nathaniel Taylor deeded the Old Burying Ground of Beaufort to the town in 1731.
Visit Hollywood East or simply Wilmington: The historic port city was famous long before Dawson’s Creek came to film moody teens and their dramatic lives. While the city boasts hundreds of film and TV credits, it is the town’s historic district that presents true North Carolina charm. Harking on the days of high society, Wilmington’s historic district remains the largest 19th century historic district in the state. Spend some time marveling at its late Victorian townhouses and antebellum mansions. However if teen drama is more your speed, you can tour the EUE Screen Gems Studios. The real working studio has served as the setting for a number of American films and television shows.
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