Blue Ridge Mountains © Jan van der Crabben
Perfect for travellers who seek unspoiled beaches or peaceful mountain scenery, North Carolina is not a state known for its high-paced cities and cultural attractions. Its two best features, the mountains and the coast, are situated on opposite sides of the state, with miles of sparsely populated ground separating them.
The west of North Carolina is home to beautiful rugged mountains, valleys and flower-filled meadows, waterfalls, streams and rivers brimming with trout, scenic drives and miles of hiking trails. Sharing the border with Tennessee, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most visited parks in the country, home to acres of virgin forests and some of the oldest mountains on earth. Snaking its way along the backbone of the Blue Ridge Mountain Range is the dramatic Blue Ridge Parkway road, providing magnificent scenery and elevated views on its way towards Virginia.
The east of North Carolina boasts the Atlantic coastline, complete with good beaches, fascinating historical sites and natural refuges that stretch from the thin band of barrier islands known as the Outer Banks to the Cape Fear Coast and the seaport of Wilmington in the south. Apart from seaside holiday resorts, most of the beaches, dunes and marsh areas are protected within the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and there are plenty of recreational activities such as surfing, fishing, swimming and bird watching on offer.
The central Piedmont, or Heartland, lies between the coastal plains and the mountains and is a largely industrial and agricultural region of textile and tobacco towns, dominated by the academic institutions of the celebrated Research Triangle, a trio of university towns including Durham, the state capital of Raleigh, and Chapel Hill. A typically southern pace of life exists among the rolling farmland and picturesque golf courses despite the growth and swift economic progress, with landscapes reminiscent of the writings of Southern authors such as Thomas Wolfe.
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