North Carolina

Traveling around North Carolina, United States?

We lived along the east coast of North Carolina (Camp Lejeune) for three years, so we were able to take quite a few road trips around the area!  There are a lot of great opportunities, especially for quick getaways and long weekends.  Here were some of our favorites:

Jacksonville, NC

Jacksonville is mainly big-box stores (Target, Walmart, Kohls, Marshalls, Ross, Home Depot, Lowes, Best Buy, etc.) and restaurants (TGI Fridays, Red Robin, Chick-Fil-A, Cracker Barrel, Buffalo Wild Wings, Texas Roadhouse, Red Lobster, etc.).  If you’re looking for community classes or to earn an associate’s degree, Coastal Carolina Community College is centrally located.  A few special places to note:

  • Sywanyks Bar – While they’re classified as a night club, this is basically a United States Marine Corps Museum!  I wish we would have visited sooner with more of our guests.  There are thousands of pieces of memorabilia on all of the walls.  You have to check it out!
  • The Cook Out – Looking for greasy, unhealthy fast food?  This place is delicious!  Located across from the community college, it’s always busy and the exhaust pumps constantly remind students it’s worth it to cross the extremely busy Western Blvd. for a malt, burger, hushpuppies, or a corn dog!

Swansboro, NC

  • Take the ferry at Hammock’s Beach State Park to Bear Island!  The beautiful beach island is three miles long, and you’ll have fun finding sand dollars along the shore.


  • Yana’s – A delicious, casual, family restaurant!  Great place for malts, burgers, & fried donuts (their speciality).  Yana’s has a 50’s theme, with a small souvenir store attached.
  • Riverside – Try the delicious sweet potato muffins!
  • Trattoria Gourmet Pizza & Subs – Good calzones.
  • White Oak River Bistro – This was okay, but I’d prefer to go for lunch.
  • Ducks – A popular option, but not my favorite (a little pricey for what you get).
  • Ice house – A nice view over the river.


  • Lazy Lyons Auction (behind Sweet Potato Vintage in Cedar Point just past Swansboro) – This was a fun activity, if you want to check out a small town auction.  Be prepared to compete against the regulars!
  • Christina A’s Wine Boutique – If you’re trying to find a unique wine, this was a cute little store with a variety of options.
  • Harrika’s Brew House – Located next to the wine boutique, if you’re looking for a special beer, stop over here too.

Wilmington, NC (about 1 hour south of Camp Lejeune)

Wilmington is a cute, historic college town with quite a few options for visitors!  It’s also the closest city for decent shopping from Camp Lejeune.  There are a few larger malls with the main stream stores, as well as boutiques in historic downtown.

  • Walk around the historic river district, specifically the Riverwalk.  There are boutique shops and delicious restaurants.  We enjoyed the Front Street Brewery.  You can also check out a famous scene from the TV show, One Tree Hill.  (Sadly, the film studios are no longer open.)
  • Visit the USS North Carolina Battleship.  It was very neat to climb through the decks and see all of the small spaces, but be prepared, if you want to go through the entire thing, it takes a while!  (We got pretty hungry while exploring all of the nooks and crannies.)
  • There are many breweries and wineries in the area.  I stopped by one, and it was a fun experience, but there are so many to choose from, you’ll have to do your own research and determine what’s best for you!

Charlotte, NC & Asheville, NC (about 4.5 hours from Camp Lejeune)

This was a quick trip; we stayed in Charlotte for 2 nights but also spent a day driving to Asheville to visit the Biltmore Estate.  Since we often traveled with our small dog, we enjoyed staying at La Quinta Inn & Suites.  Most of them are renovated or appear fairly new, dogs stay free, there’s usually a fitness center, free wifi, and free breakfast!

  • Visit the U.S. National Whitewater Center!  It’s about 1/2 hour from Charlotte.  It was a lot of fun!  When we went, an all day “All Sport” pass was $54, including whitewater rafting and kayaking, mega zip line, mega jump, rock climbing, adventure course, canyon zip, mountain biking, and more.  There were also cheaper day pass options that don’t include whitewater rafting.

Whitewater Rafting

  • A drive to Asheville is about a 2.5 hour drive.  We visited the Biltmore Estate, where you can walk around the large yard and gardens, sample wine (free tastings) and take a guided tour, and take a tour of the Vanderbilt’s home.

Biltmore Estate

  • Have extra time?  Consider extending your trip to western North Carolina, or take another trip, to visit the waterfalls and Great Smoky Mountains!  We didn’t have time to go, it’s about 7.5 hours from Camp Lejeune (1 hour from Asheville to Cherokee).  Here’s a site to help plan your visit to the famous waterfalls!

Raleigh, NC (about 2.5 hours from Camp Lejeune)

We took a few day trips to Raleigh, including a getaway from a hurricane striking the East Coast! Raleigh has larger malls, lots of museums, and some delicious restaurants!

  • Raleigh Museum of Natural Sciences
  • Eat at The Pit!  It was DELICIOUS!  The Pit is authentic barbecue, and was featured on Man vs. Food.  It’s downtown and close to the museum.  (If they still have the all-you-can-eat multi-course meal option, DO IT!  Save room for the entree, and you can take the dessert to go.  It was well-worth it, and I think it was only $20.)

The Outer Banks, NC

We visited the Outer Banks in the winter, so it was a bit cold (and windy), but there were no tourists which was nice!  Typically people visit the Outer Banks for the sun and beaches, as well as state parks, shipwreck diving sites, and Roanoke Island, the site of England’s first settlement in the New World.

  • Wright Brother’s National Memorial – We enjoyed the museum, exploring the property, and listening to a historical explanation.
  • Jockey’s Ridge State Park – Beautiful!  While it was cold and the wind was whipping sand at us, the pictures we took are amazing!  Jockey’s Ridge is the tallest natural sand dune system in the Eastern United States.

Outer Banks Dunes

  • We didn’t have a chance to visit, but the North Carolina Aquarium is here too.

Random North Carolina Attractions

  • Muscadine Harvest Festival – We didn’t know what to expect, and thought it was going to be like a mini-state fair expo center with wine tasting, but it was so much better!  You can reserve an area around the outer-edge to set up tables, chairs, and a tent for you and your friends to tailgate, and then walk around the inner-circle to sample all of the wines and listen to the music.  Your teeth may hurt from all of the sweet wine, but we thoroughly enjoyed it!  (There was even a tent of Green Bay Packer fans!)
  • Duplin Winery – About 40 minutes from Camp Lejeune, Duplin Winery is a nice stop to taste some sweet, muscadine wine!  (It’s also close to the wine festival mentioned above.)
  • Blueberry Festival – My neighbors and I visited Blueberry Festival with their kids. If you’re interested in trying all sorts of homemade goods baked from blueberries, check it out!
  • Learn how to spot shark’s teeth, which are in abundance at Onslow Beach on base!


Interested in more road trips around the East Coast of the USA?
*Blogs in progress*
From North Carolina, you can easily travel to (our starting point was Camp Lejeune):

  • Williamsburg, VA (about 4 hours)
  • Washington D.C. (about 6 hours)
  • Myrtle Beach, SC (about 2.5 hours)
  • Charleston, SC (about 4 hours)
  • Hilton Head, SC (about 4 hours)
  • Savannah, GA (about 6 hours)
  • Orlando, FL (a bit far, about 12 hours, but we still drove there in a day!)