North Carolina has everything you could wish for in an adventure holiday. Stunning mountains that stretch for hundreds of miles, thick forests and picturesque shorelines make for perfect hiking territory. Meanwhile, stellar sports teams and plenty of active facilities make it all too easy to try your hand at a new activity. Here, we run down some of the unmissable options in this great state.
Get Your Skates On
North Carolina is home to plenty of options for sporty types, but one of the most fun has got to be ice skating! Visit the Raleigh Center Ice for a whole variety of options, from adult hockey for those of us who’ve got some practice in already to hockey basics classes for complete beginners. There’s even the option for figure skating practice sessions for upper-level skaters.
If you need a little inspiration to get your skates on, then it’s worth watching the Carolina Hurricanes, who are currently doing well in the NHL. The team has played at the PNC Arena since 1999, and what an arena it is! There’s plenty of choice for eating and drinking around the game, but the best spot has got to be the Ledge Lounge. There’s a real sense of excitement in here when it’s game time, and the bar is open all game long, with plenty of wide flat screens around so that you won’t miss any of the action while you queue up for your beer.
Take a Hike at Clingmans Dome
Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and offers breathtaking views of both the mountains and the wilderness beyond. The best views are from the observation tower (on a clear day, up to 100 miles), which is a steep half-mile walk but worth it. Remember to take a jacket, even in the summer, as from this elevation, it’s not uncommon for temperatures to be almost 20 degrees colder than on flat land.The drive up to Clingmans Dome is worth setting off early for, as being able to enjoy the views uninterrupted by other tourists is an unforgettable experience. The route is a twisting road of around seven miles, with several pull-offs for you to take in the views. There’s a sizeable car park at the end where you can change into your walking boots for the final ascent. If you feel like there’s gas in the tank for more walking by the time you reach the summit, then there are several hiking routes starting from here, including the famous Appalachian Trail. This trail takes in some of the most spectacular sights in the Smoky Mountains but is lengthy and at times challenging, so be sure to prepare.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is one of the most iconic lighthouses in the world, and its famous black and white stripes make for a great photo opportunity. It protects one of the most treacherous stretches of the Outer Banks, known as the Diamond Shoals. Interestingly, this lighthouse hasn’t always been here. Originally, it was a far smaller sandstone lighthouse jutted out further to sea with a thick red band around the base. Unfortunately, this lighthouse couldn’t quite withstand the onslaught of the seas, and in 1868, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse that we know today replaced it.
Today’s lighthouse is the tallest brick lighthouse in the world, standing at a staggering 150 feet tall. If you fancy getting your heart pumping, then it’s possible for visitors to climb to the top of the lighthouse, but it’s not for the faint of heart! The climb itself is 257 steps or around 12 stories, but the views are incredible. If you do decide to climb it, then be sure to arrive early, climbing slots are limited to 30 people at a time, and the spaces fill up quickly.
Once you’ve finished inside the lighthouse, it’s worth having a look around the grounds. There’s a beautifully preserved keeper’s quarter building that houses the lighthouse museum and a gift shop — a real treasure trove. If you walked a mile or so further, then you’ll come across a nature trail that accesses Cape Point. Here, you can try your hand at fishing, and with its unique geography, you’re likely to have some success. If fishing isn’t your thing, then look out for the dozens of big game species that congregate at Cape Point, as it’s a perfect way to spend the day by the sea.