With so much to explore in North Carolina, it’s best to get in your car and take the scenic route! These amazing drives will not only dip you through daring mountains or uncharted coastal plains, but you can also conveniently hop out of your car at anytime to explore hiking trails, state parks, pre-colonial history, and natural wonders. Here are the eleven best scenic drives in North Carolina.
1. Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway spans 469 miles. The stretch through North Carolina weaves you through breathtaking scenery, vibrant small towns, and hidden waterfalls. If you're scared of heights...don't look down! Stop off at one of the many overlooks to take it all in.
2. Outer Banks Scenic Byway
From Whalebone Junction to Beaufort, the scenic byway allows you to explore the eastern most parts of NC's barrier islands. With the Pamlico Sound on one side, and the Atlantic Ocean on the other, the views and experience are unmatchable.
3. Colonial Heritage Byway
History lovers will be thrilled to cruise along the Colonial Heritage Byway. It takes you through impressive historical remains of North Carolina's 18th and 19th century. Start in Guilford County and ride along until Yanceyville.
4. Whitewater Way
On HWY 281 between Sapphire and South Carolina, Whitewater Way allows drivers to see some of the most beautiful waterfalls in North Carolina. It's named after Whitewater Falls, the highest falls East of the Rockies. Enjoy the rainforest-like feel and climate of Gorges State Park, and the beauty of the Nantahala National Forest.
5. Hanging Rock Scenic Byway
The Hanging Rock Scenic Byway doesn't only allow motorists to explore the ancient Sauratown Mountains, but also pre-colonial towns like Danbury and Andy Griffith's 'Mayberry' of Mount Airy. Take a hike in Pilot Mountain State Park, then drive on up to Hanging Rock to explore waterfalls, hiking trails, and scenic views. Stop by Snappy Lunch in Mount Airy along the way!
6. Roanoke Voyages Corridor
Get a dose of history and mystery along US 64 across Roanoke Island. Explore the sites of the first pilgrimage settlement in North America and the disturbing, unsolved disappearance of the whole colony; known today as the 'The Lost Colony.'
7. Pottery Road
Pottery Road takes you through Seagrove, AKA the pottery capital of America. Potters began flocking here for rich natural materials in the 1900's and since, it has boasted Smithsonian featured work and famous artists. Stop by shops of local potters, or drive down for the local Pottery Festival hosted in the fall and spring.
8. Tail of the Dragon
The Tail of the Dragon is perhaps the most famous motorcyclist destination in the Eastern United States. With a whooping 318 curves in just 11 miles...hold on tight!
9. Alligator River Route
The Alligator River Route takes drivers through some of the most remote stretches of the coastal plains, and to the beautiful Lake Mattamuskeet. Explore historically rich places like Frying Pan Landing or Gum Neck.
10. Mt. Mitchell Scenic Byway
Starting at the top of Mt. Mitchell, you'll drive 52 miles between daring peaks and mellow valleys. The drive is an artist's dream, as you'll pass several galleries and studios.
11. Waterfall Byway, US 64
Waterfall enthusiasts will love 98-miles of gorgeous waterfalls, charming small towns, and mountain views. You'll stop by well-known falls like the impressive Bridal Veil Falls (pictured above) and the waterfall you can stand behind...Dry Falls!