15 of the Most Beautiful Botanical Gardens in North Carolina

Last Updated on May 13, 2021

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One of the most beautiful ways to enjoy spring (especially spring break) is to look for new growth, beautiful flowers, and gorgeous green spaces! The following 15 botanical gardens in North Carolina offer all of that but also blooms throughout much of the year, if not all of it.

Whether you’re traveling through the mountains of Western North Carolina, through the Piedmont and Sandhills of our center, or along the coast and coastal plain of Eastern NC, we’re sure that you’ll have one of the places close by.

Our guide will list all of the botanical gardens in North Carolina, why each belongs on your vacation itinerary, the history behind them, as well as admission information.

Here’s how we’ve organized this guide:

  • Botanical Gardens in Western North Carolina
  • Botanical Gardens in Central North Carolina
  • Botanical Gardens in Eastern North Carolina

This post is part of our series on the best things to do in North Carolina.

Botanical Gardens in North Carolina (Western)

Starting our guide to botanical gardens in North Carolina are a few great ones in the mountains out west. If you’re looking for somewhere specific, these places are organized alphabetically.

Biltmore Estate, Asheville

Biltmore Botanical Gardens in NC

Biltmore Estate’s rose garden has been in continuous cultivation since 1895 and boasts more than 200 different cultivars, laid out in English and French garden styles.

The garden has also hosted an international rose trial since 2011, where over 200 varietals of rose were grown, cared for, and judged by Biltmore garden staff. The Estate itself has 8,000 acres of formal and informal gardens, conservatories–including a palm house and an orchid room–and trails.

The Estate is open daily. Ticket reservations are required and include the house and gardens. Tickets start at $54. 

For more things to do in Asheville, consider these fun hiking trails, gorgeous waterfalls, and delicious restaurants!

Highlands Biological Station, Highlands

Highlands Biological Station is part of Western Carolina University. The garden offers wide open spaces for picnics, woodland trails, lakes, and a creek.

Established in 1962, it contains nearly 500 species of plants, from mosses and ferns to wildflowers and trees. In addition, they also have several demonstration gardens, some of which include native azaleas, Cherokee plants, and a wildflower meadow.

Highlands Biological Station is part of the Highlands Plateau Greenway and the NC Birding Trail.

Free and open to the public, dawn until dusk.

You’ll find some of the most beautiful waterfalls in North Carolina near Highlands. Dry Falls and Bridal Veil Falls (not the one in DuPont State Forest) are two of many!

NC Arboretum, Asheville

One of the loveliest botanical gardens in North Carolina, the NC Arboretum sprawls across over 430 acres within Pisgah National Forest. It was established as an affiliate of the University of North Carolina system in 1986 with 65 acres of cultivated gardens, hiking and biking trails, special kids’ activities (including geocaching).

Don’t miss the bonsai collection, one of the best in the United States! The Arboretum also offers extensive online classes and family programs.

The Arboretum is open daily and has a parking fee of $16 for cars.

Botanical Gardens in North Carolina (Central)

These botanical gardens in North Carolina’s center sit in a mix of larger cities and smaller towns, with each providing a welcome respite from the busiest area in our state.

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, Belmont

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden spreads over 100 acres in Belmont, along Lake Wylie. Its Visitor Pavilion features a 100-year-old stained-glass dome and special garden spaces such as a cottage garden with popular late 19th- and early 20th-century plants, a children’s garden, and perennial gardens.

Other attractions include 3.2 miles of walking trails, a dry Piedmont prairie similar to the landscape of 200 years ago, and North Carolina’s only orchid conservatory.

Open daily (temporary hours are Thursday-Sunday, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, advance tickets required) with admission charges from $7.95 to $14.95. Garden members and children under 2 are free and discounts are available for seniors. 

JC Raulston Arboretum, Raleigh

JC Raulston Arboretum, part of NC State University in Raleigh, was initially established as a living laboratory and professional resource. Having opened in 1976, the Arboretum has now grown to over 10 acres and achieved international recognition for its “imaginative use of resources and the excellence of its plant collections.”

Sections include xeric and scree gardens, a Japanese garden, a winter garden, a conifer garden, and a monocot garden. Walk by the All-America Selections trial garden to see what bedding plants you might find at your local market next year! 

Typically free and open to the public daily, the Arboretum is temporarily closed, but still offers a variety of online classes and courses. 

We’ve listed JC Raulston Arboretum among these botanical gardens in North Carolina, but it’s also one of our favorite free things to do in Raleigh.

NC Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill

The NC Botanical Garden is a conservation garden spread 1,000 acres across several sites in Chapel Hill. Inside this garden is a botanical garden, an 88-acre forest boasting 3 miles of trails, a forest amphitheater, and a variety of natural areas and preserves.

NC Botanical Garden Chapel Hill

The botanical garden highlights native North Carolina ecosystems from the mountains to the coastal plains and includes a carnivorous plant collection. Much of the park and trail system is on or adjacent to the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill campus.

The NC Botanical Garden is closed Monday and free to the public.

Add this awesome place to your list of things to do in Chapel Hill or else you’ll be missing out!

Reynolda Gardens, Winston-Salem

Reynolda Botanical gardens of north carolina

Reynolda Gardens was originally part of the estate of RJ and Katherine Smith Reynolds, founder of the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company in Winston-Salem.

The house and its grounds originally spanned over 1,000 acres and, today is known for both its outstanding museum of American art as well as its beautiful botanical gardens.

The formal gardens have been restored to the original plans with several greenhouses now onsite. What was originally a man-made lake has been transformed into wetlands, with much of their natural area being part of the NC Birding Trail.

Free and open to the public, dawn until dusk.

Winston-Salem is also filled with historic hotels, delicious restaurants (including The Katharine), incredible breweries, and plenty of fun things to do!

Paul J Ciener Botanical Garden, Kernersville

The Paul J Ciener Botanical Garden is located in the Kernersville Historic Downtown District and is the only public garden between Raleigh and Charlotte. However, this botanical garden is still in development.

Once completed, the garden will have more than 25 individually styled garden areas, event spaces, greenhouses, and a children’s area. This garden also offers a variety of lectures, a concert series, and both a tulip festival and holiday bloom festival that are all must-sees!

Free and open to the public, dawn until dusk.

Sarah P Duke Gardens, Durham

Botanical Gardens in North Carolina Duke Gardens Asiatic Arboretum and Red Bridge

Just down the road in Durham is the famed Sarah P Duke Gardens, located on the Duke University campus. It features four distinct areas: the Historic Gardens, with its rose gardens and the historic Roney Fountain; the HL Blomquist Garden of Native plants, focusing on plants of the southeastern United States; the WL Culberson Asiatic Arboretum, with plants from Southeast Asia; and the Doris Duke Center Gardens which includes the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden.

Duke Gardens offers five miles of pathways, a koi pond, terraced gardens, bird and wildlife viewing areas, a butterfly garden, and much more–there is truly something for everyone here! 

Normally open daily from dawn until dusk, the Gardens are temporarily closed. Admission is free.

Tanger Family Bicentennial Garden, Greensboro

Tanger Greensboro botanical Garden

When in Greensboro, be sure to stop by the beautiful Tanger Family Bicentennial Garden. This popular local spot was built to honor the nation’s bicentennial and enjoys 7.5 acres of plantings, a variety of bronze sculptures, a woodland stream, and a sensory garden.

One of the newer additions is the Old Mill, which closely resembles a mill that operated on the garden grounds in the 1780s. The David Caldwell Historic Park is near the Tanger Family Bicentennial Garden, so be sure to check this out as well!

Free and open to the public, dawn until dusk. 

This is one of the best botanical gardens in North Carolina, but also among our favorite things to do in Greensboro, especially with kids!

Botanical Gardens of North Carolina (Eastern)

The last few of our botanical gardens in North Carolina are definitely not the least of them all. Some lie along our coast and others sit not too far from I-95, in case you’re passing through.

Airlie Gardens, Wilmington

Airlie Gardens Botanical Garden near me

Located just northeast of downtown Wilmington, the spectacular Airlie Gardens spreads over 67 acres. Airlie is known for its 500-year-old live oak, 10 acres of lakes, a variety of gardens, a chapel made out of bottles, a seasonal butterfly house, and some walking trails.

These most beautiful of botanical gardens in North Carolina are also part of the NC Birding Trail.

Open daily, advance tickets required. General admission is $9 with some discounts offered.

We’ll always rank Airlie among the best things to do in Wilmington and its surroundings!

Cape Fear Botanical Garden, Fayetteville

Located just two miles from downtown Fayetteville and bordered by Cross Creek and the Cape Fear River, the Cape Fear Botanical Garden covers 80 acres. Highlights of this garden include camellia, daylily, and shade gardens, the Butterfly Stroll, children’s garden, and the Heritage Garden featuring 1886 agricultural structures.

There are also a number of walking trails and shady spots.

Open daily. General admission is $10, with some discounts available.

Read our guides to the Cape Fear Botanical Garden and more outdoor things to do in Fayetteville.

Elizabethan Gardens, Manteo

The Elizabethan Gardens in Manteo celebrates its 70th year in 2021. Located within the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, this garden has an extensive collection of hydrangeas, camellias, historic herbs, and coastal species.

A famous feature of this garden is a rose sent by HM Queen Elizabeth II from the rose garden at Windsor Castle, as well as a live oak estimated to be alive since 1585.

Its Discovery Cottage is designed for kids to learn through play and, as such, has a large ship, play cottages with living roofs, kitchen gardens, and dig areas. The Elizabethan Gardens is also part of the NC Birding Trail.

Open daily (closed February), tickets required. General admission is $9, with some discounts offered.

Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden, Wilmington

Venus Flytrap things to do in Wilmington

Nearby Airlie is the Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden, part of the Piney Ridge Nature Preserve. Stanley-Rehder has a variety of carnivorous plants from Venus Fly Traps, Pitcher Plants, and Sundews, all of which only grow within a 70-mile radius of Wilmington. This park also has a walking trail.

Free and open daily.

Wilson Botanical Gardens, Wilson

Wilson Botanical Gardens has something for everyone! One of its most popular areas is a turfgrass demonstration plot with 5 different turf species. Wilson Gardens also has a professional mixed planting garden with over 200 different plants used to educated youth and adults through their special programs.

Other areas include an extensive tree collection, perennial beds, culinary and medicinal herb garden, children’s secret garden, and native plant garden, to name a few. Its primary focus is education, and the garden honors the area’s agricultural history by planting traditional row crops and using recycled tobacco warehouse bricks along some of the garden paths.

Free and open to the public, dawn until dusk.

Explore more things to do in Wilson after your visit to the botanical garden.

Which of these Botanical Gardens in North Carolina Top Your List?

These botanical gardens in North Carolina are waiting to share their gorgeous colors, beautiful blooms, inviting trails, and much more with you. We hope you’re as excited to visit them as we were in writing this guide.

If you’ve visited any of these amazing spaces, we’d love to know which are your favorite. And if you haven’t visited any yet (it’s okay!), we’re also interested in hearing about which are first on your list.

Let us know in the comments and we hope you’re able to make it to these wonderful botanical gardens in North Carolina, no matter where you plan to go.

More Things to Do in North Carolina

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