Eastern North Carolina
Eastern North Carolina has been typically defined as the area that sits east of the Fall Line, running all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. It’s also referred to as the Coastal Plain, but for our purposes and to make things easier for you, we note it as “Eastern North Carolina.”
For travelers and residents, it’s simply an amazing part of our state to visit (see below). Eastern North Carolina is full of natural beauty to explore and the conversation usually starts with the Outer Banks and the Crystal Coast.
However, there’s a lot more to explore in this part of the state, and we’ve found some of it via these awesome scenic roads.
Many of them form the second section of our NC Bucket List, which you can preview here.
For a more in-depth look at all the places that you need to add to your own list, have a look here.
Eastern North Carolina-Focused Posts
50+ Places to Visit in Eastern North Carolina
Within and beyond the Outer Banks and Crystal Coast, there are hordes of friendly coastal towns like Surf City on Topsail Island and New Bern. They join the likes of larger spots like Wilmington and Jacksonville that you’ll find along the way.
These are just a selection of the places you should visit in Eastern North Carolina.
Beaufort to Camden
- Beaufort and Carteret County: County seat Beaufort’s beautiful waterfront is lined with amazing restaurants like Moonrakers. Take a boat to Shackleford Banks or the Rachel Carson Reserve for wild horses and more. Known as Big Rock, Morehead City is home to a huge fishing tournament under that moniker. It’s a nice town that also serves as a convenient gateway to Atlantic Beach, Emerald Isle, and the rest of the Bogue Banks. We love staying at Atlantis Lodge in Pine Knoll Shores between AB and EI!
- Brunswick County: At the southeast corner of North Carolina and bordering South Carolina, this area is home to beautiful beaches and coastal areas. A few prominent names included are Southport, Calabash, Bald Head Island, and Oak Island.
- Camden and Camden County: Like many of its far-eastern counterparts, Camden County is filled with small towns and protected lands. A part of Elizabeth City is within the county limits and across the river from it sits Camden, the county seat. This is the first of three counties that contains Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.
Clinton to Dunn
- Clinton and Sampson County: Clinton is the seat of the second largest county in North Carolina. Surrounding towns include Garland, which is home to the always-packed Southern Smoke BBQ.
- Columbia and Tyrrell County: At the time of writing, Tyrell is North Carolina’s least populous county but that doesn’t take anything away from it. The Albemarle Sound, Alligator River, and the Scuppernong River form the county’s north, east, and west borders. The county also shares a part of Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.
- Dunn and Harnett County: Dunn is the largest city in Harnett County, but Lillington is the county seat. Raven Rock State Park is nearby and a great spot for hiking and watching the Cape Fear River flow by.
Edenton to Elizabethtown
- Edenton and Chowan County: Formed by the Chowan River to the east that feeds into the Albemarle Sound to the south. Did you know that Edenton was the second capital of North Carolina until 1743? You can learn all about it and more in this charming town.
- Elizabeth City and Pasquotank County: Elizabeth City is a wonderful city and home to the Museum of the Albemarle, a branch of the NC Museum of History. A part of Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge also calls Pasquotank County home.
- Elizabethtown and Bladen County: The two largest towns in Bladen County are county seat Elizabethtown and Bladenboro. We also know this area for White Lake, which is a nice freshwater place to visit any time of year. Summer is when this place really livens up, so be prepared if you’re hoping to hang out here when it’s warm out.
Fayetteville to Goldsboro
- Fayetteville and Cumberland County: Many folks associate Fayetteville with Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base but there’s quite a bit more to this city and its surroundings. It’s home to an amazing collection of restaurants, things to do inside and outside (especially for kids), and more.
- Gatesville and Gates County: A series of small towns (including county seat Gatesville) dot Gates County, where natural beauty reigns supreme. It’s the last of the three NC counties (with Camden and Pasquotank) that share more than half of Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife with Virginia. Merchants Millpond State Park, a popular spot for paddling, fishing, and picnicking, is also in Gates County,
- Goldsboro and Wayne County: Along the same vein as Fayetteville, Goldsboro is usually mentioned along with Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. However, you’ll find much more when exploring its downtown, food scene, and surrounding towns.
Greenville to Jackson
- Greenville and Pitt County: Greenville is where you’ll find East Carolina University, amazing barbecue at B’s (and other awesome restaurants, too!), and Piratefest in April. Awesome towns in Pitt County include Ayden, where Bum’s brings some of the best wood-cooked barbecue in Eastern North Carolina.
- Hertford and Perquimans County: Hertford and Winfall are a couple of the towns that form this Inner Banks county. Perquimans is also known as the home of Catfish Hunter and the “S” Bridge that crosses the Perquimans River.
- Jackson and Northampton County: Northampton is a northern border county with more than a few towns that hover around 1,000 in population. Jackson is the county seat but Gaston and Garysburg are the two largest in the county.
Laurinburg to Jacksonville
- Laurinburg and Scotland County: We head south for a bit and start with Scotland County, which is home to interesting small towns and events to honor their heritage. The Scotland County Highland Games is one of the latter, held in county seat Laurinburg each October.
- Lumberton and Robeson County: Named for the Lumber River that’s popular for fishing, Lumberton hosts a variety of museums and parks for visitors. It’s an interesting county, with a minority-majority population. Pembroke is one of many towns in the county and seat of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina.
- Jacksonville and Onslow County: Mention Jacksonville and Camp Lejeune will inevitably come up, too. However, there’s a lot to this Eastern North Carolina city and its surroundings. That includes Swansboro, Hammocks Beach State Park, and even the southern half of Topsail Island.
Kenansville to Nashville
- Kenansville and Duplin County: Quite a few towns are shared by Duplin County and their neighbors, including Mount Olive (Wayne) and Faison (Sampson). Duplin Winery is also here and the oldest operating winery in North Carolina.
- Kinston and Lenoir County: Names like Vivian Howard (Chef and the Farmer) and Stephen Hill (Mother Earth Brewing) dominate the conversation around Kinston these days. This up-and-coming town is home to an amazing collection of restaurants, an awesome arts scene, and great people.
- Nashville and Nash County: Parts of Zebulon and half of Rocky Mount sit in Nash County but they also reside in Wake and Edgecombe counties, respectively. Nashville is the Nash County seat and hosts the Blooming Festival each spring, which brings people in from all over.
New Bern to The Outer Banks
- New Bern and Craven County: New Bern is an amazing small town, home to a wonderful community, and ready for you to explore it all any weekend you’d like. Croatan National Forest is also found in Craven County. That beautiful collection of coastal land borders the Neuse River, Bogue Sound, and White Oak River. The closest city to it is Havelock.
- Oriental and Pamlico County: The Town of Oriental sits on the eastern end of Pamlico County and Lowland on the west. Bayboro is the county seat and Minnesott Beach is one of many more excellent places to visit here.
- The Outer Banks: Filled with wonderful towns like Duck, Kill Devil Hills, Buxton, and Ocracoke. We love spending weeks there exploring the beaches for starters. Of course, at least a few trips down US-12 is necessary for checking out hiking trails at Pea Island, Buxton Woods on Hatteras Island, and beyond. You’ll also find some great restaurants and breweries here, including Weeping Radish, which is NC’s first (and oldest) microbrewery. We interviewed the owner here!
Plymouth to Roanoke Rapids
- Plymouth and Washington County: The North Carolina Black Bear Festival is a big event held each June in Plymouth. Stick around or stop by any other time of year, even if you’re on the way to the Outer Banks. Start with a stroll along the boardwalk for a look at the Roanoke River and you’ll be hooked on this area.
- Raeford and Hoke County: A part of Fort Bragg is shared by Hoke County. And as a result, quite a few people are moving to the area. A couple of interesting historical landmarks here include the Mill Prong House and the Battle of Monroe’s Crossing.
- Roanoke Rapids and Halifax County: Roanoke Rapids and Halifax are just a couple of lovely spots in this northeast county. The Roanoke Canal Museum and Trail are here and the Roanoke River runs through Halifax County, too. And don’t forget about Medoc Mountain State Park, an excellent escape with trails and streams for fishing and boating.
Rocky Mount to Trenton
- Rocky Mount and Edgecombe County: Tarboro is the county seat of Edgecombe but Rocky Mount is the largest city. The area is growing, with a series of projects (especially Rocky Mount Mills) that will bring even more residents looking for a new place to call “home.”
- Snow Hill and Greene County: County seat Snow Hill is known for its popular Green Ridge Racquet Club. USTA-sanctioned events are held here and bring in players from all over.
- Trenton and Jones County: This is the last of three counties (along with Carteret and Craven) that contain Croatan National Forest. That’s a part of why outdoorsmen and -women love Jones County, but they’re also fond of the Neuse and White Oak Rivers, as well as the Bogue Sound that can be accessed here.
Topsail Island to Washington
- Topsail Island: We mentioned Onslow County as one of two counties (Pender is the other) that share Topsail Island. People come here for amazing beaches on the ocean side and gorgeous sunsets on the sound side. North Topsail Beach, Surf City, and Topsail Beach are the three communities found on this beautiful island.
- Smithfield and Johnston County: Johnston County is quickly growing. That’s partially thanks to Wake County being next door, as well as I-95 and I-40 cutting through it. The county has long been known as the home of Ava Gardner. More recently, the awesome Redneck BBQ Lab and fabulous resurgent towns like Benson and Smithfield are moving it into the future.
- Washington and Beaufort County: Washington is also known as the Heart of the Inner Banks. The North Carolina Estuarium is here, too. Surrounding places include Bath, North Carolina’s oldest town.
Wilmington to Williamston
- Wilmington and New Hanover County: Perfect for all ages, especially families. Wilmington is surrounded by the amazing Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, and Wrightsville Beach, but there’s plenty to explore downtown along the Riverwalk. Across the water, there’s the Battleship North Carolina, which is worth a visit throughout the year.
- Whiteville and Columbus County: Lake Tabor and Lake Waccamaw are a couple of reasons you should find yourself in Columbus County. Venus flytraps and other interesting species can be found in the famed Green Swamp. Also, there’s a satellite museum of the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in county seat Whiteville.
- Williamston and Martin County: County seat Williamston and Robersonville are the two largest towns. Each September, thousands of people head to Williamston for the Carolina Country Stampede.
Wilson to Winton
- Wilson and Wilson County: More than Whirligigs, even though they’re pretty awesome! Spend time at Lake Wilson and find some amazing barbecue at Parker’s or steaks at Beefmastor Inn.
- Windsor and Bertie County: The Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge sits in Bertie County and is known for its valuable fish and wildlife-filled wetlands. Many folks come to Windsor for paddling on the Cashie River.
- Winton and Hertford County: Many members of the Meherrin Indian Tribe live in Hertford County and they hold an annual Pow Wow each October.
As you explore the area, we know that you’ll find even more along the way. If there’s a place you strongly feel belongs here, please let us know via email.
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There are so many places to visit in Eastern North Carolina and we’re so excited to keep growing this section.