Last Updated on September 8, 2021
Last Updated on September 8, 2021
If you plan to visit Western NC, please check beforehand to see if the area is safe following the recent flooding. Officials have closed some sections of Pisgah National Forest (including Forest Heritage Scenic Byway and Blue Ridge Parkway stops) to keep visitors out of danger. Please respect signage and local guidance.
We’re pretty proud of the many adventures that start from I-95 exits in North Carolina and thought we’d share a few of them with you here.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this busy road, I-95 runs for nearly 2,000 miles (1,908) along the US Atlantic Coast, and for 182 miles, it passes through Eastern North Carolina.
And while we normally prefer more scenic routes, we understand that time is a factor for many people.
That’s a big reason why this road attracts so many folks traveling between Maine and Florida. But if you’re like us, you could use a break or two during that long journey.
I-95 Exits in North Carolina
Some towns and cities may be reachable by additional I-95 exits in North Carolina. But in this post, we’re only going to include those that lead to attractions that we specify.
For organization purposes, we’ll move from south to north, since the exit numbers start at 0 just over the South Carolina line.
Exits 13, 17, and 19
Lumberton is known as the midway point between New York and Florida, which is a good hint to stop if you haven’t yet! It’s the first or last major town that you’ll see before or after crossing the South Carolina border, depending on which way you’re headed.
It’s named for the Lumber River, which today is a popular state park (Exit 13) for fishing and paddling. People traveling with kids will enjoy a stop at Exploration Station (exit 19), where a variety of hands-on activities await.
Another interesting thing about Lumberton and Robeson County is its minority-majority population. The nearby town of Pembroke (Exit 17) is the seat of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. They are one of our state’s seven recognized tribal communities.
Each May, stop by the Southeastern Agricultural Center (Exit 17) for the Lumberton Spring Powwow. There, you’ll see music, dancing, and more Native American culture up close.
Oh, and we’re not just talking about the awesome food coming out of Napkins, the on-site restaurant. Events are held each week and the Sunday farmer’s market is one of our favorites throughout North Carolina!
Of course, there’s a lot more going on elsewhere in Hope Mills. The Cumberland County town hosts events throughout the year.
Exits 49, 56, and 58
Traffic on I-95 typically picks up around Fayetteville, which many folks might first know for Fort Bragg.
There are tons of fun things to do here, especially if you like to eat. We also love strolling around Fayetteville’s fun downtown (Exits 49 and 56) and exploring outdoor spots that include Cape Fear Botanical Garden (Exit 56).
The latter is recommended in our guide to traveling with kids in Fayetteville, which also includes the amazing Airborne and Special Ops Museum (Exit 56). That place is a hard-to-top tribute to soldiers who’ve answered the call of duty time and time again.
We love visiting to enjoy all these things but understand there’s so much more to Cumberland County beyond Hope Mills and Fayetteville. One great example is Carvers Creek State Park (Exit 58), near the town of Spring Lake.
Exits 65 (Cumberland County), 72, and 73
Dunn is Harnett County’s largest city and home to two truly stop-worthy I-95 exits. The General William C Lee Airborne Museum (Exit 72) honors the “Father of the Airborne” in his former home. A variety of exhibits details his story and the evolution of the US Army Airborne, especially during World War II.
The 5-mile Dunn-Erwin Rail Trail (Exit 73) invites walkers, runners, and cyclists to ride along farmlands, wetlands, and cotton fields. You’ll also meet the Averasboro Civil War Battlefield along the way. Of course, you can skip the walk and access this historic spot via Exit 65.
If you’re driving through on the first Saturday in November, you might just stumble upon the NC Cotton Festival. It’s a daylong celebration that celebrates cotton, with food, crafts, cotton gin tours, and more!
Exits 79 and 81
Benson is home to one of North Carolina’s finest distilleries, known as Broadslab (Exit 79). Here, you can pick up a bottle of North Carolina’s first farm-to-distillery spirits to enjoy later on when you reach your end destination.
As a child, I once visited Benson for its annual Mule Days, held on the fourth Saturday weekend in September. The parade alone is a great introduction to this awesome town, with hundreds of horses, mules, buggies, and more.
Exit 81 is particularly important because that’s where I-95 meets I-40, which runs east to Wilmington and west through the heart of North Carolina. It also passes through the rest of Benson, where you’ll find some amazing competition-style ‘cue at Redneck BBQ Lab (Exit 319).
Exits 93 and 95
Smithfield sits above the I-40/I-95 split and but also draws quite a bit of traffic. A lot of it is due to US 70 (Exit 95) attracting cars to and from Raleigh. Since it’s within 30 minutes of Oak City, it’s convenient for day trips from Raleigh and also, the capital city’s neighbor Durham.
The Ava Gardner Museum is one great reason to stop in Smithfield, and you’ll agree when visiting this interesting tribute to the iconic Johnston County native. Her mark is felt elsewhere, too, especially at the Rat Pack-decorated Smithfield’s Chicken ‘N Bar-B-Q (Exit 93).
The museum also offers a Heritage Tour, which will take you to important places in Ava’s life, including her birthplace and gravesite in Sunset Memorial Park.
Exits 116, 119, and 121
Of all the I-95 exits in North Carolina, Wilson is the only one that offers an amazing whirligig park (Exit 116).
At the Vollis P Simpson Whirligig Park, you’ll find amazing kinetic sculptures that move around with the wind and shine bright on sunny days. November‘s Whirligig Festival celebrates the park but also the community that’s come together over Wilson’s existence.
Walks at Lake Wilson Reservoir (Exit 121) are nice, too, especially if you indulged with some awesome Eastern NC barbecue in Wilson. Parker’s (Exit 119) and Marty’s (Exit 121) are two area heavyweights.
Bonus: From Exit 119, you can head east toward Greenville (great spot for food and a beer for passengers!), south to Goldsboro (also amazing food!), or west to Raleigh (okay, they have wonderful restaurants, too!).
There, you can enjoy a nice meal and extend your time with a stay at River and Twine, the world’s largest tiny house hotel. We think River and Twine rank high among the most adorable tiny houses in North Carolina, in case you were wondering.
Throughout much of the year, you can get out on the water at Sunset Park (Exit 138) or let your little one get their wiggles out at the playground.
You can also stretch your legs walking or running along the Tar River Trail from Sunset Park. And if you brought a boat, you can join a canoe excursion on the Tar River Paddle Trail.
Side Note: If you find yourself driving to the Outer Banks or elsewhere on US 64 East, you’ll pass Rocky Mount (Exit 470) and will probably need to take a break, so why not there?
Don’t forget to check out our favorite restaurants in Rocky Mount when you’re there, okay?
Many folks know our license plates that read “First in Flight” but some folks opt for the “First in Freedom” variety, which leads to a fun fact and reason you should stop at one of the I-95 exits in the historic town of Halifax.
“First in Freedom” refers to the “Halifax Resolves,” which was North Carolina’s very own Declaration of Independence. In fact, it predated the Continental Congress’s version by three months.
You can walk around the state historic site (Exit 160) today and learn about this event and more about the area.
Medoc Mountain State Park (Exit 160) isn’t too far to the west from Halifax and is filled with trails for hikers, mountain bikers, and bridlers. We also hear Big Foot likes this park, but based on all reports, he or she is pretty shy.
Exits 171 and 176 (Northampton)
And the first or last (depending on which way you’re traveling) places we’ll mention near I-95 exits in North Carolina sit near Roanoke Rapids. A great way to get to know this town is by walking through the Roanoke Canal Museum and Trail (Exit 171 or 176).
It’s a great way to learn about the Roanoke River’s importance to this area. Inside the museum, there’s plenty of information about the people who helped make the river a prominent trade route.
A series of historic buildings await elsewhere in Roanoke Rapids, including the original Roanoke Rapids High School.
And if you want even more outdoor fun, check out Roanoke Rapids Lake (Exit 176). That’s a nice spot for swimming, fishing, and hanging out by the water.
And to the southeast, we couldn’t leave out Sylvan Heights Bird Park in Scotland Neck (Exit 171). This park is home to the world’s biggest collection of endangered and rare waterfowl.
Which I-95 Exits in North Carolina will You Stop For?
Writing this post has made me appreciate I-95 much more, thanks to all these exits that lead to so many wonderful places. And if you ever find yourself on that interstate going north or south, I hope this guide helps you better enjoy this road, too.
And if you had to choose, which of these I-95 exits in North Carolina will you be stopping at first? Also, are there any other places that we should explore and add to the list? We’d love to know about them!