This southern state on the east coast of the USA is home to a real mixture of cultures and communities who coexist peacefully. From the dramatic mountains in the west to the islands just off the coast, North Carolina is blessed with beautiful natural landscapes which offer diverse outdoor activities all year round. The state capital is Raleigh, located in the centre of North Carolina. There are myriad cities to explore, from the young and vibrant Chapel Hill near Raleigh, to the beach destination of Wilmington. The largest city is Charlotte, which has world-class museums and a fanatical interest in American football, basketball and NASCAR racing.
The capital city of Raleigh and the nearby towns of Durham and Chapel Hill form a metropolitan triangle in the centre of North Carolina. This area is the academic centre of the state, housing three of its most prestigious universities along with the extensive Research Triangle Park. These university towns are home to a young, liberal population. This brings welcome attractions such as a vibrant nightlife; Chapel Hill has a strong indie rock scene, and the renovated warehouses of Durham offer a trendy setting for dancing the night away. Nature-lovers should include a visit to the Duke Lemur Center; this research and conservation centre is home to the largest collection of lemurs outside their native Madagascar.
The undeveloped coast is a serene North Carolina holiday destination. The relaxed towns along the 300-mile coast, the uncrowded beaches, and the wild, windy Outer Banks are all ripe for exploring. The Barrier Islands, lying just off the coast, offer rich wildlife and interesting Colonial history. The Outer Banks were also the site for the world’s first successful aeroplane flight, launched by the Wright Brothers in 1903. A memorial and an interactive museum tell the pioneering story of early flight and pay tribute to the ingenious innovators. Wilmington is situated towards the southern end of the North Carolina coast and is home to dozens of film studios and a buzzing downtown.
To the west is the wild and mountainous side of North Carolina. There are dozens of ancient and atmospheric mountain ranges, including the Great Smoky, Blue Ridge and Black Mountain ranges. Visitors come to spot the thrilling wildlife, from cougars to black bears. Outdoor adventurers can enjoy exhilarating holidays in the North Carolina mountains, hiking, climbing and rafting through the breathtaking landscape. The Linville Gorge is known as the Grand Canyon of the east, and the roaring river and magnificent 30-metre waterfall are best seen on foot. Another unmissable spectacle is the Chimney Rock State Park, where you can gain access to the rewarding views by completing the challenging hike or by taking the lift inside the mountain.