Family holidays in North Carolina cover everything from beachy and beautiful to wild mountain adventures, urban exploring, and even coast and countryside rolled into one. Fortunately this amazingly diverse state has just as many great places to stay as incredible experiences to be had. Although when it comes to choosing from a list of thousands a little local knowledge comes in handy. Visit North Carolina are expert on all sorts of family accommodation from eco-camps to cute forest cabins, luxury resorts and Historic Hotels of America. Have a look at their top pick for any type of North Carolina holiday you have in mind.
The Outer Banks are the beachy and beautiful barrier islands at the northern end of North Carolina’s Atlantic coast. They’re known locally as OBX, and to the world as the site of the Wright Brothers’ first powered flight. Wild Spanish mustang wander here, kids can hunt ghost crabs after dark and hear tales of lost English settlers. The lighthouses and piers are classics, and even the Outer Banks coastal route is an unforgettable family road trip.
Beacon Villas are beautifully designed to reflect the easy going, beachy atmosphere of Corolla, one of the loveliest areas in North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
Enormous Corolla Beach is a few minutes away, and nature reserves, eco-trails, charming local towns and historic attractions are all nearby too. Plus, as part of the award winning Corolla Light Resort, all villas have access to fantastic swimming pools, floodlit volleyball and basketball courts, playgrounds, restaurants, bars, and summer-long family activities.
Where: Beacon Villas, Corolla Light Resort, Corolla, Outer Banks. Four hours drive east of Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU)
Cost: Four bedroom Beacon Villa, sleeps 12, from £127 per night. Three night minimum stay.
photo credit: Jeremy Grogg
With their cheerful colours and cute retro details, these new-build villas would be right at home in a heritage district, on a Caribbean Island or just exactly where they are: in Kill Devil Hills, one of the most historic areas in the Outer Banks.
As well as good looks, Devonshire Place Villas are minutes from great beaches, and close to the Wright Brothers’ Memorial, Colington Speedway, and Jockey Ridge State Park. If you just want to hang-out in the neighbourhood, the villas are also part of the lively Bermuda Bay community, so families have everything from swimming pools and waterslides to beach clubs and BBQs right on the doorstep.
Where: Devonshire Place Villas, Bermuda Bay, Kill Devil Hills, Outer Banks. Three hours and 30 minutes drive east of Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU)
Cost: Two or three bedroom family villa, sleeps up to six, from £203 per night. Three night minimum stay.
Set between huge Atlantic beaches and gentle Currituck Sound, family friendly Sanderling Resort North Inn is a great base for exploring North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
A combination of easy luxury and characteristic OBX charm, Sanderling has activity holidays perfected right down to resident Adventure Experts, on hand to organise anything from dolphin watching cruises to surf lessons. All family rooms have fantastic views, and the resort is minutes from beaches, and close to pretty seaside villages, impressive lighthouses, and some of the mightiest sand dunes in the entire US.
Where: Sanderling Resort North Inn, Duck, Outer Banks. Four hours drive east of Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
Cost: From £200 per night, based on two adults and two children sharing. Plus £22 daily resort fee to cover: WIFI; parking; newspapers; morning coffee & tea; access to steam room and indoor pool; fitness centre; beach chairs and umbrellas.
The largest city in western North Carolina, Asheville sits in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and counts not one, but three National Forests as neighbours. It’s so spectacularly beautiful here, George Vanderbilt – a man wealthy enough to live anywhere – built vast Biltmore House, just outside Asheville in 1895. It’s still the largest home in the US today, and just one of the many must-dos in and around the city.
First opened in 1913, The Omni Grove Park Inn is one of the Historic Hotels of America, and almost as grand as its magnificent countryside setting, just north of Asheville.
The resort may be over 100 years old, but it couldn’t be more in tune with families. Kids are welcomed with backpacks full of fun stuff, and first-night milk and cookies are delivered to their rooms. There are family suites in the original Inn or in the newer wings, and The Omni Kids Crew programme for five to 12 year olds organises day and evening activities every Saturday: a heaven-sent break if you want a little grown-up time.
Where: The Omni Grove Park Inn, Asheville. Three hours, 30 minutes drive west of Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
Cost: From £206 per night, based on two adults and two children sharing. Plus £18 daily resort fee to cover: WIFI; resort shuttle service; guided history tour; Sports Complex and swimming pool.
Recently named North Carolina’s Best Beach, Wrightsville sits between Atlantic waves and the calm Intercoastal Waterway, so it’s as popular with kayakers and sailors, as surfers. There’s plenty going on dry land too, with bird sanctuaries and museums to explore nearby, intriguing local shops and restaurants, and the charming city of Wilmington only 20 minutes drive away.
Blockade Runner Beach Resort on Wrightsville Beach in historic Wilmington, has more than earned the right to call itself a classic. One of the original family sports resorts on this famously sporty stretch of coast, it works an easy mix of activity, exploration, authentic local culture and beachy downtime into fun holidays in North Carolina.
Where: Blockade Runner Beach Resort, Wrightsville Beach, Wilmington. Two hours, 20 minutes drive south east of Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU)
Cost: Harbour front family room from £199 per night, two adults and two children sharing. Two-night minimum stay at weekends, Friday and Saturday.
North Carolina’s largest city, Charlotte is a car racing legend, and fantastic adventure for families: think the world’s tallest giga-coaster; US National Whitewater Centre; Charlotte Motor Speedway. Less than half-an-hour away, Concord is just as much fun on a slightly smaller scale, although its reputation for home-cooked BBQ is enormous: best in the entire state, so they say.
photo credit: VisitNC.com
From the fantastic indoor waterpark to year-round activities, whatever the weather: Great Wolf Lodge Concord Resort is designed for kids, and a great choice for exploring North Carolina’s fascinating Charlotte area.
It’s also one of the few resorts with family suites for up to seven, and the only one where rooms have themed sleeping areas, which children love, naturally.
Where: Great Wolf Lodge Concord Resort, Concord. 25 minutes drive east of Charlotte Douglas Airport (CLT)
Cost: Family Suite from £207 per night, sleeps between four and seven guests.
The village of Blowing Rock sits just off the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway, so you can easily fit a classic road trip into a family holiday here. It’s also the area for North Carolina’s most daring ziplines: venturing across the daunting Mile-High Swinging Bridge, and taking a vintage train through the Blue Ridge Mountains. There’s white-water rafting and tubing on New River too. Or you can just have a day of good old fashioned funfair thrills at Tweetsie Railroad theme park.
Take to the High Country and explore North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains from luxurious Chetola Lodge, set in 87 acres of beautiful countryside, close to Grandfather Mountain State Park, and a short stroll from the mountain village of Blowing Rock.
Outdoorsy and activity-packed, this is the resort where kids can try fly fishing and horseshoe throwing, brush up on their tennis, or spend day after day adventuring round the hills, forests and rivers that make High Country family holidays unforgettable.
Where: Chetola Resort, Blowing Rock. One hour, 40 minutes drive north of Charlotte Douglas Airport
Cost: Family Suites from £161 per night, sleeps four. Breakfast for two guests included.
The first National Forest in the eastern US, Pisgah is lovely and completely unspoiled. It’s probably best known for waterfalls, several of which are the most visited in North Carolina. The mesmerising Looking Glass Falls are on a well-marked walking trail, and you can actually drive a car under the Bridal Veil Falls. Take a break from hiking and biking to see colourful Asheville: less than half-an-hour away and fun to tour on the purple La Zoom bus. And don’t miss Biltmore House and Winery, just south of the city.
On the edge of wonderfully wild and rugged Pisgah National Forest, The Bike Farm is one of the state’s most original glamping experiences, and paradise for free-wheeling kids looking to brush up on skills, or just ride North Carolina’s most thrilling trails.
A combination of great weather and beautifully designed tents, makes for a luxe camping experience. Mountain bike hire is easy to arrange. Guided tours with the passionate experts, who dreamed up this innovative eco-resort in the first place, are fun for families, and non-cyclists will find plenty to keep them enthralled in Pisgah and beyond.
Where: Pisgah National Forest, near Brevard, Asheville. One hour, 30 minutes drive west of Charlotte Douglas Airport
Cost: Family glamping tents from £71 per night, sleeps up to six.
The most famous, and best loved boardwalk, in North Carolina is on Carolina Beach. From the colourful shops and cafés to live music, cheerful family restaurants, and doughnuts, it’s a wonderful slice of vintage seaside charm on the edge of a fabulous Atlantic beach. If you can tear kids away from the funfairs and general fun, one of the coast’s prettiest towns, Beaumont is nearby too, and the fascinating city of Wilmington is another close neighbour.
photo credit: NC Division of Parks and Recreation
Carolina Beach State Park’s range of cute, wooden holiday cabins are great value, and the location couldn’t be better for family holidays: surrounded by shady woodland, close to Cape Fear River, and minutes from the most famous vintage boardwalk in North Carolina.
Each cabin sleeps up to six, comes complete with electricity, aircon, and heating, and has a picnic table and BBQ too. There are showers, toilets and washing facilities on-site at the family campground. Plus, kids love the bunk-house style interiors: very cool and beachy good fun.
Where: Carolina Beach State Park, Wilmington. Two hours, 24 minutes drive south of Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU)
Cost: Family holiday cabins from £39 per night, sleeps up to six.