Our Favorite Small Towns in North Carolina

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From the coast to the mountains, North Carolina has charm to spare. In the Tar Heel State, there are so many great small towns—far too many to count—so choosing our favorites is a challenging task. But we've done it; we've picked 19 of our favorite small towns across the state. They're ideal for weekend getaways, with opportunities for hiking, biking, shopping, eating, boating, and wandering picturesque main streets. Visit any one of these small towns and you're sure to run into locals who will greet you like family. Whether your thing is watersports, mountain climbing, antiquing, bookstore browsing, or lounging at a bed and breakfast, there's a North Carolina small town on our list that will compel you to plan a trip soon. These towns are full of history and ecological wonders. Whether eastern, western, or somewhere in between, these small towns make us crave a North Carolina road trip.

01 of 19

Banner Elk

Banner Elk
Courtesy of Helen Hopper/grandfather.com

Population: 1,473

This Western North Carolina town is a paradise for outdoor adventurers. It's a little community nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, with Sugar Mountain Resort to the south and Beech Mountain Resort to the north for skiing opportunities. There is also a beach and a pier at Wildcat Lake. Meanwhile Grandfather Mountain, to the southeast, is home to a nature museum, hiking trails, and the Mile High Swinging Bridge.

See: Banner House Museum, Mill Pond, Elk River, Mile High Swinging Bridge, Wildcat Lake, Grandfather Mountain State Park

Dine: Stonewall's Restaurant, Banner Elk Cafe and Lodge, The Painted Fish Cafe

Stay: The Banner Elk Inn, The Lodge at River Run

02 of 19


Wolfgang Kaehler/Getty Images

Population: 220

You'll find a small town with big charm in Bath, North Carolina, which was established as the state's first town in 1705 after being a European settlement in the 1690s. Due to its ease of access to the Pamlico River and the Atlantic Ocean—as it sits about 50 miles away from the Ocracoke Inlet—it soon became North Carolina's first port. Its original town limits are now a historic district where tourists can visit historical homes.

See: Palmer-Marsh House, Bonner House, Pamlico River, Goose Creek State Park, Bath Creek

Dine: Blackbeard's Slices & Ices, Old Town Country Kitchen

Stay: The Inn on Bath Creek

03 of 19


Charlotte Observer/Getty Images

Population: 4,382

Beaufort is the fourth oldest town in North Carolina, established in 1713, and has been ranked as "America's Coolest Small Town" by readers of Budget Travel. This coastal treasure promises ecological adventures galore. You can experience the Shackleford Wild Horse & Shelling Safari with a ferry ride to the Outer Banks Island, Shackleford Banks.

See: Shackleford Banks, NC Maritime Museum, Rachel Carson Coastal Estuarine Reserve, Cape Lookout Lighthouse, Downtown Beaufort

Dine: Clawson's 1905 Restaurant & Pub, Blue Moon Bistro, Aqua Restaurant

Stay: Pecan Tree Inn, Inlet Inn, Inn on Turner

04 of 19

Beech Mountain

Beech Mountain
George Rose/Getty Images

Population: 766

You're sure to find thrills on the slopes in this tiny ski town tucked into North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains. In addition to skiing, there are many mountain trails to hike. Follow the creekside Falls Trail's path to a refreshing waterfall.

See: Beech Mountain Ski Resort, Grandfather Mountain State Park, Beech Mountain Adventure Tours

Dine: Beech Mountain Brewing Co., Alpen Restaurant and Bar, Famous Brick Oven Pizzeria, Edward's

Stay: 4 Seasons at Beech, Beech Mountain Ski Resort, Beech Alpen Inn, Top of the Beech

05 of 19

Blowing Rock

Blowing Rock
The Washington Post/Getty Images

Population: 1,149

Come for the High Country sights, stay for the delicious eats in Blowing Rock. This village in the western part of the state is on Blue Ridge Parkway. It gets its name from The Blowing Rock, which is a formation with scenic views of peaks, sprawling forests, and the Johns River Gorge.

See: The Blowing Rock, Blowing Rock Art & History Museum, Moses Cone Park, Glen Burney Trail, Annie Cannon Memorial Park, Chetola Resort

Dine: Timberlake's Restaurant at Chetola Resort, The Village Cafe, Bistro Roca, Canyons Restaurant, Rowland's Restaurant, Foggy Rock Eatery and Pub

Stay: Alpine Village Inn, Azalea Garden Inn, Chetola Resort, Historic Green Park Inn

06 of 19


Karen Kasmauski/Getty Images

Population: 7,841

Summertime in Brevard is a small-town dream. It offers arts, music, and festivals aplenty. Brevard is also known as the Land of Waterfalls, due its numerous cascading waters.

See: Brevard Music Center, Sliding Rock, Looking Glass Falls, Pisgah National Forest, Bracken Mountain Bakery, O.P. Taylor's Toy Store

Dine: The Square Root, Rocky's Soda Shop, The Falls Landing Eatery, Marco Trattoria

Stay: Key Falls Inn, Red House Inn

07 of 19

Bryson City

Bryson City
Education Images/Getty Images

Population: 1,777

Step into this Smoky Mountain hamlet, and you'll be transported. Literally, if you hop aboard a family-friendly steam train ride. As a gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and part of the Appalachian Trail, Bryson City is imbued with wildflowers, wildlife, and streams.

See: Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Depot, Smoky Mountain Trains Museum, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Fly Fishing Museum, Deep Creek Recreation Area, Fontana Lake, Nantahala River, Nantahala Outdoor Center, Island Park

Dine: Anthony's Restaurant, Derailed Bar & Lounge, Filling Station Deli & Sub Shop, Cork & Bean Bistro

Stay: The Everett Hotel, Calhoun House Inn & Suites

08 of 19


Barcroft/Getty Images

Population: 728

This picturesque, vacation-favorite village is nestled in North Carolina's Nantahala National Forest. The mountain peaks surrounding it reach up to more than 5,000 feet. And the lush area has plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventurers.

See: Whiteside Mountain, Shadow of the Bear, Village Green, Silver Run Falls, Lake Glenville, Nantahala National Forest, Panthertown Valley, Highland Hiker

Dine: Cornucopia Restaurant, Randevu Restaurant, The Orchard Restaurant

Stay: High Hampton Inn, Laurelwood Inn

09 of 19


Bloomberg/Getty Images

Population: 12,920

Plan a quick trip to spend a weekend in this charming college town outside of Charlotte. Davidson's main street offers a variety of stores and restaurants. And the community takes pride in fostering a pedestrian and bicycle-friendly environment.

See: Davidson College,Tour de Food Davidson Walking Tour,The Village Store, Davidson Farmer's Market

Dine: Kindred,The Pickled Peach, 131 Main, Brick House Tavern, Fork!

Stay: DavidsonVillage Inn, The Cedars Davidson Bed and Breakfast

10 of 19


George Rose/Getty Images

Population: 3,424

Stroll down Elizabethtown's picturesque Main Street to get to know this small town treasure. This southeastern North Carolina town is proudly friendly and family-oriented. It hosts the Cape Fear Farmer's Market each Saturday, where you can find a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, baked goods, meats, eggs, jams, and more.

See: Jones Lake State Park, Lu Mil Vineyard, Cape Fear Vineyard and Winery, Cape Fear River

Dine: The Cork Room,Giorgio's Restaurant and Pizza,Christopher's Steakhouse and Seafood,Burney's Sweets & More

11 of 19


Education Images/Getty Images

Population: 4,030

Visit Franklin, a convenient stopover along the Appalachian Trail, and you're sure to encounter hikers with stories to tell. It's nestled in the Nantahala National Forest, the largest National Forest in North Carolina. There, you can experience hiking, rafting, waterfalls, and more.

See: Scottish Tartans Museum, Appalachian Trail, The Nikwasi Mound, Smoky Mountain Center for Performing Arts, The Franklin Gem & Mineral Museum

Dine: Root and Barrel, Lazy Hiker Brewing Company, Rock House Lodge, Caffé REL

Stay: Oak Hill Country Inn Bed & Breakfast, Snow Hill Inn

12 of 19


Wolfgang Kaehler/Getty Images

Population: 14,020

Enjoy the shops and restaurants on Hendersonville's charming Main Street. In downtown Hendersonville, you'll find the Henderson County Heritage Museum, which exhibits Civil War artifacts and a replica of a 1900s general store. Nearby, Jump Off Rock overlooks the idyllic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. And don't forget to stop at the area vineyards too.

See: Main Street, North Carolina Apple Festival, Jump Off Rock, Flat Rock Playhouse, Carl Sandburg Home, Burntshirt Vineyards, Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards

Dine: Flat Rock Wood Room, Olive or Twist Restaurant and Bar, Postero, Never Blue, Mean Mr. Mustard Express

Stay: 1898 Waverly Inn,Inn on Church, Pinebrook Manor Bed and Breakfast Inn

13 of 19


VW Pics/Getty Images

Population: 1,061

This oasis of cuisine and arts in Western North Carolina is a perfect destination for a weekend getaway. Visit the Whiteside Mountain National Recreation Trail. Or visit the rainforest mountain waterfalls in a town that has become a national waterfall destination.

See: Highlands Botanical Garden, Highlands Performing Arts Center, Whiteside Mountain Hike, Shadow of the Bear, The Bascom

Dine: Ristorante Paoletti, On The Verandah, Wolfgang's Restaurant & Wine Bistro

Stay: The Park on Main Hotel, Old Edwards Inn & Spa, Highlands Inn, The Main Street Inn

14 of 19


Charlotte Observer/Getty Images

Population: 7,162

This small town along the Eno River has plenty of cycling and walking trails along the water. More than 100 residences, churches, schools, and other structures from the late 18th and 19th centuries may be found in the city's historic district. It is also considered a quiet haven for artists and writers.

See: Riverwalk, Eno River State Park, Hillsborough Gallery of Arts, ENO Gallery, Orange County Historical Museum, Old Orange County Courthouse, Ayr Mount, Historic Occoneeche Speedway Trail

Dine: Hot Tin Roof, Botanist and Barrel Wine and Tasting Room

Stay: Inn at Teardrops, The Webb House Bed and Breakfast

15 of 19

Lake Lure

Lake Lure
Davis Turner/Getty Images

Population: 1,634

Hire a canoe and paddle the lake nestled next to this at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It's considered one of the most beautiful man-made lakes in existence. Lake Lure has served as the filming location for a number of classic films, such as Dirty Dancing, Firestarter, and The Last of the Mohicans.

See: Town Center Walkway and Chimney Rock Village Riverwalk, Lake Lure Flowering Bridge, Buffalo Creek Park, Chimney Rock State Park, Hickory Nut Falls, Lake Lure Beach, The Hickory Nut Gift Shop

Dine: La Strada at Lake Lure, Medina's Village Bistro, Larkin's on the Lake

Stay: The 1927 Lake Lure Inn and Spa,The Lodge on Lake Lure,The Esmeralda Inn and Restaurant

16 of 19

Mount Airy

Mount Airy
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The residents of Mt. Airy often call the town Mayberry, and there are plenty of reasons why. One of which is that it's the hometown of Andy Griffith, star of The Andy Griffith Show. There is an annual Mayberry Days parade in celebration of the show and its star.

See: Shelton Vineyards, Mill Creek General Store, Andy Griffith Museum, Old North State Winery

Dine: Walker's Soda Fountain, Chase and Charli Restaurant, 13 Bones, Aunt Bea's Barbecue, Gondola Italian Restaurant

Stay: Heart & Soul Bed and Breakfast, Bee's Bed and Breakfast, Cousin Emma's Bed and Breakfast, Sobotta Manor Bed & Breakfast

17 of 19


David Cannon/Getty Images

Population: 16,382

Bring your clubs for a weekend spent on the links in picturesque Pinehurst. It's a charming New England-style village, considered one of the safest cities in North Carolina. It's also centrally located between the beach and the mountains, and offers both recreational and world-class golfing.

See: Pinehurst Resort, Weymouth Woods-Sandhills Nature Preserve, Sandhills Horticultural Gardens, Culinary Tours of the Pines, Tufts Archives

Dine: Elliot's on Linden, Drum and Quill Public House, The Deuce, 1895 Grille, The Roast Office, Pine Scone Cafe, Ironwood Cafe

Stay: Pinehurst Resort, The Carolina Hotel, The Holly Inn, Pinecrest Inn

18 of 19


The Washington Post/Getty Images

Population: 178

Plan a trip to see why this small coastal village inspired Nicholas Sparks to write his novel Nights in Rodanthe. The novel is set there and the film adaptation was shot on location there. The real-life cedar-clad beach houses were used as the backdrop to Sparks' story, come to life

See: Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, Rodanthe Fishing Pier, Pamlico Sound, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Dine: Good Winds Seafood and Wine Bar, StingWray's Bar and Grill, Lisa's Pizzeria

Stay: Waves Village Watersports Resort, The Inn on Pamlico Sound

19 of 19


Education Images/Getty Images

Population: 2,696

Slow down in Sylva while you browse the town's charming bookstores, local restaurants, friendly stores, galleries, and breweries. This picturesque small town sits at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains and has many events worth visiting. Try their annual Greening Up the Mountain street festival that welcomes spring or their weekly Concerts on the Creek during the summer months.

See: City Lights Bookstore, Harry Alter Books, Jackson's General Store, Bridge Park Pavilion, Concerts on the Creek

Dine: Mad Batter Food and Film, Lulu's Cafe on Main, Balsam Falls Brewing Co.

Stay: Blue Ridge Inn

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