Romantic Road Trip | North Carolina Destinations | Travel Zone by Best Western

Romantic Road Trip | North Carolina

By Virginia Brown

From sweeping mountain vistas in the west to the Atlantic coast’s calming views and charming southern towns, North Carolina is a great destination for a romantic road trip. Cozy up with a blanket on the beach, share an incredible meal, or stand in awe at the base of a rushing waterfall while exploring the romantic Blue Ridge Parkway – no matter what you choose, you’re in for an adventure in the Tar Heel State. 


North Carolina High Country  

Perhaps there’s no more famous route in North Carolina than the Blue Ridge Parkway. Spanning over 450 miles from North Carolina to Virginia, and linking the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Shenandoah National Park, there’s no shortage of crisp air, stunning scenery, and great stops along the parkway. Several towns are worth a look in the northwest pocket of the state. Stroll down Main Street in Blowing Rock and peruse the many gift and artisan shops, grab ice cream or sample fresh-made fudge at Kilwins, take a picnic and sit by Broyhill Park’s serene lakefront gazebo, or share a meal at The Speckled Trout. The town is named after The Blowing Rock, a natural attraction that also shares a legendary love story.  


Nearby Banner Elk is celebrated for its annual warm-hearted Woolly Worm Festival, but also for its impressive performing arts scene. Catch a show at Ensemble Stage in the center of town, or head over to Lees-McRae College for a performance. Before the show, enjoy a romantic dinner at Stonewalls Restaurant, known for its prime rib and seafood entrees, plus an incredible salad bar. Outdoorsy couples can pack a picnic and take a hike down Linville Gorge, the deepest gorge east of the Grand Canyon, complete with picture-perfect scenery, incredible leaves in fall, and cascading waterfalls. Boone, home to Appalachian State University, is also worth a look for shopping and dining, historic outdoor theater, and more. Be sure to visit Arborcrest Gardens, a 26-acre botanical garden located at a private residence.  


Book your stay at Best Western Mountain Lodge at Banner Elk. 


Asheville area  

From the High Country, continue on the Blue Ridge Parkway down to the Asheville region. In Brevard, a small town known for its impressive music center and white squirrels, share a warm pastry and warm cup of coffee at Bracken Mountain Bakery, or relax with a romantic meal at The Bohemian Restaurant after stretching your legs on a hike to Looking Glass Falls in the Pisgah National Forest. Head over to Hendersonville for a few stops along the Cheers! Trail, a route packed with 27 different wineries, breweries, cideries, and distilleries, or go apple picking at Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard 


In Asheville, tour the expansive grounds and gardens or sample several wines at The Biltmore Estate, America’s largest home, or catch a live concert at The Orange Peel, an iconic regional music venue. Don’t leave without tasting some of Asheville’s top-rated food scene, including tapas at Cúrate, the chef’s always-changing, four-course menu at Cucina 24, and small plates, like the pimento cheese hush puppies at Rhubarb. 


Book your stay at GLo Best Western Asheville-Blue Ridge Parkway. 



Journey to the southwestern pocket of the state along the Waterfall Byway. This route features over 200 towering cascades along stunning mountain roads. For some of the best views, head over to Hanging Dog Recreation Area. Brave the rapids together at the nearby Nantahala Outdoor Center, a 500-acre facility that offers hiking, guided whitewater rafting, and lots more along the Nantahala River. Grab a bite at the park’s laid-back waterside gastropub, the River’s End and enjoy a regional craft brew. While in nearby Bryson City, hop on the Great Smoky Mountains Railway and take a romantic ride along the scenic Nantahala Gorge. After the roughly 4-hour journey, stop into nearby Bryson City Brewing to split some nachos and sample a few local beers. Or travel 20 minutes or so over to Dillsboro for a romantic patio setting with rocking chairs and a canopy of string lights at Boots Steakhouse. In Murphy, take a stroll along the Murphy Riverwalk, then enjoy a cocktail and some live music at The Mason Bar 


Book your stay at Best Western of Murphy. 


Romantic Outer Banks 

North Carolina’s Highway 12, spanning roughly 150 miles along the Outer Banks, is the backdrop for a romantic road trip full of adventure. From Ocracoke Island and Cape Hatteras in the south, to Duck and Historic Corolla Village near the Virginia border, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore impresses with breathtaking coastlines, culture-rich towns, and national historic sites.  


Don’t miss Cape Hatteras’s stunning coastal views from the top and the Wright Brothers National Memorial, the location where, in 1903, after four years of experimenting, Orville and Wilbur Wright achieved the first-ever airplane flight. A reproduction of the brothers’ flyer is on display in the visitor’s center. In the north, stop for a seaside lunch at Aqua in Duck or try your luck at witnessing the wild horses of Corolla run free along the beach. Along the southern stretch, pass through small coastal towns like Avon, Salvo, and Rodanthe, a quaint town highlighted on the big screen by Richard Gere and Diane Lane, was the inspiration for Nicholas Sparks’ romance novel “Nights in Rodanthe.”  


Just a quick side trip off Highway 12, Manteo is packed full of fun dates. The town is known for its famed outdoor symphonic drama, The Lost Colony. Cozy up and learn the story of the Roanoke Colony, the region’s first European settlers, and their early interactions with native peoples. Before the show, take a leisurely stroll through the Elizabethan Gardens, which are full of blooms in spring and twinkling lights in winter, or head into the town center to browse the shops or split a French press at Charis Coffee Company. Before you go, walk along the waterfront and take some photos in the park by the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse, which resembles a charming coastal cottage along Shallowbag Bay.  


Brunswick Islands  

Highways 17 and 87 connect the quaint towns of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, from Southport down to Bird Island, a protected natural area. In Southport, the picturesque town where Nicholas Sparks’ “Safe Haven” was filmed, visit the North Carolina Maritime Museum or go antique shopping in the historic town center, then share fresh oysters and cocktails at Mister P’s Bistro. Ride the ferry over to Bald Head Island, climb the beloved Old Baldy Lighthouse and explore the Smith Island Museum of History. 


Try a romantic kayak tour at Holden Beach, then head to Sunset Beach to explore the Museum of Coastal Carolina and Ingram Planetarium. End the day with a meal overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway at The Boat Landing. Golfers can take their pick from among the 30 championship courses in the region, and nature lovers will enjoy visiting Bird Island Reserve, an undeveloped barrier island. Of course, no road trip along the North Carolina beaches would be complete without a taste of seafood, and Calabash delivers with its signature style. Near the marina, stop by The Boundary House Restaurant for Carolina flounder, Calabash gumbo, and hearty seafood platters.  


Book your stay at Best Western Shallotte / Ocean Isle Beach Hotel. 


Mount Morrow/Badin Lake 

About an hour east of Charlotte, Albemarle is a convenient home base for a number of scenic drives and exciting adventures, given its close proximity to the popular Badin Lake Recreation Area and countless outdoors activities at Mount Morrow State Park. Nestled in the thickly wooded Uwharrie Mountains, Mount Morrow State Park offers 37 miles of hiking trails, 19 miles of horseback riding trails, plus a museum. Pack a picnic and enjoy a meal amid the lush and colorful tree canopy in the fall, or, in warm seasons, take a dip in the park’s swimming pool. 


At Badin Lake, make it a high-octane adventure along 17 miles of ATV and off-roading trails. For a more peaceful experience, the Badin Lake area also offers 40 miles of lush and winding hiking, biking, and horseback-riding trails. For the water lovers, a boat launch for motorized or non-motorized crafts is available, plus four fishing piers at Kings Mountain Point, where common catches include brim, large- and small-mouth bass, and catfish.  


Book your stay at Best Western Albemarle Inn. 

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