Sweeping mountain views, impressive city landmarks, gorgeous barrier island scenery: the best North Carolina getaways come in all shapes and sizes. In a state where you can experience everything from sea cruises and beachcombing, to zip-lining, hiking, and mountain biking—plus world-class artwork and great downtown scenes—you really can cater your North Carolina vacation to suit your taste. But where do you start when you’re looking for a good place to stay? FlipKey is here to help.
Best Places To Stay In North Carolina
FlipKey offers affordable rental properties in destinations around the world, bookable right on our site. To develop our list of best North Carolina vacations, we analyzed all rental review scores across the state from FlipKey and TripAdvisor travelers (FlipKey is a TripAdvisor company), identifying cities and towns that have some of the highest-rated vacation properties. Locations needed at least 100 lifetime reviews and a minimum average score of 4.5 out of 5.00—the cream of the crop!
Travelers have rated the following destinations as some of the best North Carolina vacation spots for booking a rental, whether you’re looking at Oak Island beach houses or Blue Ridge cabin hideaways. A rental home gives you a private property all to yourself, complete with a full kitchen and amenities like laundry or an outdoor patio. Read on for FlipKey’s pick of best places to spend your North Carolina vacation!
“A special slice of heaven here on earth. This place is absolutely wonderful!” – Guest Review
The mountain town of Brevard has been raking in the accolades in recent years, including making Budget Travel’s list of Coolest Small Towns in America. Arrive in its magical landscape of over 200 waterfalls and scenic trails, centered around a tight-knit artsy community. Start off outdoors, hiking through the bountiful local forests and paddling by kayak down the French Broad River. Then shop the galleries for arts and crafts inspired by the natural surroundings, have an old-fashioned soda at the 1940s lunch counter at Rocky’s, then finish the day back at your cozy cabin retreat. Perfect.
Check out the city’s fascinating blend of architectural styles, wandering through Old Salem to soak up its preserved 18th-century feel, and stopping at the Reynolda House Museum of American Art to see its astonishing collection of paintings and furnishings. Gardeners will love the Moravian gardens in Old Salem and the flowers and maples of Reynolda Gardens. There’s also an exciting craft beer scene here, with plenty of pubs and breweries to welcome you in. Every first Saturday of the month you can even attend Beer School to hone your skills and taste a selection of local brews. Foodwise, you can try the regional cuisine in a range of contemporary eateries, or trace the city’s culinary history all the way back to its roots with an authentic taste of Moravian cooking.
A 40-minute drive south of Asheville and close to the stunning waterfalls and hiking paths of Dupont State Recreational Forest, this picture-perfect mountain town is a fantastic choice for your North Carolina getaway—whether you’re planning a vacation that’s romantic, sporty, or family friendly. In the summer months, you’ll be treated to free live music every evening. Go from brewery to winery, browse the antique stores, then pick up fresh produce from the local farmers’ markets and head back to your rental for a meal to remember. Find yourself a cabin with a view and you’ll be all set for an unforgettable stay.
Holden Beach is a family-friendly coastal town that’s popular without being overrun, although things do get livelier in the summer months. The Intracoastal Waterway is great for paddle boarding and spotting marine life. You can also book a fishing charter to bring back a catch for dinner back at your beach house rental!
“We could not have picked a better place. The house is absolutely beautiful in every way and stocked with everything we could possibly need. We loved it here.” – Guest Review
The serene retreat of Lake Norman has over 500 miles of shoreline to explore—grab a rental with a lake view for the ultimate experience. This is the place for boating, wakeboarding, or even powering along on a jet ski, and if you feel like changing things up a bit, it’s just 20 miles to the big-city sights of Charlotte. With top-rated rental properties to boot, Lake Norman is one of the best North Carolina vacations you can take.
Holden Beach’s equally lovely neighbor is Ocean Isle Beach, another relaxing coastal destination. Here you can play games in the pier arcade and fill up on breakfast at the grill, or rent a surfboard or jet ski to master the waves. Back on land, you can play a round on the pristine 18-hole golf course, keeping those Atlantic views in your eyeline, or join a wine tasting at the Coastal Wine Room. The Museum of Coastal Carolina is particularly good for younger visitors, with its aquarium and touch tank full of inquisitive marine creatures.
Trout fishing, antiques shopping, do-it-yourself gem mining—Franklin’s a unique little North Carolina gem that’s great for a weekend getaway or longer summer stay. Blue Ridge Outdoors readers voted this place 2016’s Top Small Town, so it comes highly recommended. While you’re here, tour the Currahee Brewing Company for a tasting with spectacular views, mine for native rubies and sapphires and have them incorporated into your own jewelry design to take home. All you need now is your rental nestled in the forest.
“Wonderful location and beautiful cabin. We enjoyed a four day stay fishing, relaxing, and observing nature” – Guest Review
No stranger to accolades, Asheville easily makes our list of best places to vacation in North Carolina. Chilled-out vibes and mountain air combine with a budding downtown and stellar beer scene in this great American city. Head downtown to soak up live music and good eats, or escape up into nature on a peaceful hike with soaring views. The jewel in Asheville’s crown is the impressive Biltmore House, which you can tour with audio guides before exploring the Biltmore Estate Trails. If you’re vacationing with your pooch, you’re in for a treat: excellent dog parks and even a dog bakery await you and your four-legged friend.
Beaufort enjoys a picturesque position on North Carolina’s coast, surrounded by pretty waterways. Spend a day kayaking through the Rachel Carson Reserve, island-hop to see wild horses at play, and watch pelicans soaring above you. The sunsets are just breathtaking, so book your beach home to be all set for the show.
This super-pretty town has a small community feel and offers spectacular Blue Ridge views all year round. The center is big on local arts and crafts, so you can pick up some quality souvenirs before sinking into one of the town’s famous rocking chairs and taking in the views. For something more adventurous, pull on the hiking boots or waders and step out into the surroundings to hike and fish to your heart’s content.
This forward-thinking college town really shines as a summer vacation destination, with outdoor movie screenings, brewery tours, and live music events. You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to eating out: feast on barbecue at Brew N Que or a hot chicken sandwich at Ashley Christensen’s well-loved Beasley’s Chicken + Honey. Tours of the North Carolina Museum of Art run daily and are well worth a look.
Escape the heat of the summer up in the welcoming Blue Ridge town of Banner Elk. This family-friendly destination offers tubing, rafting, and horse riding in summer, and there’s a sandy beach at Wildcat Lake. Take the car up to nearby Blowing Rock to appreciate the views and feel the unusual upward winds from the rock itself. For snowy stays, Beech Mountain and Sugar Mountain resorts provide all the ski terrain you need.
Bald Head Island is one of the best places to stay in North Carolina…because it’s completely free of cars! That means a vacation without exhaust fumes or engine noise, just beautifully preserved surroundings. There are sandy swimming beaches, marinas full of bobbing boats, and a beautifully landscaped golf course, and you can choose to cruise down the Cape Fear River or take a guided kayak tour through the creeks. In summer, join a Turtle Walk to see loggerhead turtles nesting and hatching.
This port city is another great option, with easy access to nearby Kure Beach, Wrightsville Beach, and Carolina Beach (all about a 20-minute drive away). You can wander the historic district to see the town’s tree-lined streets and antebellum architecture, or follow the paths through Airlie Gardens, bordered with oak trees and sculptures. Be sure to explore the Riverwalk, stopping for Southern cooking at the George or one of the other excellent neighboring watering holes.
This Blue Ridge town is one of the best places to vacation in North Carolina—that you may not have considered! You can get a taste of pioneer history at the Hickory Ridge Living History Museum, chug along the Tweetsie Railroad, or roll along the ridiculously scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, a stunning drive at any time of year. We’re not sure there’s a better place for a treetop zipline adventure or spa stay.
There are relaxed vibes all around in this little mountain community, with its downtown lined with local stores, museums, and dining spots. It’s a quiet, unfussy kind of place, plus it’s right on the doorstep of some thrilling outdoor adventures, such as horse riding, mountain biking, and kayaking on the Nantahala River. There are fantastic rentals in this area too, from cozy cabins to imposing mountain lodges, making it one of the best places to stay in the state.
Mind-blowing sunrises and sunsets over the Atlantic are in store in this Crystal Coast hub. Spend the days dolphin-spotting, shelling, fishing, cruising around the islands, or cycling to Fort Macon State Park, where you can see its five-sided Civil War fort. A short boat trip takes you over to Shackleford Banks to see the wild horses running free.
“It was very clean and well maintained. The kitchen had all you needed to prepare meals. The location is great for shopping, restaurants and going to the beach.” – Guest Review
The beach town of Kitty Hawk is a quaint Outer Banks vacation spot, home to the marshes and woodland of Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve—keep your eyes peeled for the gray foxes and otters. There are several sandy beaches here, plus a remodelled pier, and—the biggest draw of all—miles and miles of far-reaching ocean vistas. In nearby Kill Devil Hills, you can visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial, which marks the place where the brothers’ first successful test flight took off.
Oak Island has a pretty beach setting, complete with soft sands, rolling waves, and marshland—what’s more, you won’t have to share it with too many other people. There’s a sense of stepping back in time here, due to the relaxed pace and old-fashioned delights, such as kite flying, pier fishing, and rounds of mini golf. If that sounds like your ideal getaway, book your beach cottage and go.
Action-packed Charlotte rounds out our list of best places to vacation in North Carolina. The state’s largest city has so much entertainment to offer visitors: first-class museums and shopping, parks, breweries, and top-quality restaurants. You’ll find big family fun on the roller coasters at Carowinds Amusement Park, and there’s entertainment for racing fans at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, harboring works by Giacometti, Picasso, and Warhol, is a great choice for a cultured afternoon, and just outside the city you can escape into the calm of the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, complete with fountains and tropical plants.