Six great North Carolina sights

North Carolina has long harbored a startling wealth of attractions the “natives” have quietly keep to themselves. But no longer. From the undiscovered locales of Carolina’s magnificent coast to the lesser-known spots further inland, it’s time to share these venues with the rest of the world. Come along as we investigate some of North Carolina’s most picturesque and unique attractions.

The North Carolina Coast
Start on the coast in Wilmington at EUE Screen Gems Studio’s “Hollywood East,” the largest movie studio this side of the Mississippi. Home to more than 350 films, television shows and commercials, tours run on Saturdays and Sundays at noon and at 2 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Other times of the year, tours run on Saturday only. The one-hour walking tour takes visitors through sets for the series,”One Tree Hill.” It’s like being an insider to the film industry, looking at back lots and stages during an easy walk.

Within a 30 minute drive of the studio is Carolina Beach State Park where carnivorous Venus Flytrap plants live. Ask the ranger for information, as the plants are protected. Native in a 60 to 75 mile radius of Wilmington, the modified leaves of these plants trap insects, then secrete a digestive fluid so they can absorb nutrients from the insect. The park also offers camping, nice walking trails and a small beach suitable for launching kayaks into the Cape Fear River. Fort Fisher and the NC Aquarium are only minutes away.

Continuing up the coast, head to Topsail Island, which is home to the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. It’s worth standing in line for a short while to get a close look at turtles cared for in the facility. Most of them have head and carapace fractures due to boat propellers or injuries from being caught in nets. Whatever the ailment, they are treated with medications and lots of love by a cast of volunteers. Jean Beasley, Animal Planet’s 2007 Hero of the Year, started the center in honor of her daughter in 1996. Closed in winter, the center is open June through August from 2 to 4 p.m.; closed Wednesdays and Sundays.

Continuing on the coast to Beaufort, look across at wild horses–looking back at you–from the islands paralleling this historical town. The Rachel Carson Coastal Estuarine Reserve serves as a sanctuary for these ancestors of horses left ashore by crashed boats in centuries gone by. Tame horses can be rented for beach rides in the area and kayak rentals give visitors a superb way to explore the coast. Nearby Cape Lookout, accessible only by water, offers the chance to explore the lighthouse and search for photo-perfect sea shells. You can arrange for a water taxi from Harkers Island.

North Carolina Inland
North Carolina’s hidden sights aren’t just on the coast. There’s plenty to see further inland as well. Head toward Seagrove where many eighth and ninth generation potters continue crafting their work. Visitors make a day of trailing around from one potter’s studio to another, chatting with the artists, finding every texture, style and glaze she could want.

Pack the pottery in the car and finish in the western part of the state at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. Cool in summer, but hot with activity on seven different rivers–you can paddle, raft, fish, or ride the rapids. Take it easy with children as young as three or whoop it up on Class IV rapids. The store at NOC stocks all types of outdoor gear, so you can look good even if you stand on the bridge and observe.

No matter what your interest, these North Carolina sights offer something worth discovering – check them out!