the best eastern north carolina day trips.

It’s crazy that summer is quickly approaching.  I mean, did we even have a winter this year?  I’m pretty sure I felt the same way last year as summer speedily came to an end.

And when I was dressing Audrey in her warm-weather clothing this past weekend only to find that nothing fit. When in the world did she become so big?!

Now I’m about to be completely cliche and say: where the heck has the time gone?

Except right now.

Right now time is creeping.

As we sit and binge-watch Netflix.  And eat our weight in the contents of our fridge.  Wondering when the next nap time is for our littles who will just not let us do our work. Or when it’ll be 5:00 and we can, without guilt, open that last bottle of wine we have.

And although the weather here on the eastern North Carolina coast has been screaming for us to stay outside and partake in summer activities, this new “stay-at-home” order makes that slightly difficult. But, who’s to say you can’t take all that newly found time on your hands and plan your summer trips, like these eastern North Carolina day trips, for when everything does open back up.

Because things will open back up.

Right?

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I had wanted to take Audrey to the Aurora Fossil Museum the first summer we had moved down here, but we had never gotten around to going.  However, last summer I made it a priority to explore eastern North Carolina, and I’m so glad we did.  The main museum houses a few exhibits, including displays of fossils and artifacts you may find on your very own dig, and a gift shop.  You can pick up a $9 wooden sifter (or bring your own) and head out to one of the two dig sites.  The museum receives its sediment from donations by the Nutrien Phosphate Mine – some of the most diverse marine fossils can be found in this material! And the best part? Finders keepers! So you can begin your own fossil collection.  It truly is a great adventure.  Cost: free, unless you purchase items at the gift shop.

The fossil museum won’t take all day, so you can head a little further north and check out the first incorporated town in North Carolina – Bath!  Said to have been the home of Edward Teach (the notorious pirate called “Blackbeard”). This little town should not be overlooked!

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It’s no surprise that Tryon Palace in New Bern would make the list.  I’ve talked about this gem in my 24 hours in New Bern, North Carolina post, and I can’t recommend it enough.  Not only are the gardens breathtaking, which you can tour all 16 acres by themselves, but the buildings are also incredible.  Purchase the “one day pass” so you can see the palace, the town’s most historical homes, and the gardens. Plus, you’ll have access to the North Carolina History Center which provides plenty of interactive exhibits.  When you’re done there, walk around the historical waterfront town of New Bern – it’s incredibly beautiful.  Cost: $20 for adults/$10 for youth (grades 1-12).

Enjoy history? Head on over to Fort Macon State Park – one of the most visited state parks in North Carolina – and for good reason! I took Audrey here last summer, and she didn’t want to leave. The park is unique in that it offers visitors both the opportunity to enjoy North Carolina’s crystal coast and to immerse themselves into a bit of Civil War history. I recommend viewing the short movie on the evolution of the park before exploring and to join one of the free tours.  The volunteers who conduct the tours are so knowledgeable and point out little hidden treasures you wouldn’t find on a self tour – like how the crescent shaped notch was taken out of each step and how the fort obtained their first baker.  Cost: free.

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Last year was the year of the aquariums for us.  We drove to Ft. Fisher in the winter and Roanoke last summer, but the Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores is still our favorite, and we frequent it a couple times a year. Maybe it’s because it is in close proximity to where we live? Or maybe it’s because not only do they have the aquarium indoors with exhibits like a living shipwreck and our favorite – the otters , but they also have an enormous outdoor exhibit that lets you learn about the local marshes and wildlife.  It’s definitely worth it.  Cost: $12.95 for adults  ($11.95 for those 62 and older)/$10.95 for youth (ages 3-12).

The Lynnwood Park Zoo is a diamond in the rough.  I  wouldn’t have heard about this place if I didn’t have a habit of picking up state travel guides when I stop at rest areas.  Nestled in the woods on a 10-acre plot, this little zoo hosts over 50 animal exhibits ranging from wallabies to pygmy goats.  During our visit, the park attendants allowed Audrey to feed tomatoes to the turtles and hold some of their birds!  It truly was a wonderful experience for her.  However, a little tidbit of advice from me to you: don’t go during peak mosquito season – or at least bring a lot of bug spray if you do – or else you’ll be leaving with quite a few unwanted souvenirs!  Cost: $10 for adults/$8 for youth (2-12) cash only. 

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And while I was hesitant to recommend this because of the distance from eastern North Carolina, the North Carolina Zoo is definitely worth the drive!  Located 75 miles west of Raleigh, in the city of Asheboro, it’s about a 3.5-4 hours drive from the coastal region.  And let me tell you, this place is huge! It hosts over 500 developed acres making it the largest natural habitat zoo in the world. So plan wisely, because the zoo recommends 2-3 hours to tour each section (North American region and African region).  I visited years ago when I was stationed down here during my time in the Marine Corps, but this has definitely made the top of my list for this summer’s trips!  Costs: $15 for adults ($13 for 62 and older)/$11 for youth (2-12).

What better way to enjoy the summer on the coast but to go to the beach? And I’m not just talking about heading over to Atlantic Beach to sit amongst the crowds, but to the barrier islands for some relaxation and some pretty incredible wildlife – horses!  Catch a ferry or hop on a tour boat and make your way to Shackleford Banks or Cape Lookout to spend a day of uninterrupted peace.  Enjoy recreational activities such as fishing, shelling, bird and wildlife watching, and even camping.  Do note, though, that this is a remote beach (including no public restrooms), so you must bring everything you need for the day, and clean up after yourself!  Cost: varies depending on transportation chosen to get to islands.

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This is just a fraction of the family-friendly activities to do in North Carolina during the summer time, but some of our favorites.  Hopefully this let’s you plan a pretty incredible summer because I’m pretty sure after months of being cooped up, you’ll want to do all the things.

I know I will.

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