From News & Observer 6 easy trips to the coast

Hoping to save money, gas and travel time? There's still time to plan a summer vacation
By John Bordsen - The Charlotte Observer


DISTANCE (FROM RALEIGH): About 3 hours (207 miles), one way.

GOTTA SEE: Wright Brothers National Memorial (252-441-7430; is big-time history on the cheap: $4 for the museum/grounds. The Black Pelican restaurant/bar (3848 Virginia Dare Trail) is in one of the few buildings from 1903 still standing. Dinner: $14-$20; (252-261-3171; Related Content
TOTALLY FREE: Climb the sand dunes and hike the trails at Jockey's Ridge State Park. Hike through Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve. Details: 252-441-2525.
GOTTA TRY: Across from Jockey's Ridge is Kitty Hawk Kites/Carolina Outdoors, the place to buy your kite, try their climbing wall or take hang-gliding lessons. Details: 252-441-4124;
DETAILS: Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, 704 S. U.S. 64-264, Manteo, N.C. 27954; 877-629-4386; Map of Kill Devil Hills with visitor information:


DISTANCE: About 2 hours (132 miles), one way.

GOTTA SEE: Battleship North Carolina, permanently docked in Cape Fear River; you can easily spend a day there soaking up military history ($12; $6 for ages 6-11; 910-251-5797; Kids still have some pep? Check the Serpentarium, downtown on Orange Street -- it's an indoor reptile park with lots of cool creepy residents ($8; 910-762-1669; For the grown-ups: Check out the vibrant downtown scene, with lots of good bars, shopping and restaurants.
TOTALLY FREE: South of Wilmington at Kure Beach, visit Fort Fisher, the Civil War bastion whose fate was decided in the largest amphibious invasion before D-Day. (910-458-5538).
DETAILS: Cape Fear Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau, 24 N. Third St., Wilmington; 800-222-4757;


DISTANCE: About 2 hours (130 miles), one way.

GOTTA SEE: Tryon Palace, built for the last royal governor, burned to the ground in 1798. Its blueprints were discovered in the 1940s and a replica was built on the same spot. Guides in colonial costume take you through the place; explore the gardens on your own. Allow a half-day for this and related buildings. ($15; $6 for school-age kids; discounts available. Through Labor Day, open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Saturday; 252-514-4900; Tryon Palace Home .)
TOTALLY FREE: Croatan National Forest (252-638-5628; is a sprawling coastal/inland preserve that has hiking trails, boat launches, picnic areas and campgrounds (the rustic campgrounds are no charge). The forest's three developed trails range from half-mile to 20 miles in length.
DETAILS: Craven County Convention & Visitors Bureau, 314 S. Front St., New Bern; 800-437-5767;


DISTANCE: About 3.25 hours (170 miles), one way. GOTTA SEE: N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores (Atlantic Beach; $8; $6 for ages 6-17; 866-294-3477; recently tripled its size.
GOTTA TRY: Charter a boat and fish; rent a board and surf at Bogue Sound.
TOTALLY FREE: N.C. Maritime Museum (315 Front St., Beaufort; 252-728-7317; has artifacts recovered from the shipwreck believed to be the Queen Anne's Revenge, the flagship of the pirate Blackbeard. Fort Macon State Park (Atlantic Beach; 252-726-3775; was a coastal fortification built in the 1820s and 1830s at the eastern tip of Bogue Bank. Tourst are self-guided.
DETAILS: Carteret County Tourism, P.O. Box 1406, Morehead City; 800-786-6962;


DISTANCE: About 3 hours (166 miles), one way.

GOTTA SEE: You can do a day trip by taking the ferry ($15 round trip), then renting a golf cart at Riverside Adventure Company, right where the ferry lands. Best bet is to rent a cottage or house -- $200 per night and up -- on the beach, in the forest or on the marsh. (Rental info at This summer's Gas-Free Getaway promotion: Rent a place for a week and receive a gas card worth $150 (info on Web site). Hungry? Two restaurants are in the harbor, two at private clubs (when you rent, you get temporary membership/access to both). Most popular is Eb & Flo's, at the harbor ($9-$20). Climb to the top of Old Baldy, the state's oldest lighthouse ($3).
TOTALLY FREE: Slightly more than 83 percent of the 12,000-acre island is given over to nature. The whole island is ringed by beaches, marshes and creeks. Go biking, hiking, in-line skating, fishing, crabbing, swimming or beachcombing.
DETAILS: 800-432-7368; Bald Head Island


DISTANCE: About 31/4 hours (190 miles), one way.

GOTTA SEE: Roanoke Island is the site of the first British colony on the North American mainland. Settlers dropped off there in 1587 disappeared -- the famed "Lost Colony. " The outdoor drama "The Lost Colony" tells the story of the ill-fated settlers at the Waterside Theatre ($16-$20, $8 for kids; The two-hour history drama begins at 8:30 p.m. Sunday-Friday; closed Saturday, through Aug. 20. Adjacent 10.5-acre Elizabethan Gardens ($8, $5 for kids; has the moody Sunken Garden, other gardens and bloom-lined walks. Island's main town, Manteo, is on Shallowbag Bay, as is Roanoke Island Festival Park (; $8 ($5 for kids) -- gets you in its Adventure Museum and aboard the Elizabeth II, the 1580s-style ship.
TOTALLY FREE: Outdoor play and Elizabethan Gardens adjoin the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site ( Walk Manteo's downtown.
DETAILS: Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, One Visitors Center Circle, Manteo; 800-446-6262;