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5 Best Day Trips Around Raleigh, North Carolina

If you plan to visit Raleigh, you won’t want to miss out on the best day trips in the area. 

While this town in North Carolina has plenty of things to do, the surrounding areas are just as neat. Relaxing beaches, engaging history, and fantastic food are all within a short drive from the city.

Today, we’re highlighting five of our favorite jaunts, so you can get the most out of your next trip to the region.

Let’s dive in!

About Raleigh, North Carolina

Raleigh, North Carolina, was founded in 1792 and serves as the state’s capital. The historic city is in the northeastern corner of the Tar Heel State among rolling hills, not far from the Atlantic Ocean. This region has become known as the Research Triangle because of the large number of academic institutions in the area.

Mild winters and warm summers make this an ideal vacation destination year-round for outdoor enthusiasts. You can enjoy water activities like kayaking and canoeing or spend your time on land and go hiking or biking. The city is very walkable, so you could even take a stroll to see the historic architecture around town.

In recent years, this capital city’s emerging live music scene and booming brewery industry have drawn more crowds than ever before. Once you’ve explored everything Raleigh has to offer, which could take a while, you’ll be ready to head out for some day trips in the area.

Pro Tip: You’ll love exploring these 7 Amazing Waterfalls in North Carolina.

Raleigh, North Carolina
After exploring Raleigh, North Carolina, go on an epic day trip to the many exciting neighboring cities.

#1 Greenville, North Carolina

Driving from Raleigh to Greenville for this day trip will take about an hour and twenty minutes. When you plug your destination into your navigation system, be sure to select Greenville, North Carolina, because it’ll take you nearly five hours to drive to the city of the same name in South Carolina.

Some fun things to do in the town include checking out the Greenville Museum of Art and attending concerts at Whirligig Stage. Visitors also love exploring the Dickinson Avenue Antique Market and the vintage shops at The Venue. 

You should also consider spending some time outside at the Greenville Greenway or River Park North. If you like visiting college campuses, take a stroll through Eastern Carolina University. Most importantly, don’t forget to try the barbecue! You can pick up a Passpork at the Visitor’s Center and hit the Brew & Cue Trail to try Greenville’s best food.

#2 Eno River State Park

You can get to Eno River State Park, situated northwest of Raleigh, in under an hour if you visit from the capital. The expansive park sprawls over 4,200 acres, making it the perfect place to spend the day outdoors. Consider bringing a picnic to enjoy a scenic al fresco lunch.

The park offers seventeen hiking trails, suitable for all levels. Those looking for a short hike can check out the Cole Mill Trail, and if you want more distance, try the Cox Mountain Trail. You can trek to Eno Quarry or Few’s Ford for a good swim.

While paddling on the river is permitted, the water level rarely reaches high enough to make it doable. Instead, explorers spend time fly fishing on the Eno River. You can get a fishing license online or at a local Walmart.

#3 Wilmington, North Carolina

A two-hour drive on I-40 will take you to your next Raleigh day trip, Wilmington, North Carolina. The port city sits along the Cape Fear River, just inland from the Atlantic. It’s become a hotspot for breweries in recent years, as the small town has over 16 of them!

You’ll want to pack your walking shoes because visitors recommend strolling the length of the two-mile river walk to take in the views. During your walk, stop into local shops and art galleries you see along the way. You can also get great views of the water by hopping aboard one of the Cape Fear Riverboat Tours.

History buffs won’t miss an opportunity to see the Battleship North Carolina, a museum within an actual battleship. You can also see the Bellamy Mansion, built in 1861, and visit a 1920s speakeasy called The Blind Elephant. 

#4 Pilot Mountain State Park

Pilot Mountain State Park, located about two hours northwest of Raleigh, features a mountain with a rocky knob on top. The geological formation once served as an essential navigation landmark for the Saura Nation. 

The park has two main parking lots. You should know that if the upper one fills up, you can take a shuttle from the lower lot. Don’t forget to look for cyclists and equestrians when driving in the area, as it’s a popular spot for bike and horse riding. 

Summiting Pilot Knob only takes about two and a half hours round-trip, so it’s totally doable as a day trip from Raleigh. If you hike to the top of Pilot Knob, you’ll enjoy panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Alternatively, you can hike down to the river basin to spend time on the water. Popular activities along the river include paddling and fishing.

Adventurous visitors with experience and equipment can also do some rock climbing. If you plan to ascend one of these single-pitch slabs, you’ll need to obtain a special activity permit ahead of time. 

Pro Tip: While in North Caroline, these are 5 Reasons to Avoid Asheville, North Carolina.

#5 Wrightsville Beach

For the next little adventure, you’ll drive about 2 hours down I-40 and veer east at Wilmington to head to Wrightsville Beach. This seaside getaway can be accessed in under ten minutes from our previously suggested day trip to Wilmington. 

You’ll find white sand and sparkling blue water at this North Carolina beach. The barrier island stretches for four miles with a width of under 5,000 feet. On one side sits the Atlantic Ocean, and on the other, an intercoastal waterway. 

Popular activities include kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. Wrightsville can also be considered the birthplace of surfing in the Tar Heel State. Adventurous tourists can take surfing lessons while their less daring counterparts lounge in the sand. Once you’ve had your fill of the water, don’t forget to try the island’s fresh seafood.

Raleigh Day Trips Will Round Out Your Vacation!

North Carolina has a lot to offer, from historic architecture to mountains to beachfront paradises. Whether you want to try daunting activities like surfing and climbing or keep things a little more chill with a stroll along the river walk, the Tar Heel State has just what you’re looking for. 

Try making Raleigh your home base and taking day trips to get the most out of your next trip to North Carolina. 

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