North Carolina is located on the southeastern coast of the continental United States. It is the 28th largest and is bordered by Virginia to the north and Georgia and South Carolina to the south. At its western border in Tennessee.
The Tar Heel state has a long and storied history. The earliest evidence of settlement comes from Badin Lake’s Hardaway Site, dating back roughly 10,000 years. In the first Century, Native American tribes called the area home.
Europeans settled the region in 1729 and the area was named the royal colony of North Carolina, in honor of King Charles I of England. North Carolina was the first colony to call for independence from Great Britain in The Halifax Resolves.
The state’s landscape is varied from the Appalachian Mountains to the coastal plains of the Atlantic. North Carolina is a diverse state. It was also the first attempt at colonization in the new world led by Sir Walter Raleigh at Roanoke Island.
This infamous colony of Croatoan, failed, disappearing without a trace in 1585.
However, continued attempts were made, and by the mid-1600s, the first colony was successfully established. With such a long and colorful history, it is no wonder there are countless historical and cultural landmarks throughout the state.
Famous Landmarks in North Carolina
1. Biltmore Estate
The Biltmore Estate is located in Asheville, North Carolina. The main residence is a Châteauesque-style mansion built in 1895 for George Washington Vanderbilt II.
It remains in the family and is the largest private residence in the United States — 178,926 square feet.
Construction of the house began in 1889. Onsite factories and brick kilns worked to fire 32,000 bricks daily. And a private, three-mile railroad was built to facilitate the delivery of supplies directly to the site.
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One thousand workers and 60 stonemasons worked to erect this majestic landmark. Vanderbilt imported furnishings, carpets, and artwork dating from the 15th to the late 19th Centuries.
The $5 million mansion debuted on Christmas Eve in 1895 to family and friends.
2. Wright Brothers National Memorial
Wright Brothers National Memorial is located in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. Kill Devil Hills was chosen by Wilbur and Orville Wright, the Wright Brothers, for its steady winds and unique privacy.
The memorial museum houses various planes, tools, and other flight artifacts. It also contains videos and a Smithsonian Institution digital 3D replica of the Wright brothers’ 1903 Flyer.
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The park surrounding the Memorial building, on the North Carolina barrier reef island, celebrates the first sustained powered flight in a heavier-than-air machine.
It also contains the first airstrip and the Wright Brothers’ garage and hangar in which they worked and housed their creations. A historical marker sits nearby.
3. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
Opened in 1870, the Cape Hatteras Light is a lighthouse located on Hatteras Island in the Outer Banks. It is the tallest brick lighthouse in the USA.
The Cape Hatteras Light protects an area offshore known as Diamond Shoals. Well-known to sailors dating back centuries for its craggy rocks and shifting sandbars that affect ocean floor depth and make ship travel uncertain. The area is also an intersection of oceanic currents that inflame storms and tidal forces.
One of three lighthouses in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Park, this 193-foot beacon displays a unique light pattern that makes it easily identifiable.
Located in the Double Keepers’ Quarters onsite is the Hatteras Island Visitor Center. Curated by the U.S. National Park Service, the Museum of the Sea exhibits include maritime history and tidal ecosystems.
4. Battleship North Carolina
USS North Carolina is the lead ship of the North Carolina class of fast battleships. Commissioned in 1941, the BB-55 is the first fast battleship built for the United States Navy.
The USS North Carolina is 728 feet long with a 108-foot beam. She displaces 45,500 tons of water fully loaded.
Used during WWII predominantly in the Pacific supporting Guadalcanal-era Allied forces, the USS North Carolina has a long and proud history. She was decommissioned in 1960 and set up as a maritime museum in 1962.
A pivotal ship in several WWII campaigns against the Japanese, the USS North Carolina fought in the Marshall Islands and Iwo Jima.
5. Tryon Palace
William Tryon served as the Governor of North Carolina from 1765 to 1771. The Governor’s Palace of the Royal Colony of North Carolina, Tryon Palace, was the official residence and political headquarters from 1770 to 1775.
Located in New Bern, the palace also served as the center of state occasions and hospitality. The original palatial residence, built in 1767 of red brick and stone, was destroyed by fire in 1792.
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However, a modern recreation in the Georgian style currently sits on roughly 16 acres and is listed as a national landmark and a historic house museum. The house’s construction was controversial.
Its cost required significant taxation, and many believe it was the impetus for the formation of the North Carolina rebel group, the Regulators. It is also thought to have played a major part in the events leading up to the American Revolution.
6. Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson State
In 1726 Maurice Moore founded the port town of Brunswick on the Cape Fear River. The port exported materials needed for shipbuilding, including pitch, tar, and barrels of turpentine. Brunswick Town was the unofficial capital of North Carolina.
So powerful was Brunswick shipping that in In 1765 the colonists challenged the Crown’s authority to distribute tax stamps. In a surprising twist, eight years before the shenanigans of Boston, the tax was rescinded.
However, less than ten years later, this pre-Revolutionary port was razed to the ground by the British and never resettled.
During the United States Civil War, the Confederacy built Fort Anderson on top of the old Brunswick Town, defending the Cape Fear River.
7. Grandfather Mountain
Grandfather Mountain is a 5946-foot-high mountain on the eastern escarpment of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Linville, North Carolina. Hugh Morton owned Grandfather Mountain, a nature preserve, and a tourist attraction.
In 1952, Morton built a mile-high swinging bridge between two mountain peaks. The bridge remains the country’s highest swinging bridge.
Upon his death in 2006, Grandfather Morton bequeathed photographs, artifacts, and other items to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Two years later, North Carolina Park’s system bought a 2600-acre land parcel. And the Morton family established the Grandfather Mountain Family Stewardship Foundation to run public attractions and inspire conservation activities.
The mountain’s massive ridge is oriented north-south and is home to unique species of Fir trees, endemic bioluminescent fireflies, and 16 distinct ecological habitats.
Some of the fastest surface wind speeds on the planet have been recorded on Grandfather Mountain. And the region is home to two river heads and numerous creeks and streams.
8. Mount Mitchell
Mount Mitchell, with an elevation of 6684 feet, is the highest peak of the Appalachian Mountains. It is located in the Black Mountain range, 19 miles northeast of Asheville.
Known to the Cherokee as Attakulla, Mount Mitchell is the highest mountain east of the Mississippi and is covered by Southern Appalachian spruce-fir forest.
The mountain peak is part of Mount Mitchell State Park, with an observation deck at its peak providing breathtaking panoramic views.
Over 40 miles of challenging hiking trails cover the mountain, providing access to the forest and the famous Mountains-to-Sea State Trail.
9. Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site
The beloved home of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Carl Sandburg, is protected as a National Historic Site.
Named Connemara, this 264-acre site near Hendersonville includes the residence and goat farm where Lilian Sandburg raised prized goats. The residence also included hiking trails, ponds, and an apple orchard.
This idyllic location for peace and tranquility Carl Sandburg required to create and write. Sandburg lived on the farm for over two decades, during which time he wrote and published almost a third of his work.
10. Fort Fisher State Historic Site
Built by the Confederacy, Fort Fisher protected vital trading routes to Port Wilmington from 1861 until 1865.
Also known as Southern Gibraltar, for its strength, the Fort sat on one of the Cape Fear River’s Oceanic access points.
Heavily fortified, Fort Fisher kept the supply route open to ships carrying vital goods to weary Confederate soldiers. By 1865, Wilmington was the last supply route open to Robert E. Lee’s forces.
In January of 1865, a massive amphibious assault by Union forces recaptured Fort Fisher. This defeat was considered the linchpin in the Confederacy’s downfall.