Every year along the North Carolina coast, turtles (loggerhead, green, leatherback, Ridley and hawksbill, specifically) return to lay eggs. Several communities along the coast have active projects to document and protect the reproduction of these vanishing creatures. Generally, families can arrange to witness and aid in the preservation of these wonderful creatures. View the website for more information, lend a hand and create a memory that lasts forever.
Turtle walks are generally free, but it's best to visit the website and call beforehand.
Bald Head Island has long been known as a popular nesting location for loggerhead turtles. Island residents and visitors have the unique opportunity to get up close and personal with these incredible creatures through the Bald Head Island Conservancy's turtle walk program every evening during the nesting season (June through mid-August). You first attend a short classroom presentation, then head to the beach to await news of a nesting. Sea turtle interns patrol the beach on ATVs, and when they spot a nesting, they radio in.
Other turtle projects on the North Carolina coast include:
moonlight & starlight paddles
See the night sky in a much different way: by canoe or kayak on the western end of Falls Lake in the Raleigh-Durham area. The Night Paddle outing will get the family on the water to see wildlife, hear the sounds of nature and soak in the moonrays and starshine. The outings are guided by Frog Hollow Outdoors, which has an office in Durham but conducts a variety of adventures, classes, trips and camps all over the area. The pace for a Night Paddle is leisurely and suitable for just about anyone.
805 Iredell Street
Durham, North Carolina
Hours: Weekly from March through November; evening departure depending on sunset and weather. Register online.
Admission: $30 per person in a kayak; $25 per person in a canoe
From the mountains to the coast and in between, North Carolina has some terrific sunset spots. Just a couple:
- High above the appropriately named mountain town of Highlands, you'll find Sunset Rock -- a natural, cliffside amphitheater. The view, especially at sunset, is the show. Take your dessert with you and a blanket to spread out on the huge rocks, or get there early to snag the sole bench.
Directions: Take Main Street, which becomes Horse Cove Road. Go east from the intersection of Highways 28 and 64 in Highlands; go a half-mile to the Highlands Nature Center. Park there and follow the sign indicating a gravel road to Sunset Rock. It's about a half hour walk up.
- North Carolina's second oldest town, Edenton, was the site of the Colonial 1774 Edenton Tea party. Today, it's a small, picturesque town that harkens to a simpler time with its movie theater and small restaurants on the main street. Stroll over to Colonial Park, where you can rent kayaks and canoes, or walk along the breakwater and watch the sunset over Edenton Bay.
More places to watch the sun set:
- Take a sunset cruise on 50,000-acre Kerr Lake in Henderson. The Kerr Lake State Recreation Park has seven parks with more than 700 campsites, plus many picnic shelters, so bring your own picnic dinner.
Vance County Tourism Development Authority
Phone: 252-438-2222 or 866-438-4565
- Wilmington Water Tours will get you out on the water for a sunset. 212 South Water Street
Cape Fear Riverwalk
Wilmington, North Carolina 28401
horse-drawn carriage tours
A slow, leisurely carriage ride will let the family see, hear and smell the surrounds like nothing else. Here are a couple to consider:
- Southern Breezes Carriages in Uptown Charlotte : Tours pick up on Tryon Street between 6th and 7th Streets in Charlotte every 10 minutes. Hours: 6 to 10 p.m. Fridays; 12 to 10 p.m. Saturdays; 12 to 6 p.m. Sundays
Tickets: $30 to $40; children under 4, free
- Horsedrawn Tours in Wilmington: See the historic district to the clip-clopping of hoofs, courtesy of rescued horses. Market Street, between Water and Front Streets
Wilmington, North Carolina 28405
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on the half hour, April through December
Tickets: Adults, $12; children under 12, $5
Amusement parks & putt-putt golf
Always a family pleaser, miniature golf with its wacky holes and windmill obstacles always makes for a fun evening, especially when Junior gets more holes-in-one than dad.
- Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park in Wilmington has go-karts, laser tag, jungle golf and a water park. While the splashing ends at 6 p.m., the dry park is open for miniature golf and more until 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and til midnight Fridays and Saturdays.
5320 Oleander Drive
Wilmington, North Carolina 28403
Phone: 910-791-0666 or 910-791-0888 for more info on pricing and hours
- Professor Hacker's Lost Treasure Golf has two locations -- one near Atlantic Beach on the Crystal Coast, and the other on the Outer Banks at Kill Devil Hills.
976 Salter Path Road
Salter Path, North Carolina 28575
1600 North Croatan Highway
Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina 27948
Hours: 9 a.m. until the last golfer finishes
Admission: Adults, $9.50 per game; children 5 to 12, $8.50; children 4 and under with regular putter, $4.50 or with plastic putter, free
- Durham's Wheels Family Fun Park is an 8.5-acre park with a roller skating rink with three video screens and two disco balls; single- and double-seater go-karts; mini-golf; play gym; batting cages; Zumba classes for Mom; and lots more.
715 North Hoover Road
Durham, North Carolina 27703
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 1 to 9 p.m. Sundays
Tickets: $6 days; $7 Friday and Saturday nights
Boardwalks & night fishing
An ocean breeze and waves breaking along the shore always lead to fond memories. On a night's stroll on a boardwalk or fishing pier, you never know who or what you will see.
- The Morehead Center: Stroll the scenic boardwalks on the Crystal Coast waterfronts of Beaufort and Morehead City; attend a Magic Show every Thursday evening during the summer, or see The Colors of Music Laser Light Show every Friday night during the summer. 1311 Arendell Street
Morehead City, North Carolina 28557
- Watch free artist demonstrations at the Artists on Arendell exhibition. Arendell Street, between 11th and 12th Streets
Downtown Morehead City, North Carolina 28557
Hours: Until 8 p.m. every Friday
- Johnny Mercer Fishing Pier: The first concrete pier in North Carolina built to withstand sustained 200-mph hurricane winds, the pier has a restaurant and arcade with indoor and outdoor seating. 23 East Salisbury Street
Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina 28480
- Jennette's Fishing Pier in Nags Head: This may be the oldest pier on the Outer Banks, but it has windmills powering its lights. Mile Post 16-1/2
Oceanside, Nags Head, North Carolina 27959
- Carolina Beach has free family movies at Carolina Beach Lake on Sunday evenings.
- At the Carolina Beach Boardwalk, you can shop for souvenirs, hang out at the arcade and grab an ice cream. In summer months, there's Boardwalk Bingo Tuesdays, live music Thursdays and Fridays, and fireworks Thursday nights.
Put the chill in your thrill with one of the state's many ghost walks. North Carolina is touted as one of the most haunted states, and each of these tours will get you up close and personal with the spirits.
- Beaufort (see where Blackbeard lived)
P.O. Box 497
Beaufort, North Carolina 28516
- Ocracoke Island, led by the descendant of Blackbeard's quartermaster
170 Howard Street
Ocracoke Island, North Carolina 27960
1 Market Street
Wilmington, North Carolina 28401
42 Biltmore Avenue
Asheville, North Carolina 28801
East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard
Charlotte, North Carolina 28202
- Old Salem
600 South Main Street
Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27101
Phone: 888-653-7253 or 336-721-7300