Historic Sites In North Carolina. More Than Just Parks has 5 incredible must-see sites for you.
I’ve been to so many of these amazing places since retiring from teaching in 2018. Did I mention that I taught history? I spent a lifetime teaching about the history behind these momentous sites. Then I got to see them firsthand. And now I’m sharing the stories of these incredible places with you. It doesn’t get any better than that!
I’m going to give you my list of the 5 Historic Sites In North Carolina that you’ll want to see.
To be clear, this list includes national park sites (as in sites managed by the National Park Service) as opposed to national parks.
If you are planning a trip to North Carolina then you might want to pick up a copy of The Great American Trivia Tour – North Carolina: The Ultimate Book of Fun Facts and Trivia from History to Sports You Never Knew About the Tar Heel State! by Jordan West.
Without further ado, let’s dive in.
Historic Sites In North Carolina
#5. Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail
At #5 on More Than Just Parks list of the best historic sites in North Carolina is the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail.
The Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail traces the route that was used by the Patriots during the Kings Mountain Battle of 1780. The route is 330 miles and it goes through four states (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina).
You can explore this route by following a Commemorative Motor Route which uses existing state highways. It is marked with a distinctive trail logo and includes 87 miles of walkable pathways.
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The Battle Of Kings Mountain
As a retired history teacher, I love to take a deeper dive into the history of these amazing places. In the case of the Battle of Kings Mountain, it actually pitted Patriots against Tories. No British soldiers participated as this was a fight strictly between those who wanted to break free of British rule versus those who didn’t.
A force of 1,800 backcountry or “Overmountain” men defeated a force of 1,000 Tories at King’s Mountain on October 7, 1780.
According to British commander Henry Clinton, the American victory “proved the first Link of a Chain of Evils that followed each other in regular succession until they at last ended in the total loss of America.”
What You Can See In North Carolina | Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail
The following sites along the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail are in North Carolina:
- Trail #308 & Road #5545 – Yellow Mtn. Gap, Avery Co. – 1.5 Miles
- Overmountain Victory NHT – Elkin, NC – 3.75 Miles
- Yadkin River Greenway – Wilkesboro, NC – 7 Miles
- Overmountain Victory NHT – W. Kerr Scott Dam & Reservoir – 11 Miles
- Yadkin River Greenway – Caldwell County, NC – 1 Mile
- Patterson School Overmountain Trail – Caldwell County – 1 Mile
- Gillespie Gap – Blue Ridge Parkway, NC – 5.75 Miles
- Rose Creek Trail – West Side of Blue Ridge Parkway, MP 326 – 1.4 Miles
- Black Bear Tract Trail – North Shore of Lake James – 2.1 Miles
- Trail #308G & Road #1238 – Pisgah National Forest – 4.1 Miles
- 1780 Community – North Shore of Lake James – 1 Mile
- Paddy’s Creek Trail – New Part of Lake James State Park – 2.3 Miles
- Overmountain Victory NHT – Lake James State Park – 1.5 Miles
- Catawba River Greenway – Morganton, NC – 5 Miles
- Overmountain Victory NHT – Rutherfordton, NC – 3 Miles
- Alexander’s Ford Trail – Polk Co., NC – 2 Miles
- Overmountain Vineyards – Polk Co., NC – 1 Mile (Source: NPS)
Historic Sites In North Carolina
#4. Fort Raleigh National Historic Site
Coming in at #4 on our list of the best historical sites in the Tar Heel State is Fort Raleigh National Historic Site.
Go armed with the information that you need to succeed! In other words, begin your visit to the Fort Raleigh National Historical Site with a visit to the Lindsay Warren Visitors Center.
At the visitors center you’ll be able to explore exhibits on the Algonquian, the English, the Roanoke Island Freedmen’s Colony, the Civil War Battle of Roanoke Island, and Reginald Fessenden.
There’s also a 17-minute dramatic video on the interaction between the Algonquian and the English is displayed in the visitor center’s theater.
Things To See & Do At Fort Raleigh
At Fort Raleigh, you can learn the story of England’s first New World settlements from 1584 to 1590. You’ll take a journey back to the Roanoke of the 1500s. Roanoke Island became known to the English on an exploratory voyage in 1584.
Shrouded in mystery and suspense, the establishment of a military colony in 1585 and a settlement colony in 1587 would become famous as the “Lost Colony of Roanoke.” Roanoke was an attempt by Sir Walter Raleigh to found the first permanent English settlement in North America.
Following the failure of this settlement, a second colony arrived in 1587. It landed on the same island and became known as the Lost Colony due to the subsequent unexplained disappearance of its population.
Hike The Freedom Or Thomas Hariot Trail At Fort Raleigh
If you want to get your history and your exercise there are some excellent hiking opportunities at Fort Raleigh. There’s the Freedom Trail which takes hikers through a maritime forest. It’s a 1.25-mile trail that ends with views of the Croatan Sound on the western edge of the park.
There’s also the Thomas Hariot Trail. It’s a 0.3-mile loop through the island’s maritime forest to the sandy shores of Albemarle Sound. Along the way hikers will see interpretive signs describing the forest habitat, the Algonquian methods for gathering food.
There’s also a reconstructed earthwork which includes copper nuggets, charcoal, antimony ore and furnace bricks. These could be the workshop site of Joachim Gans, a metal expert on the 1585 expedition.
And there’s the First Light of Freedom monument. It commemorates the Roanoke Island Freedman’s Colony that was set up during the American Civil War. The colony provided a safe haven and education for the formerly enslaved to help prepare them for a new life.
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Historic Sites In North Carolina
#3. Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site
At #3 on More Than Just Parks list of the best historic sites in North Carolina is the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site.
During his lifetime, Sandburg was widely regarded as “a major figure in contemporary literature”, especially for volumes of his collected verse, including Chicago Poems (1916), Cornhuskers (1918), and Smoke and Steel (1920).
Now I must confess that I’m not big on poetry, but Sandburg’s Lincoln is the definitive biography of the man and his times. Sandburg’s Lincoln is and always will be the “gold standard.”
Things To See & Do At Carl Sandburg’s Home
The park is located on 264 acres in western North Carolina. Visitors can tour the Sandburg Home They can also hike on over 5 miles of trails.
While there, you can visit the farm and dairy goats, and much more. The average visitor spends two hours at “Connemara.”
And the best news of all is that it’s free to enter the park, access the bookstore and information in the ground floor of the Sandburg Home, walk the trails and visit the barn. If you’re planning on touring the house there is a fee for that.
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Historic Sites In North Carolina
#2. Guilford Courthouse National Military Park
At #2 on our list of the best historic sites in North Carolina is the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park.
The Battle of Guilford Courthouse was considered a victory within a defeat. It was on of the pivotal battles of the American Revolutionary War. It took place on March 15, 1781.
The British troops under Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis (1738-1805) scored a tactical victory at Guilford Courthouse over American forces under Major General Nathanael Greene (1742-86). Nevertheless, the British suffered significant troop losses during the battle.
Afterward, Cornwallis abandoned his campaign for the Carolinas and instead took his army into Virginia, where in October of that year he surrendered to General George Washington (1732-99) following the Battle of Yorktown, the last major land battle of the war.
Things To Do At Guilford Courthouse
I recommend that you begin your tour at the Visitor Center where you can pick up a map of the battlefield. There are self-guided cell phone walking and driving tours.
You can explore the inner trails of the battlefield and visualize the events of March 15, 1781 as you listen to the Park Ranger’s narration.
The walking tour begins at the Hoskins Farm parking area. The entire walk is 1.75 miles. The tour last approximately 1.5 hours.
While you’re there you can visit the Hoskins Farmstead. It’s a late 18th and early 19th century farmstead, telling the story of Joseph and Hannah Hoskins, two colonists who fled the war during the Northern Campaign and settled in the Carolina backcountry planning for a peaceful life.
The #1 Historic Site In North Carolina
#1. Wright Brothers National Memorial
More Than Just Parks #1 historic site in the state of North Carolina celebrates the two intrepid brothers who gave birth to the aviation industry. It’s the Wright Brothers National Memorial located in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.
History is replete with monumental moments that change the trajectory of humankind. One such moment occurred on December 17, 1903. Orville & Wilbur Wright, otherwise known as the Wright Brothers, ushered in the aerial age with their successful first flight of a heavier-than-flying machine at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
This airplane, known as the Wright Flyer, was the product of a sophisticated four-year program of research and development conducted by the brothers beginning in 1899.
Together, these two aeronautical visionaries pioneered many of the basic tenets and techniques of modern aeronautical engineering, such as the use of a wind tunnel and flight testing as design tools.
The impact of the airplane on the 20th century is beyond measure. The Wrights not only solved a long-studied technical problem, but also helped create an entirely new world.
Things To Do & See At The Wright Brothers National Memorial
Visitors can relive the epic adventures of two intrepid brothers from Ohio. Visitors can see the reconstructed hangar and living quarters offer a glimpse of what camp life was like for the Wrights in 1903.
Stand at the place where Wilbur and Orville Wright first took to the air in their 1903 flyer and landed. You can climb Big Kill Devil Hill to see the nation’s monument commemorating the brothers’ historic achievement.
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Map Of Historic Sites In North Carolina
List Of Historical Sites In North Carolina
- Wright Brothers National Memorial
- Guilford Courthouse National Military Park
- Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site
- Fort Raleigh National Historic Site
- Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail
About the Folks Behind More Than Just Parks
You should probably know that we don’t just make this stuff up out of thin air. My sons have spent their entire adult lives exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands.
As for me, I’m a retired lifelong educator and a proud dad of these two wonderful guys who are hopelessly obsessed with the national parks. I taught history for over a quarter of a century. Now I enjoy researching and writing articles for the More Than Just Parks website. I’m always on the hunt for topics where nature and history intersect so please feel free to share any ideas that you might have with me.
We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
Meet The Parks Brothers
We’re Jim Pattiz and Will Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers (and sometimes the Parks Brothers) and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
Our goal here at More Than Just Parks is to share the beauty of America’s national parks and public lands through stunning short films in an effort to get Americans and the world to see the true value in land conservation.
We hope you’ll follow our journey through the parks and help us to keep them the incredible places that they are. If you’re interested in joining the adventure then sign up below!
To learn more about the difference between the various National Park Service designations check out our article that explains everything!
North Carolina National Parks: 12 EPIC North Carolina National Parks