Traveling To-Dos Along the Coast: Florida to the Outer Banks
Florida and Points South Along the I-95 Corridor
On the Outer Banks, we get a lot of visitors from Florida. We also do get some visitors from Georgia and South Carolina as well, so depending on the starting point, this “things to do on the ride to the Outer Banks” is for those folks as well.
Almost anyone driving from Florida to the Outer Banks will be using I-95. That also holds true for travelers who live on the coastal plain of Georgia or South Carolina. There are alternate routes—US 1 to the west and US 17 to the east of I-95, but taking either road will add hours to the journey.
South of the Border
South of the Border, SC
You’ve been passing the signs for at least 200 miles. They’re tacky; frankly, some are in bad taste. But what the heck—just before the North Carolina border, take 15 minutes, maybe put some gas in the car, take a restroom break and get a good old fashioned dose of pure schlock.
Cape Fear Botanical Garden
536 N Eastern Blvd
Depending on what the starting point of the trip was, this stop in Fayetteville may be the perfect opportunity to get out and stretch cramped legs, backs, and bodies. It’s a fairly good sized botanical garden at 77 acres so there’s plenty of room to move around.
For anyone who has been to the Elizabethan Gardens, think of it as a much larger version of the Outer Banks site.
The location is about two and a half miles off I-95 on the main road, so it’s convenient and easy to get to.
General William C Lee Airborne Museum
209 W Divine St
General William Lee is the father of the American Airborne forces. He was the first commander of the 101st Airborne Division.
The museum is housed in his family home where he was raised. The building is a beautifully maintained early 20th-century example of Neo-Classical Revival residential architecture.
The museum collection consists of General Lee’s personal memorabilia as well as other items of historic significance relating to the creation of the US Army Airborne units.
A relatively small museum, it’s a wonderful find on the road to the Outer Banks.
Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site
Four Oaks, NC
We’re including this for the history buffs, but it’s about 20-25 minutes off the route, so keep that in mind if visiting.
Bentonville was the last major Civil War battle fought in North Carolina. Taking place between March 19-21, 1865, there was no clear victor, but by that time a draw on the battlefield was a win for northern forces. Better equipped with vastly superior numbers, the Union Army under General Sherman resumed its march to Raleigh as soon as the battle ended.
Ava Gardner Museum
325 E Market St,
At one time Ava Gardner was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood.
Born in 1922 in Grabtown, a rural unincorporated area of farmland nine miles south of Smithfield, she shot to fame because of her looks but she more than held her own with some of the great leading rolls of her day including Clark Gable in Mogambo and Richard Burton in The Night of the Iguana.
The museum houses an extensive collection of Ava Gardner’s personal items and is recognized as the definitive repository of the actress’s history.
Tobacco Farm Life Museum
709 N Church St,
At one time in North Carolina, tobacco was more than a crop—it was a way of life. And that is what makes this museum so fascinating—it does not focus solely on tobacco and farm life. Rather there is a reconstruction of rural North Carolina when tobacco was king in the South.
US 64—The Home Stretch
I-95 intersects US 64 at Tarboro. It’s a straight shot to the Outer Banks from there. Usually about a two hour fifteen minute to two and a half-hour ride from the intersection. Watch your speed on US 64; it’s heavily patrolled.
130 Bridgers St
Built in the Federalist style around 1808 by Thomas Blount, a North Carolina Revolutionary War veteran and prominent politician who served as Lieutenant Governor and in the US House of Representatives.
The house has been beautifully restored, but that’s not the real attraction here.
The reason to visit this site is the Hobson Pittman Gallery on the second floor.
Pittman, who was raised in Tarboro, was an internationally recognized artist of the mid 20th century. He was also considered one of the finest art teachers of his day.
The gallery features a number of his works representing a range of the different styles that he painted.
Somerset Place State Historic Site
2572 Lake Shore Road
At one time with over 100,000 acres, Somerset Place was one of the largest plantations in the South. The site is 31 acres adjacent to Lake Phelps just a few miles south Creswell. One of the North Carolina Historic sites, there has been specific attention paid to historic accuracy and detail. In particular, slave and staff quarters have been recreated realistically.
Expect an hour to an hour-and-a-half for a visit.