North Carolina’s Best Adventure, Outdoor Activity Destinations
USA TODAY readers voted five North Carolina destinations among the best in North America in the categories “Best Boat Tour”, “Best Helicopter Tour”, “Best Adventure Travel Agency” and “Best aerial adventure park.
The top 10 annual Readers’ Choice Awards are determined by reader votes. The initial selections came from travel experts choosing the top 20 nominees in a number of categories, including Best Art Museum, Best Farmer’s Market, Best Outdoor Water Park and more.
As of July 14, many 10Best categories are still pending and results will be announced over the next few weeks.
All categories, winners and pending winners can be found at 10best.com/awards/travel.
NC spots win best for aerial adventure parks
▪ Greensboro: SKYWILD in Greensboro won the Top 10 Readers’ Choice Award for Best Aerial Adventure Park in the United States.
“This treetop adventure park in Greensboro, North Carolina, is inspired by the nearby Greensboro Science Center zoo,” USA TODAY 10Best told USA TODAY. “Visitors can complete 60 challenges and three levels of intensity.”
SKYWILD is about an hour and a half drive from Raleigh. To learn more, visit skywild.org.
▪ Hello: Saluda Gorge was also on this list.
“The Gorge describes itself as the steepest and fastest zipline canopy tour in the country,” USA TODAY 10Best wrote. “This North Carolina treetop adventure features 11 ziplines spanning over a mile with a total descent of over 1,100 vertical feet. The course also includes an airlift and three abseils.
The gorge is about a four hour drive from Raleigh. To learn more, visit thegorgezipline.com.
SKYWILD and The Gorge came in at #5 and #6 respectively on the list. First place went to Shepherd of the Hills Adventure Park in Branson, Missouri.
North Carolina Coastal Ferry Wins Best Boat Tour in the United States
▪ Beaufort and Harkers Island: Island Express Ferry Service, which operates between Beaufort and Harkers Island, won the Top 10 Readers’ Choice Award for Best Boat Tour in the United States.
“Island Express Ferry Service is the only ferry authorized by the National Park Service to drop off passengers from Beaufort and Harkers Island to Cape Lookout Lighthouse and Shackleford Banks in North Carolina,” USA TODAY’s 10Best said.
“Guests experience the beauty of the North Carolina coast by traveling in comfortable ferries. Hunt for treasure shells, watch the wild horses of Shackleford Banks, go fishing or swimming and leave the stresses of the mainland behind!”
The Beauford location is a two-hour, 45-minute drive from Raleigh, while the Harkers Island location is a three-hour drive. For more information, visit islandexpressferryservices.com.
The Island Express ferry service came in at number 9 on the list. First place went to Holo Holo Charters in Eleele, Hawaii.
Bryson City has the best adventure travel agency
▪ Town of Bryson: Bryson City-based Nantahala Outdoor Center won the Top 10 Readers’ Choice Award for Best Adventure Travel Agency in the United States.
“Nantahala Outdoor Center is one of the Southeastern United States’ best-known destinations for outdoor enthusiasts,” USA TODAY 10Best told USA TODAY. “They offer a variety of experiences, including rafting and kayaking, ziplining, paddleboarding, biking, and hiking. NOC will also combine several activities into one exciting adventure.
Bryson City is approximately four hours and 45 minutes by car from Raleigh. For more information, visit noc.com.
Nantahala Outdoor Center came in at number 6 on the list. First place went to MT Sobek in Emeryville, California.
Southport NC has the best helicopter ride
▪ Southport: High Tide Aviation, located in Southport, won the top 10 readers’ choice award for the best helicopter ride in the United States.
“High Tide Aviation offers helicopter flights, aerial tours, and aerial videography and aerial photography opportunities over the Cape Fear area of North Carolina,” USA TODAY 10Best reported.
“Passengers can see lighthouses, islands, Civil War landmarks and more than fifty miles of North Carolina beaches. High Tide Aviation also offers first-class, one-way and round-trip charter flights to destinations in the Eastern United States and the Caribbean.
The airport is about a two and a half hour drive from Raleigh. For more information, visit flyhightide.com.
High Tide came in at #9 on the list. The top spot went to Maverick Helicopters, which has a few locations across the country.