Tiny towns in North Carolina, much like those in other states, are commonly passed through by people on their way elsewhere. As many will tell you, though, the Old North State has the tallest mountains east of the Mississippi, some of the best coastal areas with its Outer Banks and plenty of history in between the two areas.
From Robbinsville to Edenton, we have you covered on the different tiny towns in North Carolina that are worth stopping by to enjoy. As you can see, there is definitely more to this state than Charlotte, Raleigh and Winston-Salem.
These towns will certainly have you going to Carolina in your mind.
15. West Jefferson
West Jefferson is located in what locals call “The Coolest Corner of North Carolina.” It’s the largest city in Ashe County, which is north of Boone and rests on the border of North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
Its downtown area consists of a large number of murals, shops, restaurants and the state’s largest cheese processing plant. On the outskirts lies Mt. Jefferson which at 4,500 feet in elevation provides visitors with great views of the area.
West Jefferson is a short drive off the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway and serves as a gateway to other tiny neighboring towns including Lansing and Todd.
When the area surrounding this Forsyth County community comes to mind, people think of R.J. Reynolds, Krispy Kreme and the beloved Texas Pete Hot Sauce, which all out of neighboring Winston-Salem.
Bethania is a small community due north of the bustling city, and immediately makes you feel like you’re miles from nowhere and years in the past. The small community has a mill and shoppes where visitors can enjoy antiquing and live music. In addition, the back roads of this area provide some of the Piedmont-Triad’s most gorgeous views.
Be sure you bring a GPS if you plan to visit, as no major route can bring you to this oasis.
Centrally located between Greensboro, Raleigh and Chapel Hill, Saxapawhaw is another quiet town that many Carolinians savor for its relaxing spirit.
The Haw River runs right through the small community where many come to see the Saxapawhaw Rivermill, a restored cotton mill.
Another place people visit in this small town is the Haw River Ballroom, a relatively new music venue. The Ballroom’s stage has been a location for performances by the likes of Gillian Welch, Ricky Skaggs and Lucinda Williams.
12. Old Fort
For many who roam through the N.C. mountains, Old Fort is just an exit sign on Interstate 40 as you ready to enter Asheville.
The small town, located on the border of McDowell and Buncombe counties, is host to several festivals including the North Carolina Gold Festival, Pioneer Day and their own Octoberfest.
Also be sure to check out the Arrowhead Monument, made to symbolize peace between the Cherokee and Catawba tribes who call this area home. Old Fort’s Historic District is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
11. Banner Elk
Neighboring Boone to the east is the Avery County community of Banner Elk.
Many outdoor types may be familiar with the small town, as it is the home of the Sugar Mountain and Beech Mountain resorts, popular with skiers. The town of just over 1,000 people is also home to Lees-McRae College, affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The college offers four-year degrees in varying majors.
Aside from being near the sights and sounds of Boone, visitors can go for a drink at the Blind Squirrel Brewery in nearby Plumtree.
Residing in North Carolina’s Inner Banks region is the Chowan County seat of Edenton.
The small town is less visited than nearby communities of Elizabeth City, Jacksonville and Kill Devil Hills, but is home to some of the oldest plantations and houses in the region.
Edenton served as North Carolina’s capital during its colonial days, and was the site of the lesser-known Edenton Tea Party, where approximately 50 women boycotted against British Tea in their community.
Much of this small town’s history remains intact and is a well-kept secret in the Carolinas.
Across the Chowan River Bridge from Edenton is the even-tinier town of Hertford. The county seat of Perquimans County, Hertford is another town worth stopping for with its murals, shops and history.
Buried here is the famous pirate radio DJ, Wolfman Jack. For architecture enthusiasts, the town is the site of the last remaining S-shaped swing bridge.
The town also leads people into the Outer Banks region, as one of the last points of the Inner Banks.
South of Greensboro is another Piedmont-Triad gem, Randleman.
If there is one part of history people understand about North Carolina, it’s the rich history of NASCAR. Because of this, you might as well call Randleman the auto sport’s capital as it is home to the King, Richard Petty.
The Richard Petty Museum is located just a few miles north in the community of Level Cross, as is the Victory Junction Gang camp.
In neighboring Davidson County, the town of Welcome is home to Richard Childress racing. Childress served as the pit crew chief for Petty’s main rival, Dale Earnhardt, Sr.
7. James City
James City sits on the Carolina coast, neighboring the larger city of New Bern, the birthplace of Pepsi-Cola.
The small town provides many places for visitors to shop and enjoy the Atlantic Ocean’s salty air. Visitors can also fly in to James City via the Coastal Carolina Regional Airport which caters to flights from Atlanta and Charlotte.
The area is home to large amounts of history, with 54 listed places on the National Registry in Craven County.
6. Atlantic Beach/Fort Macon
Atlantic Beach also remains a well-kept secret of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, as it holds two key historical landmarks.
The first place to visit is Fort Macon, where a Civil War naval battle occurred in 1862, resulting in an Union victory. The fort remains mostly intact as a state park and is free to visit.
Also located at Atlantic Beach is Queen Anne’s Revenge, a vessel once used by the notable pirate, Blackbeard. Remains of the ship were found in 1996, and in years since, the remains have been taken out and placed in local museums.
Not a fan of the Civil War or pirates? Did I mention you’re also on the beach? Yeah. Go there for the beach.
A short drive east of Charlotte is the small Union County town of Wingate. The town as known as the home of the private Wingate University, one of North Carolina’s most scenic colleges.
Located outside of Monroe, Wingate is also the home of 1990s rhythm and blues group K-Ci & JoJo and infamous North Carolina politician Jesse Helms.
After visiting the University, be sure to go to the Wingate Commercial District, which continues to evolve with new times as new businesses and shops are continually popping up.
4. Lake Norman of Catawba
Between the cities of Hickory and Charlotte is Lake Norman of Catawba. Yes, that is the actual name of the town, as it is in Catawba County and lay on the shores of Lake Norman.
The town acts as a great access point to the lake, which is the largest manmade lake in the Tar Heel State.
Lake Norman is home to several racing clubs in both water-sports and motorsports. Also, the lake serves four counties in the Charlotte Metro Area, and its water source comes from the highest point in the state, Mount Mitchell.
Hudson is located on U.S. Highway 321 between former furniture powerhouses Hickory and Lenoir. The community also serves as one of the last stops before you begin ascending the Blue Ridge Mountains toward Boone.
The town is home to San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner and is the location of the Hudson Cotton Manufacturing Company.
A great town for shopping and enjoying the scenery, you are able to easily access the cities of Asheville, Boone, Charlotte and Winston-Salem, making it an easy stop regardless of where you are traveling.
Before you drive the Tail of the Dragon into Tennessee, the Graham County seat of Robbinsville is your last stop. For country music fans, the small town gave us the gift of Ronnie Milsapp, best known for his hit “Smoky Mountain Rain.”
Robbinsville has also been the site of some films including The Fugitive and Nell. The small town is also referenced by the Avett Brothers in their album Four Thieves Gone: The Robbinsville Sessions.
Going north from here will take travelers toward Knoxville, while going south will take travelers to Atlanta, Athens or Chattanooga.
Last, but not least is the small communities of Cashiers and Highlands, which lay in the Macon and Jackson counties.
Some joke that this town is more “Far North Georgia” than North Carolina because of the flock of visitors this region gets from Atlanta. However, one drive through here and you can see why so many people visit.
Cashiers is home to Camp Merrie-Woode, a girls camp in existence since 1919 and the High Hampton Inn, an estate and resort with a lengthy history as well.