Low tide exposes the sand flats on Shackleford Banks. The flats exhibit ripples that look like a miniature of the waves. Cape Lookout Lighthouse stands in the distance.
Southeast North Carolina shares one defining characteristic with the northeast region: Outsiders are always in too much of a hurry to pass through the mainland on their way to the coast. From Cape Lookout National Seashore at the northern end to Sunset Beach at the South Carolina border, the barrier islands and beaches of the southeast are hugely popular. Two routes in this section take you to the beach, but they avoid the more crowded areas and give you options for solitude.
The mainland portion of southeast North Carolina is one of the state’s little-known gems. Within this region are a national forest, two state forests, five state parks, a state and a national historic site, and numerous nature preserves. Blackwater rivers flow through the region, often leaving their defined banks and spreading out into sloughs and swamps that provide excellent wildlife habitat. We’ll visit the most scenic of these areas on two of the routes.