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FSP 2008 Sponsored Project

North Carolina State Parks Tours

The Northeast Park Loop - Northeast 

Lakes, Dunes, and Swamps


View NC State Park Tour NE in a larger map
 Merchants Millpond State Park - Dismal Swamp State Park - Jockey's Ridge State Park - Pettigrew State Park - Outer Banks
This tour focuses on the northeastern corner of the state, leading one to world famous sand dunes, one of North Carolina's largest lakes, an historic and unique plantation, forests, swamps, National Wildlife Refuges, and the renowned scenic vistas and recreation areas of the Outer Banks.
You can start the tour at any point, but we'll begin east of I-95 and Roanoke Rapids along US 158 at Merchants Millpond State Park. This secretive gem of a park has a new visitor center opening in 2009. Spanish moss hangs from cypress trees over a turtle-filled bay. It's a favorite spot for birds of many colors, both local and migratory. Drift down the dark placid streams in a canoe while exploring the abundant plants and wildlife. Just remember your insect repellent! 
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Merchants Millpond
Dismal Swamp Plan on a half-hour's driving time east on US 158 and north on US 17 to historic Dismal Swamp State Park. Walk across the mechanical swinging bridge over the canal mapped out by George Washington to the new visitor center. Learn about the history of the land and explore the new trails. Wildlife is all around you – turkeys, bears, butterflies, and songbirds. You can also visit the park by boat and travel the canal north to Virginia. In spring you might even catch the annual Paddle for the Border. 
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Return on US 17 S to US 158 and follow it eastward through the "Harbor of Hospitality", Elizabeth City, down along Currituck Sound, and across the bridge to Kitty Hawk. This stretch of the Outer Banks contains enough beaches, lighthouses, wild horses, and great sea food to keep everyone happy. Stop at the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kitty Hawk to learn about the  first flight and explore the hidden wilderness at the Nature Conservancy's Kitty Hawk Coastal Reserve. Most of all, enjoy the tallest sand dunes on the east coast at Jockey's Ridge State Park. Ask a ranger about fulgurite – sand fused by lightning six feet under the dunes. Climb the dunes for the views and to watch the hang gliders. And don't forget your kite! There's a reason the Wright brothers chose the Outer Banks to launch mankind into the air.
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Jockey's Ridge
Pettigrew State Park Follow US 158 / NC 12 south, then turn west on US 64. Pass through Roanoke Island the site of the Lost Colony. Visit Fort Raleigh National Historic Site and the state aquarium. Enjoy the fine shopping and dining in Manteo. Continue west through the Alligator River Natural Wildlife Refuge and stop for a hike or a paddle. Bring your binoculars to spot the different species of birds that stop here during their migrations. Register to join the rangers for a Howling Safari to listen for the successfully reintroduced red wolves. When you reach Creswell, head south for a double treat – the historic plantation Somerset Place, and Pettigrew State Park on Lake Phelps. Swim and boat on the second largest lake in North Carolina and gaze up at some of the largest trees in the state and nation. You will also find relics of human civilization that existed long before the first colony. See canoes recovered from the lake that are as old as the pyramids.
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Outer Banks

Return to Merchants Millpond by heading north on NC 32 through the historic beauty of Edenton with its old town center overlooking the bay. Continue north through tobacco and soybean farms, then head west on US 158 to reach the park.

Major towns near the route where you can find food and lodging include Elizabeth City, Kill Devil Hills, and the other communities of the Outer Banks. You can use one of these as your home base and enjoy each of the parks during your stay. Be sure to also check out the area for historic sites, museums, golf courses, craft shops, and outdoor sports.
Detailed text Directions

Park Links
Merchants Millpond

Dismal Swamp

Jockey's Ridge


Want to Camp!

Camp at a State Park –  call 1-877-7-CAMP-NC or

Other Places of Interest

Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

Dismal Swamp Welcome Center

NC Lighthouses

Wright Brothers National Monument

Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Alligator River National

Fort Raleigh National Historic Site

Somerset Place NC Historic Site

NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island

National Wildlife Refuges in North Carolina

Commercial Sites for Lodging, Dining, Supplies, and Recreation


Elizabeth City


Outer Banks

For more information on North Carolina State Parks we recommend our North Carolina State Parks Map Guide

North Carolina State Parks Map Guide
A planning and traveling companion with detailed maps and information on each park

Blog - coming soon 

Copyright © 2009 by Friends of State Parks

Photo of Merchants Millpond © 2009 Mark Pillsbury; others © 2009 Bob Sowa.

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