The Southern Banks are dominated by the town of Wilmington, which boasts some 200 restored city blocks, forming one of the largest such districts in the National Register of Historic Places. Wilmington is the gateway to the Cape Fear coast, which, in spite of its ominous-sounding name, is filled with azalea gardens and sun-dappled plantation houses.

Base yourself along the Southern Banks (also known as the Crystal Coast), in historic old Beaufort, in Morehead City, or in a cottage along the string of beaches from Atlantic Beach to Emerald Isle, to sun and swim in the ocean or visit area attractions. Or stay in Wilmington, to see plantations and gardens, Fort Fisher, and fine beaches.

If you're thinking about camping, you will find campgrounds throughout the region. But you should know in advance that they're flat and sandy, with no shade, and that you'll need tent stakes longer than you'd normally use. Also, no hookups are provided. Sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and the maximum stay is 14 days from mid-April to September 10. For private campgrounds in the area, which do have hookups, call the tourist offices listed.