As one of the original Thirteen Colonies that formed the United States, North Carolina has been the scene of many important events in American history. It was the site of the first (albeit unsuccessful) English colony in the New World established on Roanoke Island in 1587, where Virginia Dare became the first person of English descent born in the New World.
The state stretches some 560 miles from its beaches along the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Appalachian Mountains in the west that rise to 6,684 ft (2,037 m) at Mt. Mitchell, the highest mountain east of the Mississippi River.
Although there is much to see and do in North Carolina, the photos here concentrate on the Outer Banks, a series of thin barrier islands off the east coast that have become one of the finest beach resorts in the U.S. The Outer Banks consist of a series of islands running from north to south: Bodie (pronounced "body") Island, Roanoke Island, Hatteras Island and Ocracoke Island. The islands are separated from the mainland by Albemarle Sound and Pamlico Sound. While many people live on or visit the Outer Banks, especially in summer, much of the area remains protected by various state and national parks making it easy to get away from all the development.
Aside from its beautiful beaches and dunes, the Outer Banks are also known for a series of lighthouses that warn mariners of the treacherous coast. The area became known as the "Graveyard of the Atlantic" for all the ships that foundered here over the centuries. Two of the lighthouses – the Bodie Island Lighthouse and the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse – are included in the photographs above. Until the lighthouses were built, there were few distinctive landmarks along the North Carolina coast to guide mariners and ships coming in for a closer look to try to get their bearings often ran aground or sank. But these hazardous waters also provided sanctuary for pirates such as Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, who was eventually killed near Ocracoke Island in 1718.
It was also on the Outer Banks, at Kitty Hawk, where the Wright Brothers first achieved flight in a powered, heavier-than-air vehicle on December 17, 1903. A National Monument and visitors' center marks the spot.
Universities of North Carolina: A visit to friends in Chapel Hill offered the opportunity to tour two of America's most well-known universities: Duke University, one of the finest private institutions in the country; and the University of North Carolina, the first public university in the United States. (7 Photos) [Preview This Slide Show]