Whether you're after idyllic mountain vistas or pristine beaches, the Old North State has it all.
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With more than 320 miles of coastline, dozens of lakes, and some of the highest peaks of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina is a natural gem and one of the best states to invest in a second home. In fact, a recent Vacasa survey of the top 10 places to buy a waterfront home featured two North Carolina destinations — Corolla, which ranked second, and Hatteras Island, at number seven.

But even if you're not interested in laying on the beach all day or hiking up mountains, the Old North State will not disappoint. North Carolina is steeped in history and culture, and its culinary heritage is legendary (barbecue, anyone?). Plus, with close to 400 breweries, 80 craft distilleries, and 200 wineries, the state will leave you in high spirits.

scenery and vacation homes around lake lure north carolina
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So, if you'd like to make North Carolina your second home, read on for a list of the best, expert-recommended places to invest in a vacation property.

Outer Banks

Waterfront Beach houses on the Outer Banks in North Carolina
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With more than 100 miles of pristine shoreline, OBX, as the locals call it, is a true beach lover's paradise. You'll find small resort towns full of character and history (the Wright brothers' first flight took place here), campgrounds, museums, scenic lighthouses, state parks, and the list goes on.

"Unique to our area is that we have less than 2,000 hotel rooms, compared to well over 20,000 vacation homes, so if you're coming to the Outer Banks, it will most likely be with your family, and you'll be renting a home for the week. Therefore, the rental investment market is extremely strong," says Randy Jones, broker and owner with Howard Hanna Outer Banks Realty. "And because we don't have high-density hotels or a major city nearby, you can always find plenty of space to spread out on the beach."

However, Jones notes that the soaring demand has also increased prices. The average home sale price in the town of Duck, for example, went up by almost 40% from 2019 to 2021.

"The good news is that despite this increase, the OBX investment is still a great bargain when taking into consideration the rental income and home values compared to other coastal resort areas on the East Coast," adds Jones.

Highlands-Cashiers Plateau

Quarry Falls (also know as Bust Your Butt Falls) as seen during the Autumn season with colorful foliage as a backdrop.
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Located in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, only a couple of hours from Asheville and Atlanta, this charming area is popular among those looking for cooler temperatures, a laid-back lifestyle, and stunning mountains vistas.

"There's an emphasis on 'local' in our area. We offer hiking, fly-fishing, waterfalls, Lake Glenville, and boutique shopping, and the summer months are filled with festivals, outdoor concerts, and art events galore," explains Julie Osborn, a broker with Allen Tate Realtors.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made this high-elevation area extremely popular among second-home buyers. And while inventory has declined, there's a home for every taste here.

"You do not see 'cookie-cutter' homes here, which I think is a big draw to the area. Some of the designs are just fabulous. Buyers tend to favor the rustic-chic mountain look that is heavy with shiplap walls, beautiful wide-planked hardwood floors, and beamed ceilings, but favor more transitional kitchens, baths, and décor," she adds.

Banner Elk

From the top of Sugar Mountain looking at Tyne Castle in Banner Elk North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains
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Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains between two world-class ski resorts and home to Elk River, Banner Elk is a year-round destination that draws visitors with a plethora of outdoor activities, a vibrant music and arts scene, wineries, and excellent restaurants. Golf fans also flock here to practice their swing and enjoy the gorgeous mountain vistas.

"With mild summertime temperatures, snowy winters, and relatively low humidity, this area can't be beaten for everybody from outdoor enthusiasts to enthusiastic porch sitters," says Lynne Lear, a real estate agent with Premier Sotheby's International Realty.

From sprawling multimillion-dollar residences to empty lots to build your dream home on, the area has something for every budget and buyer.

Brevard

Scenic view of waterfall in forest,Brevard,North Carolina,United States,USA
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It's no surprise that Transylvania County, of which Brevard is a part of, is known as the Land of Waterfalls. With more than 250 to choose from, in addition to many hiking and biking trails, forests, and rivers, outdoor enthusiasts will find their paradise in Brevard.

"Real estate in Brevard and the surrounding area is in high demand, with a rapidly dwindling supply of homes," says Billy Harris of Beverly-Hanks, Realtors. "We are now starting to see a similar demand for lots and acreage tracts as buyers are forced to build."

He notes that the median house price has jumped 21% in the past two years, and the number of lot sales has also increased 30% since 2021. But Harris adds that finding your dream second home in Brevard will not be an issue if you start your search early and act fast.

Brunswick Islands

Oak Island Lighthouse in North Carolina
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Expansive coastal views, small towns, delicious seafood, and world-class golf facilities are the main draws of these beautiful barrier islands. If rental potential is a priority, you really can't go wrong with buying a vacation residence here. While home value is up and properties don't tend to stay on the market long, the Brunswick Islands region is still a lot more affordable than other coastal areas in North Carolina.

Pinehurst

Scenic View And Reflection Of Dock On Lake in Pinehurst
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"My husband and I love to spend a long weekend with a mix of golf and spa during the day, early evening playing a round at Thistle Dhu — the 18-hole putting course at Pinehurst — then dinner at one of the resort restaurants," says Jessica Grier of Premier Sotheby's International Realty.

With close to 40 golf courses in a 15-mile radius, the Pinehurst, Southern Pines, and Aberdeen areas are a golfer's paradise.

"The area is so popular in the world of golf that the USGA recently announced that they're establishing a second headquarters in Pinehurst, committing to a $25 million investment to construct two buildings in the area with 50 full-time USGA staff members," adds Grier.

Not a fan of golf? Try hiking and horseback riding, or check out the many restaurants and shops in town.

Lake Lure

Drone View of Lake Lure, North Carolina, USA
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Surrounded by the scenic and lush Blue Ridge Mountains, this charming area offers visitors year-round golfing, tennis, boating, mountain biking, fishing, rock climbing, and spectacular views. Just be prepared for some competition when you decide to make Lake Lure your home away from home.

"Lake Lure is a really hot area for vacationers — one of the fastest-growing in the U.S.," says Lane Robbat, a broker with Premier Sotheby's International Realty. The median list price has increased almost two-fold since last year to $699,000, according to data from real estate website Movoto.com.