5 NC outdoor destinations make USA Today’s 10Best lists

USA TODAY readers voted five North Carolina spots among the best in North America in the categories for “Best Boat Tour,” “Best Helicopter Tour,” “Best Adventure Travel Company” and “Best Aerial Adventure Park.”

The annual 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards are determined by readers’ votes. Initial selections came from travel experts choosing the top 20 nominees in a number of categories, including best art museum, best farmers market, best outdoor water park and more.

As of July 14, many 10Best categories are still pending, and results will be announced over the next few weeks.

All categories, winners and pending winners can be found at 10best.com/awards/travel.

NC spots win best for aerial adventure parks

Greensboro: SKYWILD in Greensboro won a top-10 readers’ choice award for the best aerial adventure park in the United States.

“This treetop adventure park in Greensboro, North Carolina takes inspiration from the neighboring Greensboro Science Center’s zoo,” USA TODAY 10Best said. “Visitors can tackle 60 challenges and three intensity levels.”

SKYWILD is about an hour and a half drive from Raleigh. For more, visit skywild.org.

Saluda: The Gorge in Saluda also appeared on this list.

“The Gorge calls itself the nation’s steepest and fastest zipline canopy tour,” USA TODAY 10Best wrote. “This tree-based adventure in North Carolina comprises 11 ziplines spanning well over a mile with a total descent of more than 1,100 vertical feet. The course also includes a sky bridge and three rappels.”

The Gorge is about a four-hour drive from Raleigh. For more, visit thegorgezipline.com.

SKYWILD and The Gorge came in at #5 and #6 on the list, respectively. The top spot went to Shepherd of the Hills Adventure Park in Branson, Missouri.

NC coastal ferry wins best boat tour in USA

Beaufort and Harkers Island: Island Express Ferry Service, which operates between Beaufort and Harkers Island, won a top-10 readers’ choice award for the best boat tour in the United States.

“Island Express Ferry Service is the only ferry authorized by the National Park Service to drop off passengers from Beaufort and Harkers Island to Cape Lookout Lighthouse and Shackleford Banks in North Carolina,” USA TODAY’s 10Best said.

“Guests experience the beauty of the North Carolina coast while riding in comfortable ferries. Treasure hunt for shells, watch the wild horses of Shackleford Banks, go fishing or swimming and leave the stress of the mainland behind!”

The Beauford location is a two hour and 45 minute drive from Raleigh, while the Harkers Island location is a three-hour drive. For more, visit islandexpressferryservices.com.

The Island Express Ferry Service came in at #9 on the list. The top spot went to Holo Holo Charters in Eleele, Hawaii.

Bryson City has best adventure travel company

Bryson City: Nantahala Outdoor Center, based in Bryson City, won a top-10 readers’ choice award for the best adventure travel company in the United States.

“Nantahala Outdoor Center is one of the southeast United States’ most well-known destinations for outdoor lovers,” USA TODAY 10Best said. “They offer a variety of experiences, including rafting and kayaking, ziplining, paddleboarding, biking and hiking. NOC will also package several activities into one exciting adventure.”

Bryson City is about four hours and 45 minutes by car from Raleigh. For more, visit noc.com.

Nantahala Outdoor Center came in at #6 on the list. The top spot went to MT Sobek in Emeryville, California.

Southport NC has best helicopter tour

Southport: High Tide Aviation, located in Southport, won a top-10 readers’ choice award for the best helicopter tour in the United States.

“High Tide Aviation offers helicopter flights, air tours, and opportunities for aerial videography and aerial photography over the Cape Fear region of North Carolina,” USA TODAY 10Best said.

“Passengers can view lighthouses, islands, Civil War points of interest, and over fifty miles of North Carolina beaches. High Tide Aviation also provides first-class, one-way and round-trip charter flights to destinations in the eastern United States and the Caribbean.”

The airport is about a two and a half hour drive from Raleigh. For more information, visit flyhightide.com.

High Tide came in at #9 on the list. The top spot went to Maverick Helicopters, which has a few locations across the country.

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