Inexpensive Romantic Getaways in North Carolina

15 Inexpensive Romantic Getaways in North Carolina

Last Updated on October 22, 2022

Planning a romantic trip on a budget? Discover some of the best inexpensive romantic getaways in North Carolina for couples on a budget. These budget-friendly destinations all feature plenty of free things to do, affordable accommodation options, and inexpensive activities.

Whether you are looking for a mountain getaway, a beach vacation, or a city break, North Carolina is filled with incredible inexpensive vacation destinations that will please any couple wanting to spend some quality time together.

Keep on reading to discover the best inexpensive romantic getaways in North Carolina for couples on a budget!

Budget-friendly travel tips:

  • Visit during the shoulder or low seasons for better prices on accommodation and activities.
  • Book a vacation rental, prices are usually cheaper than hotels and you get a kitchen, which will save you money on food. You can also consider camping, it will allow you to stay at popular and pricey destinations for a fraction of the cost.
  • Plan a picnic for a nice date that won’t break the bank.
  • Check the events calendar, most places often organize free events and festivals.

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15 Inexpensive Romantic Getaways in North Carolina

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15 Inexpensive Romantic Getaways in North Carolina

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15 Inexpensive Romantic Getaways in North Carolina

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15 Inexpensive Romantic Getaways in North Carolina

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15 Inexpensive Romantic Getaways in North Carolina

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15 Inexpensive Romantic Getaways in North Carolina

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15 Inexpensive Romantic Getaways in North Carolina

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15 Inexpensive Romantic Getaways in North Carolina

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Best-rated inexpensive getaways in North Carolina

Wilmington

Airlie Gardens in Wilmington, North Carolina
Airlie Gardens

With its many gardens and parks, public beaches, walkable downtown, and a food scene for all budgets, Wilmington is an ideal getaway destination for couples on a budget. Enjoy strolling around town, passing by historic buildings and quaint shops.

The first thing you should do is stroll around the historic district. You can visit a house or two, but seeing them from outside is worth it as well if you can’t fit a tour into your budget.

The main historic buildings to see include the Bellamy Mansion Museum (the entrance fee is $14 if you want to go inside), the Basilica of Saint Mary, the Latimer House ($14 entrance fee), and the Burgwin-Wright House and Gardens.

You can also plan a romantic picnic at one of the city’s many parks and gardens. Airlie Gardens is right in the historic district, and there’s no entrance fee. You can also go for a walk along the river walk.

Wilmington is home to many fascinating museums, including the Battleship North Carolina ($14) and the Cameron Art Museum ($12), among the most popular.

If the weather is nice, head to the beach for a fun day relaxing, shelling, and swimming. Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, and Kure Beach are all public beaches. If you like biking, you can cycle the 10-mile scenic River to Sea Bikeway.

The Carolina Beach State Park is a great place to go hiking and there are no entrance fees and a free parking lot. There, you can sign up for a free guided tour with a ranger, either for bird watching or to see the local carnivorous plants. You can also camp there for as low as $26 a night.

When looking for cheap bites to grab, consider the top-rated and popular Flaming Amy’s Burrito Barn, Jimbo’s Breakfast & Lunch, and Winnie’s Tavern.

When looking for an affordable place to stay, Stella Maris Hostel is your top choice. Located within the historic district, they offer dorms and private rooms, a shared kitchen, and free parking. Otherwise, you can also check out the vacation rentals in town, many are under $100 a night.

Southport

Bald Head Island, United States

Southport is the perfect destination for couples on a budget, from there you can visit some of the most romantic destinations in North Carolina without breaking the bank. You’ll find many affordable places to stay, and you can just take day trips to popular places nearby.

The secluded and exclusive Bald Head Island is a must-visit. To get there, take the ferry from Deep Point Marina in Southport. It only takes 20 minutes and the ferry departs every 30 minutes most of the year. No cars are allowed on the island, to get around you can rent a golf cart or bicycle. Then you can hike, bike, or just enjoy the beach. Don’t miss the Old Baldy Lighthouse!

You can also drive to Caswell Beach where you can enjoy the beach and a walk to the Oak Island Lighthouse.

In Southport, you’ll find a couple of museums and historic buildings worth visiting. Depending on what you like, you can visit the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport, the Fort Johnston-Southport Museum, and the Old Brunswick County Jail.

If you like art, the town is well known for its many art galleries, check out Franklin Square Gallery and Artshak Studio and Gallery. Wine lovers will enjoy stopping by the Silver Coast Winery Tasting Room to sample local wines. For affordable food, head to Provision Company where you can have dinner with stunning views of the seaside.

Southport is also a good starting point to go on a kayaking adventure. You can either rent kayaks at one of the local shops or go on a guided tour.

For a budget-friendly hotel nearby, check out the Wingate By Wyndham Southport with an outdoor pool, breakfast, and free parking. If you want to stay by the water, consider booking a vacation rental on Oak Island, many are quite affordable, especially if you visit during the off-season.

Beaufort

Intercoastal waterway in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina -unsplash

Beaufort is known to be one of the best romantic getaways in North Carolina and can be seen as pricey but you’ll actually find plenty of free things to do, affordable accommodation options, and cheap eateries.

It’s the perfect destination for couples looking to spend some time at the beach, exploring the coast, while staying in a charming town filled with historic sights.

You can spend a day driving along the barrier island, from Atlantic Beach to Cedar Point, enjoying the beach and the scenery. Don’t miss stopping by Fort Macon State Park (no entrance fee) where you can visit the pre-civil war fort, enjoy the beach, or hike through the salt marsh and dune fields.

In town, you can visit the North Carolina Maritime Museum and its exhibits about pirates and marine life (no entrance fee). Stroll by historic sights like the Gibbs House or the Old Burying Ground – or head for a tour at the Beaufort Historic Site where you’ll find 9 restored houses from the 18th and 19th centuries.

If you want to see wild horses and go for a hike, you can kayak or take the ferry to the Rachel Carson Reserve from Beaufort’s waterfront.

Beaufort Cafe and Royal James Cafe are both popular places to eat, serving American food at affordable prices. You can also have a drink while watching the sunset at the Rhum Bar at Front Street Grill. In Atlantic Beach, the 4 Corners Diner is the perfect spot to grab breakfast or lunch.

There are few cheap hotels in Beaufort or around but you’ll easily find affordable vacation rentals either in Beaufort or Atlantic Beach. You can also camp at the nearby Oyster Point Campground for as low as $18 and there are several RV camps in the area as well.

Boone

Boone, North Carolina

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Boone is a little paradise on earth for couples looking for a romantic mountain getaway.

One of the best things to do near Boone is to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway stopping along the way for easy hikes and to take in the magnificent mountain scenery.

If you like hiking, head to Howard’s Knob for stunning views over Boone, Moses H. Cone Memorial Park (don’t miss the Flat Top Manor), Elk River Falls, Elk Knob State Park, or explore the North Carolina Daniel Boone Heritage Trail.

In town, you can stroll around the Daniel Boone Native Gardens, visit the Hickory Ridge Living History Museum, shop for fresh produce at the Watauga County Farmer’s Market (every Saturday from May through October), and sample some craft beers at the Booneshine Brewing Company.

If you are looking for affordable places to eat, check out the popular Dos Amigos for Mexican food, Sunrise Grill for breakfast, and Come Back Shack for burgers.

Boone is one of the best inexpensive romantic getaways in North Carolina thanks to its many budget-friendly activities and accommodation options. You can camp at Elk Knob State Park for as low as $15, stay at the Highland Hills Motel & Cabins for around $80 (depending on the dates), or book one of the many vacation homes available in the area for less than $100.

Asheville

Asheville Street Art

One of the best city getaways in North Carolina, Asheville is a top romantic destination with plenty of free things to do, inexpensive activities, affordable places to stay, and cheap restaurants.

Stroll around the downtown area, take the self-guided tour of the city’s history along the Asheville Urban Trail, and see murals along the Southside Mural Trail, where you can also stop by a local brewery. Make sure to check out the city’s event calendar, there are often free festivals going on.

The Biltmore Estate is also a must-see but they charge a hefty admission fee. Alternatively, you can visit Biltmore Village for free. There, you’ll find dozens of historic buildings, art galleries, independent shops, and restaurants.

For iconic and affordable places to eat, check out Moose Cafe, serving farm-to-table Southern food, Five Points Restaurant, and HomeGrown.

Asheville is also a great destination for outdoorsy couples. From there, you can visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (free entrance), drive the Blue Ridge Parkway, hike to the observation deck at Mount Mitchell State Park, or chase waterfalls at the Pisgah National Forest.

When it comes to places to stay, you’ll have plenty of budget-friendly options. You can choose to camp at one of the many campgrounds found in the area, book a vacation rental (many are under $100 a night), or stay at an affordable yet romantic hotel like The Beaucatcher.

Lake Santeetlah

Lake Santeetlah, North Carolina
Picture by John Matzko

Couples looking for a peaceful romantic getaway in North Carolina, surrounded by nature, will love staying around Lake Santeetlah. Bordered by cabins and campgrounds, the lake is the ideal destination to get away from it all and spend time outdoors, walking, swimming, kayaking, and just relaxing.

The best time to visit if you want to do water activities is during the warmer months but you can go hiking year-round.

You’ll find plenty of trails around the lakes as well as areas where you can swim or rent a kayak and go explore the lake. The Appalachian Trail passes nearby and the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is home to some of the oldest old-growth forests on the East Coast.

You can also drive the Tail of the Dragon section of Highway 129 to get scenic views of the Cherokee National Forest and the Great Smoky Mountains. Another scenic drive you can do is the Cherohala Skyway, connecting the Cherokee and Nantahala forests.

Elkin

Stone Mountain State Park near Elkin NC
Stone Mountain State Park – Picture by Aleigha

Combining a charming historic district and many outdoor activities, Elkin is one of the best inexpensive romantic getaways in North Carolina. Located in the Yadkin Valley Wine Region, Elkin provides numerous wine, hiking, cycling, and mountain bike trails to explore.

In town, you can stroll around the historic district, window shopping at independent shops, visiting an art gallery or two, and sampling some local food and drinks. If you like beer, head to Angry Troll or Skull Camp, two local breweries.

If wine is more your thing, go wine tasting at some of the neighboring wineries. The closest to town include the Slightly Askew Winery, the Elkin Creek Vineyard, and the Adagio Vineyards.

The Yadkin River Blue Trail, bordering the historic downtown, offers kayaking adventures surrounded by gorgeous scenery.

If you want to go hiking, check out the trails along the section of the Blue Ridge Parkway that passes nearby or head to Stone Mountain State Park or Pilot Mountain State Park.

You can book a room at the comfortable Quality Inn Jonesville I-77 with an indoor pool, free parking, and complimentary breakfast. For something more intimate, you can also book a cabin or cottage either in town, or around if you’d rather be surrounded by nature.

Outer Banks

Outer Banks

One of the most romantic getaways in North Carolina, the Outer Banks is ideal for couples on a budget looking to spend their vacation at the beach. Known for its wild horses, endless marshes, historic lighthouses, and secluded beaches, the Outer Banks offers plenty of free things to do.

You can plan a road trip from Ocracoke to Corolla, with a couple of overnight stops, or base yourself in one of the many towns that make up the Outer Banks and explore from there.

Some of the best things to do there are found at the beach, swim, paddle, surf, kayak… water activities are endless. Corolla Beach, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head, and Hatteras Island beaches are among the most popular.

You’ll find many beach campgrounds along the Outer Banks, it’s ideal if you’re visiting during summer and want to stay at a prime location without breaking the bank. During the low season, you’ll find many inexpensive vacation rentals.

If you like hiking, you can check out the many trails in Cape Hatteras National Seashore and some of the tallest dunes in the US at Jockey’s Ridge State Park

If you like history, make sure to visit some of the many historic lighthouses along the way, stop by Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station Historic Site, North Carolina’s first lifesaving station, and tour Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, commemorating the first US settlement by Englishmen in the 1500s. The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum is also worth checking out (free entrance)

Charlotte

Charlotte, NC

Couples looking for a city getaway with a great cultural scene and loads of entertainment options will love spending a weekend in Charlotte.

For a romantic stroll and maybe a picnic, head to Freedom Park with its lake and paved trails. During summer they organize music concerts and movie nights and a 5-day festival in September. You can also hike or bike the Little Sugar Creek Greenway, part of the Carolina Thread Trail, or enjoy the trails at the McDowell Nature Preserve and Center.

Another must-see in town is the 7th Street Public Market where you can shop for fresh produce and grab a bite to eat. If antiques are more your thing, tour the Sleepy Poet Antique Mall and its 300 booths.

You can explore the town through its street art and go on a self-guided walking tour, use this website to plan your itinerary. While beer lovers can explore NoDa’s Craft Beer Trail and its many breweries and award-winning local brews.

If you like art, you can get the Levine Center for the Arts Museum Pass which gives you access to 3 museums (Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, and The Mint Museum) for $20.

There are plenty of other museums in town you can visit depending on what you like, many are quite affordable, and some have free days. If you want to learn more about Charlotte’s history, visit the Charlotte Museum of History ($10 entrance fee).

If you want to stay in the downtown area, renting a vacation home is your best option. Otherwise, book a room at the inexpensive Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham Charlotte/Northlake with free parking and complimentary breakfast.

Chapel Hill

Located next to Durham, the college town of Chapel Hill will make a perfect romantic weekend getaway destination. Enjoy the small-town vibes, bustling cultural scene, and great entertainment options.

Start by strolling by Franklin Street, lined with independent shops, tasty restaurants, and fun bars. To visit the historic side of town, head to the Horace Williams House which you can visit on most days, sometimes they host exhibits, and you can pick up a free self-guided walking tour itinerary.

Next head to the University of North Carolina’s campus where you’ll find the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center and the Ackland Art Museum. The museum features rotating exhibits and all sorts of arts, from contemporary American photography to European master paintings, from video installations to early modern portraits.

The town is also filled with parks and gardens that are ideal for a romantic stroll and a picnic. Don’t miss the North Carolina Botanical Garden, the Mason Farm Biological Reserve, and the Carolina North Forest.

When it comes to affordable places to stay, you’ll find a couple of budget-friendly and well-located vacation rentals offering everything needed for a comfy stay.

Banner Elk

Cragway Trail, Banner Elk, NC, USA
Cragway Trail

Located along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Banner Elk will make a perfect inexpensive romantic getaway for outdoorsy couples. Enjoy spending time outside, go for a scenic drive, and enjoy the local cultural scene.

If you like hiking, head to Grandfather Mountain State Park where you’ll find several nice trails. On your way back, you can stop at the Linville Caverns ($12 entrance fee) and then at the Grandfather Vineyard & Winery to sample some local wines.

For an easy hike to a gorgeous waterfall, head to the Pisgah National Forest and hike the short trail to Elk River Falls. There, you’ll also find a beach area where you can swim. Another waterfall worth checking out is Otter Falls in Seven Devils.

Alternatively, drive south on the Blue Ridge Parkway, stopping along the way at popular attractions like the Linville Gorge Wilderness, the Linville Falls, Brown Mountain, the Orchard at Altapass, and the town of Little Switzerland a little further.

If you head north instead, you can go hiking at Julian Price Memorial Park and Moses H Cone Memorial Park, visiting attractions like the Blowing Rock and Tweetsie Railroad.

If you’re visiting during winter and like winter sports, you should go skiing or ice skating at Sugar Mountain Resort, during March they offer super discounted prices.

When looking for a place to stay, the Taylor House Inn is one of the most romantic options in town. The charming inn is affordable and offers stunning views and free breakfast. Alternatively, you’ll find a couple of great budget-friendly vacation rentals in the area.

You can also book a space at one of the 13 primitive backcountry campsites in Grandfather Mountain State Park for around $15 a night. For something with water and electricity, check out Grandfather Campground.

Southern Pines

Morrow Mountain State Park
View from the top of Morrow Mountain – Picture by Stuart Borrett

A less-known destination in the Sandhills of North Carolina, Southern Pine is a hidden gem that will make the perfect getaway for couples on a budget. Stroll around town, go for a hike at Weymouth Woods, and enjoy the local food and cultural scenes.

In the downtown area, you’ll find many cute shops, independent stores, breweries, and local restaurants. You can enjoy the laid-back atmosphere for a while then head to the Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve where you’ll find 7-miles of hiking trails through a longleaf pine forest.

You can also stroll through the gardens at the Weymouth Center for the Arts.

For breakfast, check out the tasty crepes at Betsy’s Crepes, have lunch at The Ice Cream Parlor serving American classics or SoPies serving NY-style pizzas, and have dinner at the classy Ashten’s Restaurant.

The Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham Southern Pines is a nice budget-friendly place to stay with free breakfast and all the basic amenities needed for a comfortable stay. Alternatively, you can also check out the vacation rentals in the area, many are quite affordable.

Bryson City

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, United States

The gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Bryson City is the perfect getaway for couples looking for a mountain vacation surrounded by stunning scenery. It’s also ideal if you are on a budget as the park is the only free national park in the country.

You’ll only need to pay $5 for parking ($15 for the week) and if you want, you can camp there for $30 a night.

Inside the park, you’ll find plenty of hiking and biking trails, scenic drives, and picturesque overlooks. Depending on when you visit you might be able to spot wildlife and wildflowers in bloom or go for a swim at one of the park’s many swimming holes. There are also around 90 historic structures within the park you can visit on your trip there.

To learn more about the county’s past visit the Swain County Heritage Museum where you’ll find artifacts found in the area as well as a restored log cabin, among other things. The Storytelling Center of the Southern Appalachians is also worth checking out. They aim at preserving the musical and oral heritage of the area.

For a romantic date, head to Deep Creek Winery and sample some wine while trying out local cheeses and deli meat at an affordable price. If beer is more your thing, head to the award-winning Mountain Layers Brewing Company instead.

When looking for where to stay, you’ll find plenty of affordable vacation rentals and if you’d rather stay at a hotel, check out Two Rivers Lodge with its mountain views and outdoor pool.

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Inexpensive Romantic Getaways in North Carolina
Inexpensive Romantic Getaways in North Carolina
Inexpensive Romantic Getaways in North Carolina
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