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3 places to play in North Carolina: Soak on the sand, soar in the sky or cast a fly

Hang gliding

The sweeping sand dunes of Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head are the tallest in the eastern part of the U.S. and offer a variety of outdoor experiences. Stroll an easily navigated 1.5-mile trail, loop around a 1-mile circle or hit the shorter boardwalk trail that spans the hills while still providing sweeping views. But one of the best ways to see the natural wonder is from the harness of a hang glider. Near the park’s visitors center is a hang gliding center with areas clearly marked for the sport. Those who prefer to keep their feet on the ground can opt for a few rounds of sandboarding, allowed in the park from October through the end of March.

300 W. Carolista, Nags Head 27959. 252-441-7132,

Fly fishing

Looking for a spot to cast a line? Follow the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail, a 4,600-mile stretch that meanders through Jackson County and connects some of the state’s best trout streams. A total of 15 prime waterways are identified as excellent spots to find a variety of trout. One of the most popular is the Tuckasegee River, with water that remains at a fairly constant temperature year round. Maps of the area, along with suggestions for places to stay, are available through the county tourism office.

Jackson County Tourism, 773 W. Main St., Sylva 28779. 800-962-1911,

Ocean Isle Beach

Sure, you can spend hours sunning on the soft sand. But at this Brunswick County beach town there’s also a plethora of activities to enjoy. Check out the local sea life at the Museum of Coastal Carolina where interactive exhibits detail the area’s underwater inhabitants. It also has a planetarium that stages star and laser light shows set to music, and a hurricane simulator that mimics winds up to 78 miles per hour ( The nearby Shallotte River Swamp Park has more than a mile of zip lines, swamp tours and a giant jungle gym with 53 challenging bridges, ropes and tunnels ( Stop by the Ocean Isle Beach Sea Turtle Protection Organization to find out where and when to see the hatchlings making their way to the water ( Other outings include visits to area lighthouses, ghost tours and tastings at the Silver Coast Winery.

Brunswick County Tourism, 712 Village Rd., Shallotte 28470. 910-755-5517,

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