By Dobrina Zhekova

Whether you’re after idyllic mountain vistas or pristine beaches, the Old North State has it all.

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.

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

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

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.