August 16, 2015

Marni Graff-Lesser Known Parts of North Carolina

Most people think of the Outer Banks beaches when they conjure up an image of North Carolina: Kitty Hawk and the Wright Brothers Memorial; lazy days spent surfing, sunning, fishing and boating; Blackbeard, Virginia Dare and the Lost Colony. I live in an area called the Inner Banks, on a river that’s part of the Intracoastal Waterway. Every day I see Great Blue Heron, deer, osprey, and the occasional black bear. It’s the perfect retreat for a writer!

But North Carolina is so much more than its coast. A long, narrow state of close to 54,000 square miles, NC is usually described in three distinct areas. There’s the 2/5 of coastal plain that contains the Inner and Outer Banks; the middle Piedmont 2/5, with gentle rises giving way to rugged hills; and the 1/5 Mountain area, containing the southern Appalachians, Blue Ridge and Great Smokey Mountains.

The lesser-known Piedmont area contains the Research Triangle, cities such as Raleigh and Charlotte, a banking and commerce hub, and many of the state’s most noted colleges and universities and their sports teams, including UNC Chapel Hill’s Tar Heels and Duke’s Blue Devils, whose rivalry can split families in two.

The mountains, whose furniture shops are world-renowned, provide amazing vistas, a hub for the arts and crafts of the Carolinas, are home to one of my personal favorites sites: The Biltmore Estate.

Built by George Vanderbilt starting in 1889 after acquiring extensive property, it took six years to complete the 250-room French Renaissance Chateau. When George died in 1914, his widow Edith sold 87,000 acres of forestry surrounding the estate to the U. S. Forestry Service for less than $5 an acre, guaranteeing unspoiled nature for generations to enjoy. The house remains on 8,000 acres, and now contains a successful winery started in 1971, as well as an Inn and Cottage for overnight stays. There are restaurants and tours of the house, in all its glory, guided and unguided. My favorite is the Upstairs-Downstairs tour, which shows the house from the viewpoint of the butler and housekeeper and describes the grand parties given. There are extensive grounds and gardens, hay rides, and tours of the winery, too.

In 2012, The Biltmore received the Asheville GreenWorks Hall of Fame Award for environmental stewardship for its work with solar arrays and its tree protection project.

Famous North Carolinian’s besides everyone’s favorite Andy Griffith include Ava Gardner, Roberts Flack, Charles Kuralt, Edward R. Murrow and Thelonious Monk. It’s state bird is the cardinal and state flower the dogwood. And that nickname the “Tar Heels?” The exact truth is unknown, but most folklorists believe its roots come from the fact that tar, pitch and turnpentine/ created from its vast pine forests, were some of
North Carolina's most important exports early in the state's history. For a time after the Civil War, the name Tar Heel was derogatory, but it was later affectionately appropriated by the people of North Carolina.
I hope the next time you think of visiting one of our wonderful states, you’ll consider my adopted home of North Carolina! There’s something for everyone in the Tar Heel State.

Marni Graff is the author of the award-winning Nora Tierney Mysteries set in England. Her newest is DEATH UNSCRIPTED, the first Trudy Genova Manhattan Mystery. Leave a comment and one lucky winner will be chosen to receive a signed copy.

(all info provided by Marni Graff)


  1. I was once in your beautiful state - did all the touristy places that you mentioned. Actually, I remembered Virginia Dare from 2nd grade studies and it stayed with me all my life. I just had to go there and a chance came up on a fluke. However, I've seen lots of the beauty of your state. I've also found a few writer friends who live in North Carolina. I am finding more and more reason to go back and enjoy some of the rest of the beauty of that place.

  2. Marni and Annette, a great post! This is my home state and I know Marni personally. Such a sweetie pie! Marni's books are well-written and suspenseful. I haven't seen you in a while, Marni, and I miss you.

    Mary Deal, come on over here and Marni and I will take you around some more.

  3. l live in SC so I'm familiar with most of the places you mentioned. Each year we spend a week in the high country at Sugar Mt. It's so nice to get out of the heat in upstate SC and enjoy the peace and beauty around you.

  4. Susan, miss you too! Mary, come and see us!

  5. Thanks for the tour! Radine Trees Nehring

  6. (And the coast of NC isn't just the Outer Banks!)

    Very nice post, Marni. I hope to see you soon in the Lower Cape Fear or somewhere else in our lovely state.

  7. Another state I'd like to visit some day. Thanks for the armchair travel, Marni.

  8. What a captivating and interesting post. When we travelled to the south we were entranced with the beauty and lifestyle.


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