Looking for the best way to get from North Carolina to Virginia? Then you’re in the right place!
A North Carolina to Virginia drive can give you a lot of options for fun road trips in the region.
The two states are relatively easy to travel between, particularly because of I-95, which is the main highway that not only runs through both states but also runs all along the east coast.
Whether you’re interested in amazing National Parks, fabulous beaches, wineries, breweries, or historic sites, there are a lot of options for where to go and what to do along the way!
North Carolina to Virginia Drive: Best Routes & Stops
What is the North Carolina to Virginia Drive Time?
Even though North Carolina and Virginia are right next to each other, both states are surprisingly large and can take some time to travel between. The drive time between the two states will also be based on where you’re traveling to and from.
When traveling between major cities and regions in the state, the time can be as little as an hour or less (since both states border each other) or as long as 6 hours or more (if you’re traveling from Charlotte, NC to Northern Virginia.)
11 Best Stops on the North Carolina to Virginia Drive
Several major highways run through both North Carolina and Virginia, including I-95, I-81, and I-85. There are a number of different road trips you can take between the two states. Depending on which road you take, there are some great stops along the way.
Below are some of my best recommendations to give you a chance to see some of the top attractions in both states.
1. Asheville, NC
If you’re driving through the western part of North Carolina along I-81, you’ll want to make a stop in one of the state’s best destinations. Asheville has grown in popularity in recent years and for good reason.
Asheville is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, which means you’ll be treated to gorgeous mountain views from just about anywhere in the city.
Asheville is also known for its incredible food scene. You’ll find restaurants for just about any taste. Some noteworthy places include Jettie Rae’s Oyster House, Rosetta’s Kitchen & The Buchi Bar, and Cucina 24.
The mountain city is also a great destination if you love beer. In fact, Asheville has more breweries per capita than any other U.S. city! Some of the many breweries to check out include Hi-Wire Brewery and Highland Brewing Company.
|Book a spectacular Asheville Waterfalls and Blue Ridge Parkway Hiking Tour! (Likely to Sell Out!)
2. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC
No list would be complete without Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is not only the most visited attraction in North Carolina but also the most visited National Park in the country! It’s located in the westernmost part of the state, about 70 miles west of Asheville.
The national park spans over 500,000 acres and is located in both North Carolina and Tennessee. There are many outdoor activities to enjoy in the park, including hiking trails, overlooks, camping, fishing, horseback riding, and biking.
|Book a 3-Hour Tour of Great Smoky Mountains National Park! (Likely to sell out!)
3. Abingdon, VA
If you’re continuing north from Asheville along I-81, you’ll reach Abingdon, VA in the southwestern region of the state. Abingdon is a hidden gem that makes for a great companion town to Asheville.
Abingdon has a historic, walkable city center that is filled with noteworthy attractions like The Tavern, which is the oldest bar in Virginia and one of the oldest in the whole country! You can also find Barter Theatre, which is the official state theater of Virginia.
And if you love the outdoors, you’ll definitely want to explore the Virginia Creeper Trail, which is considered one of the best rails-to-trails paths in the country.
You can learn about more places to stay in Abingdon, including charming Bed & Breakfasts and modern hotels with all the amenities!
|Where to Stay in Abingdon, VA
🛏️ Hampton Inn Abingdon, VA 🛏️
4. Shenandoah National Park
As you drive up north from Abingdon, you’ll be traveling through the heart of the Shenandoah Valley and Shenandoah National Park.
The park is one of the top vacation destinations in Virginia, so it’s definitely worth spending some time there.
The immense park has over 500 miles of trails that lead you through the awe-inspiring forests and hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Some of the major hikes include Old Rag, Blackrock Summit, and Dark Hollow Falls, to name just a few.
Waynesboro, VA is a great place to stay when visiting the park. In fact, it’s even known as the Gateway to Shenandoah National Park! The town is just 27 miles west of Charlottesville, and 4 miles from one of the park entrances.
|Where to Stay in Waynesboro, VA (Near Shenandoah National Park)
🛏️ Residence Inn Marriott Waynesboro 🛏️
5. Luray, VA
As you continue along I-81 in the west, make sure to stop by Natural Bridge, which is about 161 miles northeast from Abingdon, and one of the major natural wonders in the state.
Then, continue for about another 100 miles until you reach Luray, which is home to another major natural wonder in the state! Luray Caverns are one of the top attractions in Virginia, and they are also the largest caverns in the Eastern United States!
Luray has much more to offer though, including the Shenandoah Heritage Museum, the Garden Maze at Luray Caverns, and the Luray Singing Tower. You’ll also find many great wineries in the region, including Wolf Gap Vineyard and Ducard Vineyard.
|Where to Stay in Luray, VA
🛏️ Mimslyn Inn Historic Hotels Of America 🛏️
6. Lynchburg, VA
If you’re driving through the center of North Carolina and Virginia, make sure to stop in Lynchburg, VA. The city is home to multiple universities, historic homes, and museums.
Some highlights to visit include Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest (a private retreat for the founding father), the historic home Point of Honor, and the Anne Spencer House & Garden Museum.
Just outside of Lynchburg, you can also visit Appomattox Court House, which is the famous site where Lee surrendered to Grant near the end of the Civil War.
|Where to Stay in Lynchburg, VA
🛏️ The Virginian Lynchburg Curio Collection 🛏️
7. Charlottesville, VA
As you continue through the center of North Carolina and Virginia, you’ll reach Charlottesville about 68 miles northeast of Lynchburg. Monticello, the home of founding father Thomas Jefferson, is of course one of the most famous attractions in town.
I also recommend taking a walking tour of the lovely University of Virginia campus, enjoying food and shopping in the downtown mall, and going on a hike along one of the many trails in town. Don’t miss some of the best breweries in town too, including local favorites Starr Hill and Three Notch’d Craft Kitchen and Brewery!
|Where to Stay in Charlottesville, VA
🛏️Omni Charlottesville Hotel🛏️
8. Culpeper, VA
If you continue driving northeast from Charlottesville, you’ll reach the charming small town of Culpeper. There is a lovely, walkable historic downtown area where you’ll find lovely, ornate Victorian homes.
Culpeper is also home to several excellent breweries, including Far Gohn Brewing Company and Beer Hound Brewery.
Also, take a moment to stop by the Burgandine House, which dates back to 1800 and is one of the oldest buildings in town.
|Where to Stay in Culpeper, VA
🛏️ Hampton Inn & Suites Culpeper 🛏️
9. Manassas, VA
As you continue driving through Virginia, you’ll soon reach Manassas, VA, which is only 36 miles northeast of Culpeper. The city is most famously home to two major battles in the Civil War.
One of the major attractions in the city is Manassas National Battlefield Park. The park is also a great place for hiking. In fact, there are 40 miles of hiking trails. You can also take a guided tour of the park, as well as a 20-mile self-guided driving tour.
Other major attractions in the town include the Manassas Railroad Depot, The Ben Lomond Historic Site, and the Liberia House Historic Site.
|Where to Stay in Manassas, VA
🛏️ Hampton Inn Manassas 🛏️
10. Colonial Williamsburg
If you’re traveling through the eastern parts of North Carolina and Virginia, you’ll want to take the time to stop at Colonial Williamsburg. It’s one of the most popular and well-known tourist destinations in Virginia.
In the heart of Colonial Williamsburg, you can walk among the dirt roads and horse-drawn carriages to instantly be transported back in time to the earliest days of the founding of the country!
You can take guided tours of the Governor’s Palace and Wythe House, watch blacksmith demonstrations, hear canons fired, watch historic plays, and much more. I also highly recommend booking a ghost tour around Williamsburg at night!
|Book a Spook-Tacular Ghost Tour Around Colonial Williamsburg! (Likely to Sell Out!)
11. Colonial Beach, VA
If you head further up north from Williamsburg, you can also make a stop at Colonial Beach. This beach town may not be as famous as Virginia Beach, but it is a hidden gem that is worth exploring!
Colonial Beach is actually the second longest beach in Virginia, after Virginia Beach. It is made up of five distinct beach areas, each with its own vibe. There is also a boardwalk with shops and restaurants.
Colonial Beach is also famously the childhood home of three U.S. Presidents: George Washington, James Madison, and James Monroe. While visiting the area, you can also make a stop at the historic sites that mark their homes.
|Where to Stay in Colonial Beach, VA
🛏️ Colonial Beach Plaza Bed & Breakfast 🛏️
Ways & Routes to Get From North Carolina to Virginia
Generally, the easiest way to travel from North Carolina to Virginia is by car. Traveling by car will be the most flexible option, and it will allow you to reach many of the best off-the-beaten-path destinations in the two states.
You can also take a short flight between the two states, or travel by train or bus.
Below are more details about each of these options.
✅ By Car
There are many routes to take between North Carolina and Virginia, depending on where you want to start and end, and what your interests are.
Below I want to highlight some of the best routes below.
📍The Nature Lovers Route
If you love National Parks and exploring the outdoors, then this is the drive for you! Start in Asheville, North Carolina, and take the time to explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the west.
Then, head north through the mountainous western sections of North Carolina and Virginia. You can take the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway for a beautiful but longer drive through the stunning Appalachian Mountains. You can also take I-81 for a more direct route.
Along the way, you’ll pass near Roanoke, VA, which is a charming college town. You can also stop at Natural Bridge a little north of Roanoke. From there, head to Waynesboro, VA, which is a great home base to explore more of Shenandoah National Park. Then, you can continue north to Luray and the famous Luray Caverns.
You can learn about even more of the best caves in Virginia to explore along the way!
📍The Beach Lovers Route
This is the trip to take for beach lovers! Begin your journey in Nags Head, North Carolina, and drive along the beautiful barrier islands of the Outer Banks. Explore the historic lighthouses, relax on the pristine beaches, and visit attractions such as the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills.
Some highlight beaches to stop at include Duck, NC, which is quieter than some of the other beaches, and Corolla, which has wild horses! Then, cross over to Virginia. From there, you can make your way to Virginia Beach, or to quiet, charming Cape Charles, VA a little further up north.
You can learn about even more of the best North Carolina beaches near Virginia!
📍The Music Lovers Route
Start in the city of Asheville, known for its vibrant music scene and artistic culture. Travel northeast through the picturesque countryside, stopping at music landmarks such as the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol, VA. Bristol has a wealth of music events and venues.
One that you don’t want to miss is the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion. The event takes place in September over a three-day period and features over 100 musical acts and 17 stages! During the festival, you’ll hear everything from Americana, to Country, to Bluegrass, to Rock, to Piedmont Blues, and even Celtic.
📍The History Lovers Route
Begin in North Carolina and make your way to Virginia, exploring the historical sites and landmarks related to the colonial era. Some of the highlights include the Historic Triangle in Virginia: Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown Settlement, and Yorktown Battlefield.
Each of the three locations is very close to each other, so you can easily stop at all three as part of a road trip.
At these sites, you can step back in time and see firsthand what it was like to live hundreds of years ago. Each site features numerous reenactments, demonstrations of crafts and weapons, excellent museums highlighting the history of the region, and much more.
📍The Wine Lovers Route
Begin in the Yadkin Valley region of North Carolina, known for its vineyards and wineries. Yadkin Valley is located about 84 miles northwest of Charlotte and 81 miles northeast of Asheville.
Some of the wineries to check out in the valley include Carolina Heritage Vineyards, which specializes in organic wine; and Adagio Vineyards.
From there, travel north through Virginia’s wine country, visiting renowned wineries in areas like Charlottesville and the Shenandoah Valley.
Charlottesville alone has dozens of amazing wineries, many of which are a short drive from each other in Afton, VA!
Some major wineries to check out include Jefferson Vineyards, Barboursville Vineyards, and Veritas Vineyards and Winery. Veritas also has a charming farmhouse where you can stay the night and enjoy an incredible four-course meal with wine pairings.
As you continue north, make sure to stop at DuCard Vineyards and Glass House Winery, which specializes in wine and chocolate pairings!
I have generally only driven between Virginia and North Carolina, but you can also fly between major cities in the two states.
The flight between North Carolina and Virginia will generally take less than an hour.
Northern Virginia in particular can be a good place to fly to or from because of its distance from North Carolina.
If you are interested in flying between the two states, below are the major airports and cities in each state to look up when researching and booking flights:
North Carolina Airports and Cities
- Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) – Charlotte
- Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) – Raleigh, Durham
- Piedmont Triad International Airport (GSO) – Greensboro, Winston-Salem
- Fayetteville Regional Airport (FAY) – Fayetteville
- Wilmington International Airport (ILM) – Wilmington
Virginia Cities and Airports
- Norfolk International Airport (ORF) – Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake
- Richmond International Airport (RIC) – Richmond
- Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) – Arlington, Alexandria, Northern Virginia
- Dulles International Airport (IAD) – Northern Virginia
You can also take the bus from major cities in both North Carolina and Virginia. The bus is generally cheaper than the train, though it will often take as long or longer than driving on your own because of traffic and stops along the way.
The bus is great because it takes the stress and hassle out of driving. However, you won’t have the control to stop where you want to along the way.
👉Pro-tip: Use Flixbus to find the best rates for any bus route!
Megabus is one of the best and most affordable options. I have taken Megabus many times, particularly up to New York, and it has generally been a pretty positive experience.
It’s cheap, has many routes and times throughout the day, and the seats and experience are pretty good and comfortable. The fares are generally $60 or less.
One negative is that the bus will sometimes be running behind schedule, often due to traffic conditions or mechanical issues.
Below is one of the major Megabus routes between North Carolina and Virginia. You can start at either Charlotte or Durham, and end at either Richmond or Washington, D.C.:
Charlotte, NC ➠ Durham, NC ➠Richmond, VA ➠Washington, D.C.
Amtrak has several stops in both North Carolina and Virginia, which makes it another great option to travel between the states.
I love taking trains, because they take the stress out of driving, and give you a chance to sit back, relax, and enjoy the great scenery.
One negative of train travel is that, depending on the route, it may take much longer to travel by train than by car due to indirect routes and the need to change trains.
For instance, the train ride from Charlotte, NC to Charlottesville is only 5.5 hours. But the train ride from Charlotte to Virginia Beach is 13 hours or more. Trains are also often more expensive than bus rides.
You can learn more about riding on Amtrak in my ultimate guide to the Amtrak Auto Train!
Where To Stay Along The Way
📍Renaissance Asheville Downtown Hotel
This classy gem is located right in downtown Asheville, NC. It is close to many of the main restaurants, bars, cafes, and shops in town. It has an indoor pool, a hot tub, and it is even pet friendly!
📍Margaritaville Resort Gatlinburg
If you’re visiting the Great Smoky Mountains, this is one of the top places to stay. It is particularly great for families and fun, and it’s very convenient to the park.
📍Omni Charlottesville Hotel
The Omni Charlottesville is located right next to the Downtown Mall, and just a few blocks from the University of Virginia. This means you have easy access to the best restaurants and shopping in town!
📍Colonial Beach Plaza Bed & Breakfast
This hotel is located right on the beach at Colonial Beach, VA. It is filled with charm and historic touches, plus it has a pool and breakfast included.
📍The Colonial Houses
Located right in the heart of Colonial Williamsburg, The Colonial Houses have all the modern amenities you would need, including a pool and fitness center. The property and rooms are also filled with historic details.
Important North Carolina and Virginia Driving Tips
I’ve taken numerous road trips through North Carolina and Virginia, and I’ve definitely learned some things along the way!
I want to share some of my top tips and recommendations to help make your next trip as enjoyable as possible.
✔️Get gas for your car before you leave. Trying to find gas along the way can sometimes be stressful, and sometimes there can be many miles between gas stations and rest stops. Having a full tank of gas before you hit the road can help minimize stress.
✔️Bring snacks and plenty of water. I always make sure to have some protein bars, plus several refillable water bottles with me in the car!
✔️Bring the right car accessories: I don’t go on any road trip without my extra phone charger and my phone holder. These are the products I personally use, and I love them!
✔️Check the weather before you go. Find out if you’ll be driving through bad weather, like rain, storms, snow, or fog.
If you’re driving in western North Carolina and Virginia during the winter, you may encounter snow or ice, so prepare accordingly. Relatedly, it’s always a good idea to check the National Park Services website for any road closures.
FAQ: North Carolina to Virginia Drive
Before planning your trip from North Carolina to Virginia, here are some important things to know.
Is the drive from North Carolina to Virginia hard?
No, the drive between North Carolina and Virginia is generally not hard. Generally, there are major highways between both states that are straightforward to navigate, including I-95 and I-81.
The western parts of the states will likely get more snow and ice in the winter months, so be on the lookout for weather conditions before you leave.
Is it better to fly into North Carolina or Virginia?
Most destinations in North Carolina and Virginia are generally easier to reach by car than by plane. This is especially true for western parts of the state that don’t have as many major airports nearby.
Is Virginia worth visiting?
Virginia is definitely worth visiting! The state is filled with major historic sites like Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown, Monticello, Mount Vernon, Manassas National Battlefield Park, and Appomattox Court House, to name just a few.
Virginia also has some of the best National Parks in the country, including Shenandoah National Park and the largest section of the Appalachian Trail.
And if you love beaches, there is no shortage of great beach destinations, including Virginia Beach, Colonial Beach, and Sandbridge Beach.
What is the scenic route from North Carolina to Virginia?
The most scenic route from North Carolina to Virginia is generally along the Blue Ridge Parkway and I-81 in the western parts of both states.
These routes will take you along the lovely Blue Ridge Mountains and major national parks like Shenandoah National Park. The routes are particularly beautiful in the fall when the leaves are changing color.
Do you drive through mountains in Virginia?
If you are driving through the western part of Virginia along either the Blue Ridge Parkway or I-81, you will be driving through the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Conclusion: North Carolina to Virginia Drive
North Carolina and Virginia are filled with destinations worth visiting, whether you’re interested in historic sites, national parks, beaches, wineries, breweries, or art.
If you love the outdoors, I recommend taking a road trip up either the Blue Ridge Parkway or I-81 in the western parts of the states.
If you love beaches, you can make your way up the east coast of North Carolina through the Outer Banks to Virginia Beach.
And if you love history, make sure to visit the historic triangle of Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown in the eastern Tidewater Region of Virginia.
Between North Carolina and Virginia, there’s no shortage of amazing sites to see for your next vacation!