There's plenty to see and experience in Johnston County, NC. But for the more outdoor minded individual or family, our rural landscapes offers an escape into nature. This isn't rock climbing, waterfalls, or extreme sports, this is soft-adventure... so that everyone can enjoy the great outdoors together. Bike, hike, and paddle your way through JoCo and stay the night your way - roughing it or in style.

The below itinerary gives you a snap shot of places in the Benson area to explore, eat, drink, and stay. Less than an hour from Raleigh and where I-95 and I-40 meet, Benson boasts a bustling and walk-able main street, local shops and restaurants, a dog park, award-winning BBQ, and a very hike-able battlefield. Enjoy a day, stay for the weekend, make your visit your own using our below outline.
 

Day One

Morning - Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center

The Rudolph Howell & Son Environmental Learning Center or Howell Woods (for short) located near Four Oaks, is a unique 2,800-acre natural outdoor classroom designed to provide educational experiences while fostering environmental stewardship. It’s also dog-friendly! Visitors to Howell Woods can rent cabins and enjoy hiking, biking, fishing, horse riding (bring your own horse), bird-watching, or participate in controlled hunts.

Lunch - Cornerstone Cafe

Great food made fresh and locally owned, Cornerstone is located right on Main Street. Enjoy gourmet sandwiches, salads, waffles. Yes, big, fluffy and absolutely delicious Belgian waffles aren't just for breakfast. Cornerstone serves these beauties all day, every day. We also recommend the mac & cheese!

Afternoon - Tucker Lake

Enjoy a 30 acre spring fed lake with sandy beaches, beach volleyball, rope swings, 4 acres of shaded picnic area with grills and tables, bath house, jungle gym playground, soft play water toys, kid slides, and a 167ft twisting and turning waterslide for tons of fun!

Flight of beer at Fainting Goat Brewing Co. in Benson, NC.

Dinner - Fainting Goat

Woman and veteran owned, the Fainting Goat Brewery in Downtown Benson is actually this breweries second location. Grab a delicious dinner from the food truck of the day and cool off in the taproom of out on the patio. If you're looking to try something a little stronger, head on out to Broadslab Distillery to meet Jeremy Norris and try his "real deal" moonshine, or just shine as he calls it. Relax in the tasting room with a shine mixed drink as you listen to live music. Both of these places are stops on the Beer, Wine, Shine Trail.


Stay the Night

Howell Woods

Campsites, two cabins that sleep eight each, and one cabin that sleeps sixteen are available. On-site overnight lodging is available in environmental-friendly cabins. The two identical cabins are nestled beneath whispering pine trees and are located next to each other. They overlook our longleaf pine savannah restoration site. 

Raleigh Oaks RV Resort & Cottages

Stay at Raleigh Oaks Campground, a locally-owned RV oasis right off of I-95. It is a great stopping point on any east coast road trip with pull-in spots for all types of RVs as well as full cottage rentals. There are also 2 pools, a hot tub, a movie room, 3 dog parks, free wifi, a fitness center, 2 laundry facilities, and a putt-putt course.

Find more campground options in the area here.

The sunsets in autumn over the fields and historic buildings of Bentonville Battlefield


Day Two

Morning - Bentonville

Rise and shine soldier! It's time to head to the site of the largest Civil War Battlefield in the state of North Carolina and National Historic Landmark, Bentonville Battlefield, fought on March 19-21, 1865. Tour The Harper House (c. 1850's) which functioned as a Union Field Hospital during the battle. Drive tours allow stops at several Civil War Trail pull-offs, and walk the confederate cemetery and Union earthworks trails. The museum and visitor center offers displays and interprets many artifacts from the three-day battle. Gift shop onsite features t-shirts, extensive book collections, and other various battlefield items.

Lunch - Redneck BBQ Lab

Offering pulled pork, brisket, turkey, ribs and chicken. And true BBQ sides such as slow-cooked baked beans, green beans and collards like your mama used to make, jalapeno mac and cheese, and slaw. The Redneck BBQ Lab is owned and operated by members of the Redneck Scientific competition BBQ team. Also, guess what? You’re on the JoCo Red Hot Dog Trail… try the famous, regional red hotdogs while you’re here. They’re on the menu!

Afternoon - Rural Bike Routes

Johnston County has four NCDOT-adopted bike routes in the county for residents and visitors to enjoy. These routes span the four corners of the county and connect cyclists to several key visitor attractions as well as the Mountains to the Sea Trail. 

Insider tips!

If you're looking for a way to explore the entire county with purpose, check out our Geocaching trail! Enjoy the outdoors and find all 50 caches to receive a commemorative coin.

Check the county-wide event calendar managed by the Johnston County Visitors Bureau before you visit: https://www.johnstoncountync.org/events/.

Johnston County Visitors Bureau Logo, Smithfield, NC.OutdoorNC LogoLeave No Travel Black and Green Logo