Fun along the North Carolina coast. North Carolina's 300-mile coastline offers visitors charming maritime villages, fine seafood, championship golf courses, and plenty of room for hang-gliding (pictured above). Visitors of a historical bent will enjoy the Wright Brothers National Memorial at Kitty Hawk; the Elizabeth II, a representation of a 16th-century English ship; Fort Macon State Park; and the USS North Carolina Battleship, with its 70-minute dramatic presentation that recounts its role in World War II. Islands dotting the coastline offer swimming, sunning, shopping. For details, contact the Division of Travel and Tourism, 430 N. Salisbury St., Raleigh, North Carolina; phone: 800-VISIT NC.

Hiking by helicopter. For those outdoor enthusiasts who would love to see the summit, but never seem to hike all the way to the top, or for those who would just like to try something new, heli-hiking may be the answer. In British Columbia, hikers can be flown by helicopter above the tree line to spend the day; this eliminates the strain of carrying a heavy backpack. Tour packages cost $1,220 (Canadian) and include five days of guided heli-hiking, six nights' accommodations, and all meals. Tours are limited to 12 guests per week. For reservations contact Crescent Spur Helicopter Holidays Ltd., Crescent Spur, British Columbia, Canada, V0J 3E0, (604) 569-2730.

Senior discount cruises to Bermuda or Caribbean. Chandris Fantasy Cruises offers a 50 percent discount to people 65 and older traveling with two other full-fare passengers. A sample trip: The SS Amerikanis sails from New York to Bermuda on Sundays, Sept. 11 to Oct. 23, returning each Saturday; passengers can experience the British history of Bermuda during their two days ashore at St. George's. Another sample trip: a seven-day Caribbean tour package, including six islands and round trip air fare from the US, departing from San Juan, Puerto Rico, between Sept. 5 and Sept. 26. Regular fares start at $849, and the fare for a third senior traveler is $425. For details, contact Chandris Fantasy Cruises, 900 Third Ave., New York, NY 10022, or phone (800) 621-3446.

Drive in N.Y.C. with a `spoken' map. If you've tried to drive to Kennedy Airport, but somehow ended up in Connecticut, AudioMaps may be for you. Just pop a cassette in your car's tape deck and listen to the step-by-step directions. The tapes include 16 routes on 8 audio cassettes, costing $8 each. A route is explained in one direction on one side, and the reverse direction on the other. Since many visitors enter New York through Kennedy, several routes begin or end there. For details on AudioMaps, contact Jeffrey H. Epstein at JE Communications, PO Box 374, Valley Stream, NY 11582.

Music in Eastern Europe. A tour for opera lovers, ``Exotic Eastern Europe,'' departs from New York Sept. 23. The Metropolitan Opera Guild Tour, open to 25 members of the guild, will go to seven major Eastern European music centers. (Annual memberships begin at $40.) The 16-day itinerary features a sampling of opera sung in Polish, Czech, and Hungarian, as well as time for sightseeing and shopping. The all-inclusive land price is $5,775 per person, double occupancy, plus $946 round trip fare from New York. Contact Shirley Bakal, Director, Members Travel Program, Metropolitan Opera Guild, 1865 Broadway, New York, NY 10023, or phone (212) 582-7500.

Remedy for balking autos. According to the Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association, an auto engine's hesitation or surging could be caused by use of the wrong fuel. Vehicles from the late 1970s and early '80s are susceptible to problems when using oxygenated fuels such as ethanol or methanol rather than MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether). If the gas pump isn't clearly labeled, check with the attendant as to which fuel is best for your car.

Fort Worth - no longer just for cowboys. This city is loaded with fine arts museums, and they're free. The Kimbell Art Museum houses a number of Old Masters, plus pre-Columbian and Oriental art. American art and photography from the past 150 years are on display at the Amon Carter Museum. There's also the Modern Art Museum, as well as the Museum of Science and History, which has hands-on exhibits for all ages. On a less exalted note, there's the zoo, the Omni Theater, and Six Flags Amusement Park. To stay cool, try Wet 'n' Wild water park, Burger's Lake, and River Ridge Pavilion (paddleboat rentals). Contact Fort Worth CVB, 100 E. 15th St., Dept. SMPK, Fort Worth, TX 76102, or phone 800-433-5747.

Archaeological tours of Turkey. The late archaeologist Theresa Goell pioneered a major excavation in Nemrud Dagh; the temples and statues (a fragment is pictured below) she helped to uncover may be the most unforgettable sights in Turkey. Now her brother, Kermit Goell, is taking a group to the site. Other high points of the tour include sailing on the Bosporus; visits to cultural attractions; shopping in bazaars; and a reception at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara. The price of $1,735 per person (plus air fare) includes lodging, breakfast and dinner, and a contribution to the Theresa Goell Foundation. For details, write Pacha Tours at 20 East 49th St., New York, NY 10017, or phone (212) 355-5141 or 1-800-PACHA88.

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