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Home > Blog > June 2017 > A Look into Bald Head Island History

A Look into Bald Head Island History

Posted on Thursday, June 1, 2017

Bald Head Island lighthouse

History may not be our favorite subject but learning the past stories about beloved destinations, landmarks, and traditions can be exciting. There’s more to Bald Head Island than beautiful scenery and pristine beaches. Digging into its history can make you fall even more in love with this charming place.

Bald Head Island, which is part of Smith Island, is a unique coastal island located in the mouth of Cape Fear River. It got its name from the dunes on South Beach becoming worn down to resemble a bald head. Before lighthouses, mariners navigated into the river looking for the “bald head”.

Old Baldy is North Carolina’s oldest standing lighthouse. It was first illuminated in 1817! Old Baldy marked the Cape Fear River entrance for maritime sailors. This historic landmark stands 110 feet high and after climbing 108 steps to the top, you get an awesome panoramic view of the island.  

Smith Museum is located near the base of the lighthouse and resembles a lighthouse keeper’s cottage. Here you will learn what life was like for the mid-1800s keepers as well as local facts and legends of Bald Head Island. The small museum also holds a gift shop and admission fees and proceeds are set aside for maintenance and long-term preservation work of Old Baldy.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, pirates ruled the waters off the coast of North Carolina and the Village of Bald Head Island was a favorite refuge and base for buccaneers. Pirates would stop here to replenish their provisions and bury their booty. Stede Bonnet and Edward Teach were infamous pirates that make it their hideout. Each summer in BHI, there’s a big pirate invasion where they take over to declare their loyalty to the island. This year’s invasion will be June 23-25 with a pirate camp, party, and ghost walk.  

When planning your Bald Head Island vacation, leave room in the itinerary for some sightseeing and a climb up Old Baldy. Stop by the Smith Museum and learn something new about the island’s history. After some learning fun, you can spend the rest of the day relaxing by the shore.