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Bald Head Island, NC (Dec. 2019) – The term “bucket list trip” calls up images of far-flung destinations like the Machu Pichu or the Great Wall of China. And while many travelers dream of adventuring far and wide in search of picture-perfect beaches and jaw dropping landscapes (for the perfect Instagram post), many of those same travelers also look for destinations closer to home that provide the atmosphere and experiences to rival international ones.
As 2019 draws to a close, and 2020 travel bucket lists are thoughtfully being compiled, travelers of all types should consider adding Bald Head Island—a ferry-accessed barrier island off the coast of North Carolina—to their lists. From a car-free environment to an abundance of opportunities to commune with wildlife to pristine beaches and maritime forests that are Insta-perfect, here are six reasons why Bald Head Island should make the list:
It’s Easy to Leave City Life Behind: Put the keys aside and leave the car at the ferry dock in quaint Southport, Bald Head Island’s closest mainland town. The 20-minute passenger ferry ride to the island (there is no bridge connecting it to the mainland) offers stunning views of the Cape Fear Coast and offers time to decompress and get on “island time.” Cars are not permitted on Bald Head Island, so once ashore, guests climb into electric golf carts or jump on bicycles to explore the natural beauty of the island.
Nature is Everywhere: At only a little over three miles long, and less than one mile wide in most areas, Bald Head Island is home to a staggering amount of wildlife in such a small area. Dozens of species of birds including Bald Eagles and Snowy Egrets, as well as foxes, dolphins, alligators and skinks (to name just a few) call the island home and can be spotted while exploring the 10,000 acres of protected marsh, tidal creek and ancient maritime forest. Visitors looking to get interactive with nature will want to explore the serpentine creek and marsh system in a kayak or, for the more daring, on a stand-up paddle board.
Experience the Magic of Sea Turtles Hatching: The star of the show when it comes to nature and wildlife are the loggerhead turtles. Each year from approximately June to September, hundreds of turtles emerge from the Atlantic Ocean to lay their nests and later, thousands of baby hatchlings make their way back down the beach to the same waters. 2019 saw a record-breaking 170 loggerhead nests resulting in 9,579 hatchlings. Visitors can take part in the Bald Head Island Conservancy’s Sea Turtle Protection Program by joining educators and naturalists as they patrol the beach for nesting turtles or watch over nests as they prepare to hatch.
Sightsee at Night: Bald Head Island may lack nightlife of the big city variety, but the island is anything but boring after dark. Minimal light pollution makes it an ideal locale for stargazing, and the Bald Head After Dark program explores the island with an island naturalist looking for nocturnal creatures by using radio telemetry and spotlight surveys to locate animals. Those guests who want to experience the thrill of casting their lines with only the moon as their guide can take part in the Night Surf Fishing programs.
Climb to the Top: 108 is the number of wooden stairs visitors have to climb to make it to the top of Old Baldy, the oldest lighthouse in North Carolina. Those that accomplish the climb are rewarded with breathtaking views of the island, Atlantic Ocean and Cape Fear Estuary. Since 1817, Old Baldy has marked the mouth of the Cape Fear River guiding ships through the river’s channels and sandbars, and while officially relieved of its lighthouse duties in 1935, it still continues to be the most iconic, and photographed, spot on the island. The grounds of Old Baldy also include Smith Island Museum which is housed in a replica of the 1850’s lighthouse keeper’s cottage and contains artifacts that shed light on the island’s rich maritime past.
Dip your Toes in the Atlantic Ocean: Beach days are the best days and with 14 miles of beach wrapping three sides of the island, Bald Head gives visitors plenty of options when choosing where to get some sun. South Beach features long stretches of white sand and calmer waters perfect for families, walkers and shell seekers alike, while East Beach, which faces the open Atlantic, is where the surfers and boogie boarders like to hang out.
Bald Head Island is a boat-accessed community located two miles off the coast of Southport, NC. Transportation on the island is restricted to golf carts, bicycles and pedestrian traffic. Of the island’s 12,000 acres, 10,000 acres of beaches, salt marsh and maritime forest are protected and will remain undeveloped. To learn more about the island, visit www.BaldHeadIsland.com.
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