BALD HEAD ISLAND — With the weekend comes many people look are beaches to kick back and relax. But those spots can fill up quick. For those looking to really get away from it all on their day off, there’s Bald Head Island.
The island, located two miles east of Southport, is bordered by the Cape Fear River to the west, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, making it only accessible via a 20-minute boat or ferry ride. Although the island does have roads, there are very few cars on Bald Head, with people either getting around by golf cart, bicycle or foot.
For the most part, the island is a nature preserve, with 10,000 of its 12,000 acres dedicated to the Bald Head Island State Wildlife Area. The island also features 14 miles of beaches, offering plenty of room for day trippers to explore or relax.
In addition to natural resources, the island boasts a rich history, including North Carolina’s oldest lighthouse, “Old Baldy,” as well as restaurants, golf courses, shopping and excursions.
With so much room to roam, Port City Daily has compiled a list of five things to do with your day off in Bald Head Island.
Old Baldy and the Smith Island Museum
North Carolina’s oldest standing lighthouse, “Old Baldy,” celebrated it’s 200th anniversary in 2017. Although the lighthouse has been defunct as a navigational aid since its replacement was built on Oak Island in the 1950s, the structure still stands tall, allowing visitors the opportunity to climb to the top of the 110-foot tower daily.
In 2000, the lighthouse received a new addition: the Smith Island Museum of History. The museum, constructed in a replica model of one of the original light keeper’s cottages, pays homage to Bald Head’s historical name of Smith Island.
The museum showcases what life was like for light keepers in the 1800s, as well as information about Fort Holmes, a Civil War era Confederate stronghold that once encompassed Old Baldy, and the islands “rich maritime history.”
The lighthouse and museum are open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are $6 for visitors 13 years and older, $3 for children 3-12 and free for children under 3. For more information, visit oldbaldy.org.
Bald Head Island Conservancy
Located at 700 Federal Rd. near the eastern tip of the island, the Bald Head Island Conservancy is a non-profit organization dedicated to the barrier islands conservation, education, and preservation.
The group offers daily activities for all ages, ranging from touch tanks and shark dissections to bird watching and island nature tours. If you’re lucky enough to visit in the spring, the Conservancy offers bald eagle tours that showcase the island’s breeding pair during their nesting season.
If birds aren’t quite your thing, the Conservancy also offers fishing classes, after dark tours, and stargazing and sea turtle nesting patrol ride along events each week in the summer.
For pricing, tour times and additional information, visit bhic.org.
Catch a trophy fish
Due to its location along the coast, Bald Head Island hosts ample opportunities to target a wide variety of trophy fish. The southern end of the legendary “Graveyard of the Atlantic” runs along the island’s shores, with the shifting sands of the Frying Pan Shoals offering shallow waters extending approximately 40 miles out.
In these offshore waters, anglers and spear fisherman alike can find species like grouper, mackerel, tuna and billfish.
According to the Bald Head Island official site, due to the islands “unique” triangle shape, there’s always an area protected from the wind for anglers to cast a line. The creeks, marshes and beaches offer chances to target table fare like flounder, red drum, bluefish, pompano and more.
Visitors can bring their own gear for a trip off the beach, or contact one of the areas charter captains to get them on the fish. For more information, visit the Bald Head Island Marina website at baldheadisland.com.
Hit the links at the Bald Head Island Club
Bald Head Island Club, originally designed by golf course architect George Cobb and recently renovated by architect Tim Cate, offers golfers the chance to play over a wide variety of obstacles, on a course recently ranked number two in the country for best renovations by Links Magazine.
The club manages to cover nearly type of terrain on the island, with the course “winding its way over dunes, around lagoons, along the ocean, and through a maritime forest,” according to the Bald Head Island website.
The course has a slope rating of 143, and a course rating of 73.7, giving serious players a challenge, and a fun game for “weekend warriors” from the front tees. The club also offers croquet, tennis, gym and aquatics facilities, as well as four restaurants ranging from pool side snacks to high end dining.
For more information, tee times, and additional information, visit bhiclub.net.
Take a hike, bike or kayak adventure around the island
With so much open space on Bald Head Island, it’s a simple undertaking to make your own adventure. The island boasts over 12,000 acres of wetlands, 14 miles of beachfront, 180 acres maritime forest, and miles of hiking trails.
The Kent Mitchell Nature Trail and the Bald Head Island Maritime Forest Preserve offer day trippers the chance to experience the entire area, as well as much of the island’s native flora and fauna, without breaking an arm and a leg.
With several different paths, the trails offers something for folks of any ability to explore. For those looking for an adventure, bring along your own bike or kayak, or rent one from one of the island’s numerous outfitters to get yourself into the thick of things.
On the backside of the island, the salt marsh goes on for several miles before giving way to the Cape Fear River, offering sightseers the chance to see much of the island’s native flora and wildlife, including alligators, birds, deer, and dolphins.
For trail maps and hiking information visit nccoastalreserve.net.
Get in touch with Reporter Cory Mannion: follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or send an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.