"Nobody ever has a bad day around here," says Bald Head Island resident Brooks Powell. "I think it has something to do with the 18 mph speed limit. We don't just drive that slow. We speak, think, and live at 18 mph." A leisurely pace is awfully important on this island, a dot near the southern tip of North Carolina's coastline. You better leave your desires for an up-tempo weekend on the mainland, because your fastest mode of transportation is a golf cart. Besides, everyone here eliminated the word "hurry" from their vocabulary long ago.
Friday--Get on Island Time
The best way to hop to the island is by the ferry that leaves on the hour from the Indigo Plantation ferry landing in the small town of Southport. You'll need to make reservations at least three days in advance by calling (910) 457-5003.
Bald Head Island Limited offers several lodging options. Two-bedroom cottages start at $215 per night, villas start at $233, and three-bedroom houses start at $256. Of course, the size and location are the major rate factors. You may also check in to a room at Theodosia's Bed and Breakfast, one of only two bed-and-breakfasts on the island. Rates start at $225; 1-800-656-1812 or www.theodosias.com.
Included in the price of any Bald Head Island Limited rental accommodation is a temporary membership to the Bald Head Island Club and the Shoals Club and the use of a golf cart, the primary form of transportation on the island. For dinner, request an outdoor table at Eb and Flo's Steam Bar. While enjoying the sunset view of the harbor, dig in to the Cape Fear Steamer for two ($30), which includes shrimp, clams, oysters, mussels, and Alaskan crab legs with all the fixin's.
Saturday--Exploring the Island
If you stay at Theodosia's, awake to a full gourmet breakfast featuring fresh fruit, omelets, and eggs any way you like them. (The River Pilot Cafe, a casual spot adjacent to the Dockmaster Convenience Store, also serves breakfast daily.)
Take a short walk to Island Passage, a shop featuring sportswear and accessories. This is also the rental headquarters for canoes, kayaks, beach chairs, umbrellas, and bikes. Go ahead and rent a bicycle ($5 per hour, $20 per day), and enjoy one of the best ways to get around.
Ride over to the iconic structure Old Baldy (admission is $3). Built in 1817, it stands as the state's oldest lighthouse. Though no longer in use, you're welcome to ascend the more than 120 steps and squeeze into the lantern for a panoramic view of the island.
Pedal down to The Silver Peddler, adjacent to the Maritime Market. In addition to the wonderful collection of sterling silver jewelry, owner Jill Moeller offers home accessories such as pewter ware, lamps, and pillows.
While you are here, visit Maritime Passage (the boutique-style sister store to Island Passage), and browse the fine selection of men's, women's, and children's clothing.
Stock up for a picnic at Maritime Market, because you'll be spending the rest of the afternoon on East Beach. Of the island's 14 miles of beaches, we fell in love with this one. For starters, the shelling here is great, but most appealing is the sense of seclusion provided by the long stretches of dunes. Make reservations at Bald Head Island Club ( 457-7300) for dinner, and remember that the attire is "dressy resort wear" (no T-shirts, tank tops, jeans, or flip-flops). Begin with the miniature crab cakes ($8.95), and try the grilled catch of the day (market price) as an entrée. If you have room for dessert, finish with the individual Key lime pie ($5.25).
Sunday--A Lazy Last Day
Sleep in, or rise early for the casual, nondenominational service (8:30 and 10 a.m.) at the Village Chapel next door to Old Baldy. Grab lunch at The River Pilot Cafe, and try their Island Passage ($7.25)--a wrap made with grilled marinated portobello mushrooms, feta cheese, spinach, and artichoke hearts rolled in a tomato tortilla. Laze away the rest of the afternoon on the beach. Be warned, because your dreams of staying longer will surely become vivid. Alas, you have to catch the ferry, which leaves from the island every hour on the half hour (don't forget to make reservations). Our advice: Remain on island time for every second of the 20-minute ferry ride back to Southport. Once you step back on the mainland, the world moves a lot faster than 18 mph.
For More Information: Contact Bald Head Island Limited, P.O. Box 3069, Bald Head Island, NC 28461; 1-800-432-7368 or www.baldheadisland.com.
"Island Getaway" is from the September 2004 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.