5 Reasons to Visit Bald Head Island, North Carolina

Board the ferry, ditch your car, and head outside.

Bald Head Island, North Carolina
Photo: Getty Images

Located off the coast of North Carolina, this overgrown, nature-loving island is rich in opportunities for adventure. For one, it's the home of the state's oldest standing lighthouse, Old Baldy. Its nature is also something of preserved wonder. It's the northernmost subtropical island on the East Coast and 10,000 of its 12,000 acres are protected as preserves, and there are endless stretches of sandy beaches and palm-filled forests. Getting there and getting around will require a little planning, but once you've arrived you'll see why it's such a treasured secret. Here are five reasons why you should visit this quiet hideaway:

1. There Are No Honking Cars or Traffic Jams

Cars aren't allowed on the island, so it's actually possible to get some real peace and quiet. (Aside from the hum of cicadas of course.) Because of this, visitors must travel there by ferry or private boat and then travel around on a golf cart or bicycle. (Don't worry, it's mostly flat!) Cary Cart Co. has some spiffy rides available for rent so you can still cruise in style.

The Nitty-Gritty: A ferry departs from Deep Point Marina in Southport, NC, every hour (on the hour!) that will deliver you and your luggage to Bald Head Island Marina where you can catch a tram to your house (reserve online), or pick up some golf carts for the day from Cary Cart Company (reservations recommended). For the athletically inclined, Riverside Adventure Company is located next door and rents out bikes by the hour or day. If you are flying to Bald Head, taxi from the airport to Deep Point Marina.

2. Forest or Sea? Choose Your Own Adventure

Accommodations are primarily rental homes available through local companies like Bald Head Island Limited or Tiffany's Rentals, VRBO, or Air BnB. Stay along one of the island's three beaches—East, South, and West, or in the lush "Maritime Forest," not far from the sand. To experience the heart of the harbor, check into the Marsh Harbour Inn and wake up to views of sailboats and the salt marsh. If you're staying on the island, rental properties typically include golf carts and bikes for your use and guest access to either The Shoals Club or The Bald Head Island Club, which offer additional dining options, pools, and golf.

3. Reconnect (or Connect) With Nature

If adventure is calling your name, rent kayaks, surfboards, and paddleboards at the East Bay Surf Shop. To learn a little more about the island's natural environment, head to the Bald Head Island Conservancy, where you can sign up for a guided nature outing or ride along for a sea turtle patrol. Hike through the Bald Head Woods Maritime Forest Preserve by entering any of the trailheads along Federal Road. There's also golf available through the Bald Head Island Club, and check out baldheadisland.com/events for other great activities. Or simply kick it on the beach by entering at any of the many public access points that run along the 14 miles of the coast.

4. It's Full of History

Travel back in time with a tour of the island's lighthouse and unofficial mascot, Old Baldy. (Take the 108 stairs all the way to the top for unparalleled views.) Built in 1817, it's the oldest standing lighthouse in the state.

5. They Have Exactly What You Need—and Nothing Else

AKA no giant beach-souvenir-supply shops every other block or chain restaurants. For breakfast treats and the best iced coffee on the island, head to Sandpiper Café (conveniently right next to the ferry), which also serves up hearty scoops of local ice cream. For lunch or dinner, slip next door to Delphina Cantina—a casual spot with Latin-inspired dishes where you can watch the waves roll in with a shrimp taco (and margarita!) in hand. Stock up on beach gear at Island Hardware, where they sell not only tools, housewares, and garden supplies, but also the best selection of beach toys and chairs (910-454-0810). For a little retail therapy pop into Monkee's or Bald Head Blues, both of which stay stocked with preppy island must-haves.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles