Hammocks Beach State Park showcases some of the most beautiful coastal terrain that North Carolina has to offer. At the heart of this gorgeous landscape is Bear Island, a remote, non-inhabited beach that is accessible only by boat. Spend the day, or overnight in one of their primitive campsites.
We were curious as to where this interesting island got its name. Is it inhabited by a sleuth of bears? Hardly. We’re told hundreds of years ago it was called Barrier Island, which morphed into Bare, or Bear Island. We’re also told the occasional bear does find his way across, but it’s been a while.
Unfortunately, due to Hurricane Florence in September of 2018, some of the park’s facilities are currently closed. But that shouldn’t keep you from stopping by, learning about the area, and planning your next adventure – and here’s the good news – all facilities are due to open back up on July 4th of this year!
Read on to learn about some of the many ways that you can enjoy this pristine, back-to-basics destination, and what is – and is not- available prior to July 4th, 2019.
Board the Ferry for a Day at the Beach
For a small per-person fee you can take a brief ferry ride to Bear Island and spend the day. Bear Island is fairly wide, which accentuates the geological differences between the marsh-facing Western edge, and the ocean-facing eastern edge. If you’re a fan of remote beaches, this one is for you.
From the ferry dock, a roughly 2-mile hike down the beach will take you to Bear Inlet, the South-Western tip of the island and amazing ocean and tidal views. 1.5 miles in the other direction will take you by 11 of the 14 campsites, and eventually Bogue Inlet. Or just bring your towels and swim trunks and enjoy this remote Atlantic beach.
Lifeguards are present in the designated swimming areas in summer months.
Reminder – the ferry is not operational until July 4th of 2019.
Take the Ferry for an Overnight Camping Adventure
If you’re adventurous like we are, once you visit the unique Bear Island shores you’re going to want to spend a night or two. We didn’t get a chance to do this yet, but we’re really looking forward to it.
You don’t need to be a “remote backpacking” family like we are to take advantage of the islands campsites – that said, this is a little different than the car camping most families are accustomed to. You’ll need to lug your gear a minimum of a half-mile to the closest campsite.
The farthest site accessible by foot is more than a mile. So pack accordingly and don’t overdo it. If you do it right you can lug it in. But as the camp ranger confirmed, good old backpacks are your best bet.
Restrooms, showers, and potable water are available. Campfires and alcohol are prohibited.
Reminder – the ferry and other facilities on the island are not operational until July 4th of 2019.
Kayak to a Remote Campsite
For the REALLY adventurous among you take a kayak or canoe to one of three remote campsites on the northeast end of Bear Island. These campsites are special because they are not easily accessible by foot due to dense vegetation. Which also means the bathrooms and drinking water are not accessible to you. You’ll need to carry in all of the water you need.
This is probably a great time to mention that Hammocks Beach State Park is a great place for kayaking in general. You can paddle around multiple “trails”, or openings in the marsh to explore Bear, or the nearby Huggins Island.
It’s extremely important to pay attention to the tides in deciding when to cross over the intracoastal waterway to the access the multiple trails. If you’re fighting the tide in or out, “you’re gonna have a bad time”. Contact the Visitors Center at 910-326-4881 for precise planning.
The kayak launch and camping via boat is currently allowed prior to ferry opening, with the reminder the facilities on the island are closed. The trails markers are also hurting from the storm, so check with the rangers when you visit for any snafus to look out for.
Attend a special event
Hammocks Beach State Park offers super cool special events on occasion that deserve a bookmark. If you’re a little nervous about paddling the marsh on your own, why not take the Ranger Led Kayak Trip. (Kayak rentals are available at the visitors center) Or maybe hiking is more your speed? Reptile Hikes led by a ranger are also ongoing. Check here for up to date info on closed facilities and schedules.
Disclosure: Thank you to Onslow County for hosting us. Opinions here are all our own, as always!
After 18 years in software development, Lesli bailed on the corporate scene. When she’s not traveling, she’s hiking in the mountains or checking out Atlanta’s culinary scene, whiskey in hand.
Lesli has two kiddos -Cooper and Elliot- plus two bonus kids currently at UGA, and she’s happily married to her soul mate.