Our family was thrilled to spend an afternoon with Marsh Cruises during our recent visit to Swansboro NC. Marsh offers a variety of affordable options to take you and your friends/family on a guided tour like none other around the beautiful coastal waters of Swansboro and the Emerald Isles. We opted for the Eco Adventure & Shelling tour which is fantastic for kids. Read on to learn more about what this exciting company has to offer and be sure to check out our video below.
The Boat and It’s Captain
The boat is a 23-foot Bayrider Skiff that will accommodate six people plus the captain. This boat is perfect for the marsh and tidal waters in the area due to its flat hull, allowing you to reach locations normally inaccessible by other power boats (and other tours). We wouldn’t have been able to get as close to all of the areas mentioned below without this boat and its skilled captain.
Our captain, owner/operator Darryl Marsh, appeared to be doing what he was born to do. Let’s face it, spending three to four hours in a small boat with a captain devoid of personality, or worse, could really take away from the experience.
Darryl, on the other hand, is a warm, friendly and interesting guy who really knows his stuff. He was a pleasure to be around, but also gave us plenty of non-rushed family time at the different destinations. Coastal conditions vary, but rest assured Darryl will do his best to get you to those optimal locations.
A Sandbar with Hidden Treasure
Our first stop was at a sandbar not too far from where we embarked in Swansboro. I’ve been to a few sandbars before, but I’ve never seen anything quite like this. Most sort of gradually peak above the water at low tide, with the depth gradually getting shallower as you approach.
This one was surrounded by a 5-6 foot almost vertical sea wall of sand beneath the water. It looked like an underwater plateau, and it was fascinating, at least to this Jersey boy. What a great geological lesson for all of us about strong tides!
The sandbar itself must have been at least five or six acres, varying between zero and 12 inch-deep water. The real draw for the kiddos was the thousands of sand dollars that covered the exposed areas. They weren’t just sitting on top, that would have been too easy. Usually just a small sliver was visible above the sand, and our boys relished the thrill of the hunt.
Tours may vary based on conditions and the tide, so check with Marsh Cruises ahead of time on what’s available.
The Ocean Like You’ve Never Seen It Before
Next we took off towards Bear Island, and got to view the whole length of it from the marsh side. The tide was low, and this part of the voyage would have never been possible without Darryl’s trusty skiff. The kids held on tight with big smiles on their faces as we twisted through the narrow marsh trails at a pretty good clip.
We wound up just short of Bear Inlet where the river meets the ocean and the hunt was again on! This time the big draw was Whelk shells of all sizes. The beauty of this beach lies in the contrast between the mostly calm inland waters and the relentless surge of the ocean.
Bear Inlet is extremely wide, making for a dramatic view of the churning incoming or outgoing tide adjacent to a seemingly endless beach. It was gorgeous and all in all unforgettable. By the way, to get to this same location by foot would require a 4+ mile round trip hike from the Bear Island Ferry.
Our last stop was highly anticipated by our boys throughout the day. We were about to hunt some shark teeth. Cpt Darryl took us to a small beach right next to the inland waterway.
Why is this important?
We’re told it’s the frequent dredging and large ships that pass through, churning up sea bottom that hasn’t been exposed in millions of years. And with this comes hundreds of thousands of ancient shark teeth.
It’s takes a keen eye, but look hard enough and you’re bound to find a handful by the end of the trip.
Ironically, Easter Sunday was one day after our tour. We’ll take shell and teeth hunting with Marsh Cruises over Easter eggs any time.
Marsh Cruises offers a number of other options, from a sunset tour, to photography centered excursions, and have even been known to show the ropes to other boaters new to the area. If you don’t see something on the website that you like, give them a call – they also offer customized adventures.
Disclosure: Thank you to Onslow County for hosting us. Opinions here are all our own, as always!
Leaving the corporate world behind (a bizarre domain where a 25 year resident can still feel like a foreigner) Daniel set his sites on full-time travel writing and digital marketing. His plans include building an amazing business or three, maximizing time with his partner for life Lesli and four spectacular kiddos, and writing and delivering dad jokes.