Bald Head Island's beautiful beaches beg you to build sandcastles, stroll, take a swim or just unwind. With 14 miles of pristine beaches, you shouldn't have a problem finding your perfect spot. South Beach features long stretches of sand and calmer waters, perfect for walking and spending the day with the family. East Beach is ideal for boogie boarding and surfing. Can't-miss spots include Cape Fear Point, where Frying Pan Shoals extends 30 miles offshore, and the wide stretch of sand where West Beach meets South Beach, a great area for beachcombing.
Beach equipment rentals, including umbrellas, chairs and beach games like bocce, croquet and bean bag toss, are available through Riverside Adventure Company on a daily and weeklong basis. Beach & Baby Equipment Rental also offers beach rentals including bocce ball sets, beach carts, chairs and tents. Island Hardware rents chairs and umbrellas.
The island's gentle coastal terrain offers bicyclists an easy pedal, but with more than 15 miles of roadway to ride, more experienced cyclists can get their fill too. Bike rentals by the hour, day or week are available through two island outlets: Coastal Urge and Riverside Adventure Company.
Coastal Urge's beach cruisers come with a basket, perfect for toting your towel to the beach. Fitness bikes, tandem bikes, kids' bikes, trailers and baby joggers are also available. Stop by their shop along Maritime Way or have a bike delivered to your home. Coastal Urge is also a full-service bicycle shop, offering repairs and parts from a certified bike tech. Riverside Adventure Company, located just steps away from the ferry landing, rents single and multi-speed beach cruisers, tandem and adult trikes and children's bikes (with training wheels available if you need them), as well as bikes with baby seats and baby trailers. If you want something a little different, rent a Pedego electric bike from Riverside Adventure Company.
When you're touring the island on your bike, remember to pull over to the right side of the road to allow carts and trams to pass.
On Federal Road near the Maritime Market, the M. Kent Mitchell Nature Trail trail provides nearly 360° views of the marsh. Markers on the trail identify the flora. While you're on the trail, if you're still enough, a few of the bolder fiddler crabs may come out of their holes to investigate. Even if you're just passing through, look for them at the base of the marsh grass where you'll see more than one scurry into its hole.
The Bald Head Woods Maritime Forest Preserve offers several trailheads along either side of Federal Road. Trails range from easy to moderate and lead you through the woods, beneath an enchanting canopy of trees.
The Bald Head Island Conservancy offers several organized hikes and nature walks to give visitors a chance to learn about the importance of the maritime forest and explore it alongside an experienced naturalist. All of the Conservancy's hikes are family-friendly and are offered throughout the year. On the Bluff Island Hike, offered by the Sail Shop, you're guaranteed a day of adventure. Groups access Bluff Island via kayak or skiff, then spend time exploring the "wilds" of Bluff and Kim Islands. Be sure to bring your camera and binoculars as the views on Cape Creek are unparalleled.
KAYAK IN THE CAPE FEAR RIVER
The Cape Fear River on Bald Head Island is easily accessed by kayak and canoe and experienced naturalists and expert guides can show you the ropes. Even if you've never dipped a paddle in the water, you'll learn to love experiencing nature like this.
The Bald Head Island Conservancy offers guided kayak and canoe tours for individuals and small groups. These guided or unguided tours are perfect for any age or skill level and the Conservancy's expert naturalists can help identify all of the flora and fauna you see (and trust us, you'll see a lot). Sail Shop's fleet of kayaks and canoes fill the marsh on any given day. Their guides know their way through the creeks and can help beginner kayakers get started. Self-guided tours are also available.
Experience the thrill of sailing during your visit, whether you’re new to this sport or a seasoned sailor. The Sail Shop offers sailing experiences for any skill level. For kids, learning to sail on the creek in one of the Opti Prams will be a memory they’ll never forget. More experienced youth may want to try sailing on the river in one of the 420s, a larger, but still manageable, sailboat designed to help young sailors reach their next skill level. Two 26’J-80 Olympic-class sailboats, Jive and Joyride, are ideal for adult instruction from the basics up to certification through US Sailing.
For a more relaxed, introductory experience, try one of the Fun Sails aboard Jive or Joyride. An instructor will take you and up to four others for a two-hour tour of the Cape Fear River and along South Beach for views of the island seen by few other visitors. Memberships in the Bald Head Island Sailing Club are available on a temporary or annual basis, allowing experienced sailors to reserve boats for use during their stay.
TRY STANDUP PADDLEBOARDING (SUP)
SUP is a relatively new sport that’s gaining converts with every trip through the marsh. Paddlers use large boards resembling surfboards and a paddle to maneuver. There’s a learning curve to standing on the board and gaining balance, but it’s fairly quick to master, making this sport popular with all ages and degrees of experience with water sports.
Once you’re up and paddling there’s plenty to explore. Try Lighthouse Creek, an easy loop that puts you in the shadow of Old Baldy and gives you a chance to get your feet under you. For a longer paddle, follow Bald Head Creek to the boathouse that used to serve as a supply point and storage building for the lighthouses and U.S. Lifesaving Service Station on the island. When you have the feel for the sport and want more of a challenge, take your board out to West Beach, south of the marina entrance, to test your skill against some small, but fun, waves.
If you’re a fisherman, don’t feel left out; join the growing SUP fishing community with one of the specialized boards designed with fishing in mind. Casting a line and reeling in a fish are a challenge anyway, but on a paddleboard, they’re an adventure.
Coastal Urge is your headquarters for all things SUP on Bald Head Island – rentals, guided excursions and instructional sessions take place at The Board Room, located in the harbor. Paddleboards are available for daily or weekly rental and Coastal Urge will deliver them to your house and provide basic instructions there.
Coastal Urge’s kiteboarding lessons are ideal for those new to the sport. Start with a 90-minute lesson on land, where you learn flying techniques with a trainer kite, then graduate up to Level 1 lessons that will teach you to launch your board and get you on the water. Level 2 teaches board skills and riding techniques. Customized coaching is available for advanced riders. All lessons include rental of required equipment. For those who want to experience the thrill of kiteboarding on land, Coastal Urge also offers land traction kiting lessons. A traction kite can pull you across the sand and teach you the basics of large kite maneuvering. Traction kites are suitable for all ages.
GO FISHING Fishing on the island can take you from tuna fishing offshore to reeling in red drum in the creeks to bringing home a flounder hooked in the surf. From the shore, flounder, red drum, blue fish, mullet, pompano and more wait to be caught. On the creeks you'll find speckled trout, grey trout, flounder, red drum, blue fish and spots. Offshore fishing trips can put you on blue fish, grouper, mackerel, tuna and even some sailfish. A variety of outfitters and guides provide boats and gear and can pick you up in the harbor. Both the Bald Head Island Conservancy and the Sail Shop offer instruction, so if you're new to fishing or just want to know where to go, they can help put you on the fish.
Please note that a valid North Carolina fishing license is required for all persons over 16. Many charter boats carry blanket licenses that allow you to fish from the boat, but to fish on your own, you'll need to purchase a fishing license. Licenses are available online at www.ncwildlife.org
WALK WITH THE SEA TURTLES
Did you know that scores of loggerhead sea turtles return to Bald Head Island each summer to lay their eggs? The Bald Head Island Conservancy is dedicated to protecting these amazing creatures and their Turtle Walk program gives you the chance to experience them close up.
Turtle Walks start around the first week of June and run nightly through the first week of August. The Conservancy focuses on nesting mothers during this time, but switches to nest monitoring from mid-August through late September. Volunteer nest monitors – often Bald Head Island residents – watch nests 24 hours a day, seven days a week as they draw close to hatching. They’re watching for the nest to “boil,” where the sand above the eggs churns and moves as the turtle hatchlings dig their way out.
Seeing a nesting sea turtle or watching a nest boil and release a hundred turtle hatchlings are once-in-a-lifetime experiences, so be sure to become a member of the Conservancy and participate in a Turtle Walk during your stay on Bald Head Island.