|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
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Hike with sea turtles, watch the dolphins play, and share the beach with ghost crabs.
Hammocks Beach State Park 1572 Hammocks Rd. Swansboro, NC 28584 910/326-4881
North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation Department of Environment, Health and Natural Resources Box 27687 Raleigh, NC 27611 919/733-PARK
Location: Contact park office for information.
Getting There: From the east side of Swansboro, turn south from State Hwy. 24 onto State Road 1511. Travel two miles to the parking lot and ferry landing. Purchase tickets (nominal fee) at the park office near the ferry landing. The passenger ferry takes you directly to the island and drops you off a half mile from the beach.
Seasonal Information: The island can be reached year-round by private boat (or kayak or canoe) or seasonal park passenger ferries. But be warned: Camping is restricted during the full moon phases of June, July, and August, loghead sea turtle egg-laying periods.
In summer (May through September), daytime temperatures typically range from 90 to 100 degrees F and nighttime temperatures are in the 70s. In the winter months of January and February, temperatures are generally in the mid-50s, with nighttime air dipping down into the 30s and often bringing frost. Spring and fall temperatures are a pleasant 65 to 75 degrees, reaching into the 50s at night. Fishing is particularly good in the fall.
Wildlife: Sit quietly and you may see gray fox and whitetail deer. Offshore, Atlantic bottlenose dolphins break the surface, and at times, so does the occasional whale. Keep your hat on because the skies are filled with laughing gulls as well as brown pelicans and several species of terns. In the tidal creeks, herons and egrets stand motionless, waiting for a passing fish.
But the most celebrated animals on the island are loggerhead sea turtles, a federally threatened species since 1981. The female turtles come ashore in summer to nest. The park then curtails nighttime beach activities and restricts camping during peak egg-laying periods. The park staff conducts night hikes during the summer for those who want to witness the nesting process.
Bobcats, raccoons, marsh rabbits can also be seen. Puppy drum, flounder, trout, and blue fish are good catches.
Insects: Bring along insect repellent for protection against mosquitoes and other insects.
Plant Life: The island is rich with distinctive vegetation. Sea oats, American beachgrass, and seaside goldenrod cover the dunes, while loblolly pine, red cedar, red maple, red bay and various oaks grow at the northeast end of the island in a maritime forest. The northwest is primarily marsh, dominated by cordgrass and needlerush.
Facilities: There are 14 family campsites, offered on a first-come, first-served basis. The fee is $5 per night with a maximum of six people per site. The fee for the three group campsites, which can be reserved in advance, is $1 a head, with a $5 minimum and a maximum of 12 people per site.
Water is available at the bathhouse mid-March through early December. An emergency phone is also located there.
Park ferries bring visitors on a 20-minute ride from Swansboro to the island. The ferries run on an hourly schedule (9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.) seven days a week in the season from Memorial Day to Labor Day. In April and October, the ferries run hourly on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. In May and September, the ferries pick up hourly service to include Wednesday and Thursday rides. Round-trip cost is $2 adults, $1 children. Arrive early in the day to avoid long delays.
When the ferry service is not in operation, Waterway Marina and Store, Inc. (919/393-8008) offers a shuttle service. Canoeists and kayakers have the option of following the ferry route or the marked canoe trail.
Parking: Contact park office for information.
Permits: Obtain camping permits at the park office on the mainland.
Leave No Trace:
Maps: Maps are available at the park office on the mainland. Maps include the "Canoe/Kayak Access Guide to Bear Island."
Other Trip Options: