The distinctive nature of Bald Head Island begins with its fortunate position on the globe. Bald Head Island is the southernmost of North Carolina’s cape islands, marked by the legendary Cape Fear, and the northernmost semitropical environment on the east coast. Located just two nautical miles off the coast, Bald Head Island is not connected to the mainland by a bridge. Instead, access to the island is by passenger ferry or private boat.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of Bald Head Island is that there are no cars allowed. Visitors and residents travel by electric cart, bicycles or their own two feet. In addition to reducing the island’s carbon footprint, this lack of cars allows visitors to slow down and appreciate the sights and sounds of life by the shore.
With 10,000 of Bald Head Island’s 12,000 total acres set aside as nature preserves, choosing which environment to explore first can be a tough decision. Ocean beaches stretch for 14 miles, while tidal creeks, perfect for paddling a kayak or canoe, traverse the salt marsh. The maritime forest, with its miles of walking trails, beckons hikers with an enchanting mix of palms, live oaks and dogwoods.
Efforts to understand, monitor and protect the island are led by the nonprofit Bald Head Island Conservancy. Internationally known for its work in studying the Loggerhead sea turtles that nest on the island’s shore each summer, the Conservancy also offers educational programs for families interested in learning more about barrier island ecology.
Visitors to Bald Head Island say that what makes it such a special place is not what has been done but what has been left undone. On Bald Head Island, families find the perfect environment in which to reconnect with nature, as well as with one another. In short, in a society where manufactured, overly-commercialized experiences have become the standard for family vacations, a trip to Bald Head Island is quite literally a breath of fresh air.
While nature certainly takes top billing here, several clubs add another recreational dimension to the island experience. The Bald Head Island Club golf course has earned top accolades from Golf Digest and Travel & Leisure Golf for quality of play and environmental sensitivity. Along with golf, the club offers tennis, swimming, croquet and excellent fine and casual dining.
The island’s family-friendly Shoals Club overlooks the magnificent point of Cape Fear. Complementing the club’s dramatic views are fine and casual dining, swimming pools, locker rooms, and a host of recreational programs for all ages and interests.
Overlooking the quaint harbour stands Old Baldy, North Carolina’s oldest lighthouse. Commissioned by Thomas Jefferson in 1817, the lighthouse still stands today and is open to visitors who wish to climb the 108 steps to the top and take in a panoramic, 360-degree view of the island.
A 10-acre marina rounds out the island’s recreational amenities, accommodating vessels up to 100 feet. Residences here range from cozy to spacious, quaint to grand, but all incorporate deep porches, long roof overhangs and traditional wood materials that have marked beach homes in this part of the world for centuries.
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