What we love…Hammocks Beach State Park
Why we love it…
Situated in the fantastic coastal town of Swansboro, North Carolina, Hammocks Beach State Park is a state park built for paddlers. That’s right, I said built for paddlers. This hidden gem of the coast consists of an area on the mainland, and 4 different islands, and 3 different marked paddling trails.
The largest island, Bear Island, is the ideal paddling destination. The 2.5 mile trail out to Bear Island winds through the peaceful salt marshes behind the island, making you feel like you are in the miles away from the city noise. As you make your way out to this true barrier island, you are surrounded by marsh plants and animals. You may see a Great Egret hunting for fish in the tidal creek, dolphins playing in the trail, or even a sea turtle head or two pop up if it’s the right time of year. The trail leads into a lagoon behind the beach, giving access to “boat-in only” campsites. Follow the lagoon to its end, and you can take a quick hike over the sand dunes to the beach side of the island. Take the day and explore the 4 miles of untouched beach, or stop for a quick lunch before you head back. Either way, you won’t be disappointed.
Huggins Island boasts the longest paddling trail in the park, at 6 miles round-trip. This trail circumnavigates the maritime swamp forest, and is a great loop if you are looking for an all-day adventure. See songbirds, bald eagles, rays and Civil War battlements along the marsh trail surrounding the 225-acre island. While there are no sandy beaches on this island, its dense maritime forest is listed as a Globally Rare and Significant Area. This is a great trip for paddlers looking for a longer adventure!
Already paddled the Bear Island trail? Is Huggins Island old news to you? The state park, along with an Eagle Scout candidate, has just finished a NEW trail that goes all the way to Bear Inlet! This trail is about 5.3 miles long, and runs parallel to Bear Island, through the marshes. This trail has a little something for everyone, but may prove challenging to beginner paddlers in some sections, depending on the weather and wind. This trail ends at the end of the island, and you may have it all to yourself, as it’s a 2 mile walk from the bathhouse. In the summer, watch for nesting piping plovers and other shorebirds, as well as their little ones in their sand “nests”, look for sea turtle nests and crawls, and enjoy the sun and sand that makes eastern NC so beautiful.
Know before you go…
Make sure that you check your tides before you leave in the morning! You want to be sure that you will have enough water to get through some of the more sanded- in places on all the trails. I have had to walk my boat a few times, and it’s not as enjoyable as I make it sound.
Check your weather and wind. North Carolina is notorious for having weather tantrums, going from max heat in your car in the morning to max a/c in the afternoon, and wind that changes direction halfway through the day. The more you know, the happier you’ll be!
Hammocks Beach State Park is a trash-free zone. That means that the only trash cans are on the mainland. If you bring it with you, prepare to pack it out. We encourage you to leave places cleaner than they were when you got there, and leave no trace.
Stay tuned for blogs on how to make this into a longer trip, and paddling the White Oak River!
Visit Paddle NC inside of Hammocks Beach State Park. Whether you need a boat to make the day an adventure, or you just have some questions about the paddling (or the meaning of life, etc.), feel free to stop by and see us. We’d love to help you out!