A Coastal Camping Experience
Some of North Carolina’s most undeveloped places are along our coast, and the dunes on these barrier islands are perfect for pitching tents and stargazing at the Milky Way.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore along the northern Outer Banks stretches 70 miles across barrier islands and offers you more than 30,000 acres in which to enjoy the pristine maritime environment. Four campgrounds are in the park at Oregon Inlet, Cape Point, Frisco and Ocracoke Island.
Blackbeard the Pirate once roamed these shores, like the hundreds of species of birds that still do. Modern day pirates come here to surf, kayak, fish and hang glide, while others lose themselves on deserted beaches that stretch for miles in a treacherous, shipwreck prone area known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic.
Ocracoke is a favorite spot because of its 14 miles of undeveloped beach, quaint village, lighthouse and maritime forests. Ferry or air is the only way to reach the island. South of Ocracoke Inlet is an even less developed area, a 56-mile stretch on three barrier islands known as the Cape Lookout National Seashore. If primitive is your style, then these islands are for you. Campers even have to bring their drinking water with them. The only way to reach the islands is by boat or ferry. But the beauty of the place is its remoteness.
Picture pitching your tent on the beach, building an evening fire and watching the rhythmic sweep of the light from Cape Lookout Lighthouse. Then, after a restful night, it’s off to tackle the outdoors. Shell Point off Harker’s Island is a paradise for the experienced windsurfer. Nature lovers will want to visit the wild ponies that roam along Shackleford Banks. History lovers will want to see historic Portsmouth Village, once a bustling port that became a ghost town after the Civil War. It has new life today as an historic district on the National Register of Historic Places.
Anglers may want to set up camp on Bear Island in Hammock’s Beach State Park near Swansboro. Open dunes awash with sea oats await the camper to Bear Island. Just across Bogue Inlet is Huggins Island, covered with a dark, dense maritime forest. Marshy and forested Huggins Island, the site of a Confederate cannon emplacement during the Civil War, is listed as a Globally Rare and Significant Area. Hundreds of years ago this was a hunting and fishing haven for Native American tribes. Puppy drum, flounder, trout and blue fish bite now just as they did in centuries past. Fall is a particularly good time to drown a worm.
Campers who think “primitive” is camping without a color TV may find Pleasure Island to their liking. Carolina Beach State Park, just outside of Wilmington, sits astride the 761-acre triangular island. Besides RV and group campsites, the park features a marina with two launch ramps and 40 boat slips. Spot and flounder await both the boating and the shore-bound angler. Miles of trails take the adventurer through many distinct habitats, including one that is home to the carnivorous plants like the sundew, pitcher plant and Venus flytrap. Environmental education and planned events are held at the Visitor Center.
So, the next time you need to relax, coast on down to one of North Carolina’s many seaside campsites.
added: December 28, 2008
updated: February 22, 2012