Biking Along The NC Coast
Seeing North Carolina’s Coast on two wheels gives you a front-row seat for the state’s natural scenic beauty. Flat terrain makes it easy to experience our beaches and sounds by bicycle. From the northern Outer Banks to the southern Brunswick Isles, you’ll find many peddling pleasures, so put on your helmet and coast down some of these scenic byways.
Rugged road warriors may want to attempt the entire 127-mile Pamlico Scenic Byway. It begins on the Pamlico River waterfront in Washington, North Carolina, travels through historic Bath, picturesque Belhaven, alongside the Swan Quarter National Wildlife Refuge and up the Pamlico Sound, ending at Mann’s Harbor.
Less robust riders may want to break it down into manageable chunks. A nice ride begins in historic Bath, North Carolina’s oldest incorporated town. Bath was settled by Virginians and French Protestants in 1690 and incorporated in 1705. Royal Governor Charles Eden made it the capital of North Carolina. Blackbeard the Pirate was also an early resident.
Travel about five miles on Highway 92 from Bath toward Belhaven. At the intersection of Highway 306, the road changes to Highway 99. Follow Highway 99 about seven miles to the bridge at Pungo Creek. It’s only three and a half miles to Pantego Creek and the Belhaven town limits from here.
Or, out of Swan Quarter you can take US Highway 264 and follow the southern shore of beautiful Lake Mattamuskeet, a 30,000-acre freshwater lake discovered by Europeans in 1585.
A lasting favorite is the Outer Banks Scenic Byway. This 111-mile ride is easily broken down into shorter legs. It follows Highway 12 down Bodie Island (pronounced “body” island), and onto Hatteras Island. You’ll pass through the towns of Rodanthe, Waves and Salvo, as well as Buxton, Frisco and Hatteras.
At the end of the island, hop the ferry to Ocracoke Island, coast on down Highway 12 to Ocracoke Inlet and pick up the ferry to Cedar Island. Heading south, Highway 12 turns into Highway 70, and your ride ends at Beaufort, an interesting, historic village settled around 1715. Besides the fact that you’ll have the sound on one side of you and the sea on the other, there are a lot of other interesting sites on this route.
You’ll pass Bodie Island Lighthouse, the famous candy-striped Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Ocracoke Lighthouse and diamond-patterned Cape Lookout Lighthouse. You’ll peddle through Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, where hundreds of species of birds reside. You might see the Banker ponies, wild horses descended from those brought by early explorers. One herd lives on Ocracoke Island, another on the barrier islands near Beaufort.
From horses and lighthouses, head south for a ride in the Wilmington area. Take the Pleasure Island bike route, which goes about seven miles from Carolina Beach to Fort Fisher. Start in Carolina Beach on Highway 421 and follow the marked bike lanes south.
Along the way, you’ll pass two regional beach access points. So, if you get hot, take a quick dip before riding on.
Near the end of the line is the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, with the Aquarium and ferry. If you have the time, board the ferry and float over to Southport to tour this quaint town with its historic sites, restaurants and antique shops. It’s a bicycle-friendly town.
Next time you’re ready to roll, hop on your bike and hit the road on North Carolina’s Coast.
For more information:
Scenic Byway Maps:
added: June 29, 2009
updated: June 30, 2009