Beach Biking: 3 Ways to Explore the North Carolina Coast

Seeing North Carolina’s coast on two wheels allows you to experience some of the state’s most scenic locations with all five senses. Flat terrain makes it easy for even novice cyclists to see our beaches by bike.

From the Outer Banks to the Brunswick Islands, you’ll find many pedaling pleasures here, so strap on a helmet and cruise some of these scenic byways.

Pamlico Sound Byway

Lake Mattamuskeet

Seasoned road warriors might want to attempt the entire 127-mile Pamlico Scenic Byway. Beginning on the Pamlico River waterfront in Washington, it travels through historic Bath, picturesque Belhaven, alongside the Swan Quarter National Wildlife Refuge, up the Pamlico Sound and ends at Mann’s Harbor.

Less ambitious riders might want to break it down into smaller, more manageable sections. A nice ride begins in Bath, North Carolina’s oldest incorporated town and former state capital. Bath was settled in 1690 by Virginians and French Protestants and incorporated in 1705. Blackbeard, the famous pirate, was one of the town’s early residents. A 15-mile ride northeast toward Belhaven takes you past some beautiful scenery and gives you a good look into this interesting part of the state.

You can also start in Swan Quarter and head east toward Lake Mattamuskeet, a 30,000-acre freshwater lake that’s the largest in the state. Cypress trees around the lake’s edges lend to the drama of this stunning body of water.

Outer Banks Scenic Byway

Bodie Island Lighthouse

The memorable Outer Banks Scenic Byway offers a 111-mile ride that’s easily broken down into shorter legs. The byway follows Highway 12 from Bodie Island to Hatteras. The ride takes you through many charming island towns, including Rodanthe and Hatteras.

A particularly stunning stretch along the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge offers an unparalleled look at an undeveloped barrier island. You’ll have the chance to glimpse more than 300 species of birds while you’re here, and the sound of the ocean crashing just a few hundred yards away is invigorating.

At the end of Hatteras, hop on the Ocracoke Island ferry and continue to follow Highway 12 to Ocracoke Inlet. From there, pick up the Cedar Island ferry and head south. The ride ends in Beaufort, a quaint historic village on the Crystal Coast.

On the way you’ll pass many landmarks, including four lighthouses: Bodie, Hatteras, Ocracoke and Diamond Shoals. If you’re lucky you may see Banker ponies, wild horses descended from those brought by early explorers.

Pleasure Island Bike Route

Carolina Beach Boardwalk

In the Wilmington area of southeastern North Carolina, the Pleasure Island bike route takes you along Carolina Beach to Fort Fisher, a historic site that was once a Confederate fort during the Civil War. The route passes by two regional beach access points, so if you’re in the mood for swim, simply pull over and take a dip.

Near the end of the line, the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area and North Carolina Aquarium provide plenty to see and do. At the aquarium, you’ll have the chance to meet an albino alligator named Luna, learn about sea turtles and even touch a live shark.

If you’re looking for more adventure, hop aboard the Fort Fisher ferry to Southport – this bike-friendly Brunswick Islands town has many historic sites, restaurants and antique shops as well as an adorable waterfront area.

Updated March 28, 2018
About the Author
Jason Frye

Jason Frye

Jason Frye is the author of Moon North Carolina, Moon Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip and Moon Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He lives and writes in Wilmington.

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