Camping Adventures on the Crystal Coast
Posted On Tuesday, November 04, 2014
When the seasons start to change and the weather gets cooler, new adventures are just waiting to happen! With the beautiful fall colors just reaching the height of their glory, and the fall weather taking the edge off the humidity, autumn is the perfect time to get into nature! Adventures for the whole family await in the great outdoors, and so we have highlighted two of our favorite camping spots which take full advantage of this wonderful time of year!
Hammock’s Beach State Park
This area is comprised of a few islands, the main attraction being Bear Island. Bear Island has a rich history that involves Native American wars, pirate hideouts, Civil War battles, a neurosurgeon from New York, and the Civil Rights Movement.
Early Native Americans used Bear Island to journey between the various small islands along the coast, and then later as a hideout during the Tuscarora War against colonists in 1711 and 1713. Later, pirates (including the notorious Blackbeard) were known to use these islands as a safe spot to repair their ships while also keeping an eye out for merchant vessels to attack. Bear Island continued to be ideal as a strategic position in both the Civil War and World War II. During the Civil War, Bear Island kept troops that helped to defend against Union soldiers in Bogue Banks. In World War II, Bear Island was a key area to lookout for German U-boats. In the early 1900s, neurosurgeon Dr. William Sharpe from New York
visited Bear Island for a hunting trip and fell in love with its pristine beaches and glorious views. He purchased it for his retirement and in his will left it for an organized group of African American teachers called the North Carolina Teacher’s Association. After it came under their stewardship, they in turn donated the land to the state of North Carolina to be used initially as a park specifically for minorities, but it was eventually opened to everyone after the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Today, this beautiful area is maintained by North Carolina State Parks. It is home to many kinds of wildlife including loggerhead turtles, deer, gulls, and a few mischievous raccoon.
Bear Island in Hammock’s Beach State Park is opened year round for camping. It is considered to be "primitive camping,” so make sure you bring all of your own equipment and gear. It is recommended that you pack lightly however, because there is a short hike to the campgrounds. Certain facilities are available during certain times of the year. Fees are minimal and more information about reservations and rules of the campground can be found on their official website.
Once there, campers are treated to unspoiled pristine beaches highlighted by the warm sun glistening off the water. Activities such as kayaking, swimming, shelling, picnicking, and fishing simply cannot be missed. Bird and animal watching are easy to do in this natural environment free from crowding and pollution. Then, after a fun, adventured filled day all that is left is relaxing on the beach as the beautiful sunset tips under the water. Looking at the stars as you settle in for the night provides the perfect opportunity for storytelling and some of the most relaxing zzzs you’ll ever get. Camping at Bear Island is the perfect way to spend these cool autumn days.
Cape Lookout National Seashore-
Cape Lookout and Shackleford Banks
Preserving a 56 mi long stretch of coast from Ocracoke to Beaufort, Cape Lookout National Seashore is home to three beautiful barrier islands: North Core Banks, South Core Banks, and Shackleford Banks. It is also home to the fully functional Cape Lookout Lighthouse.
Shackleford Banks, most famously known for the Shackleford ponies is only a nine mile long stretch of beach accessible by ferry. Named for their small stature, these ponies are believed to be the descendants of horses brought there by Sir Walter Raleigh and possibly from Christopher Columbus’s early trading ambitions in the "Indies.” Protected by the Shackleford Banks Wild Horse Protection Act (put into effect in 1998) and the National Park Service, the Shackleford Ponies roam freely and visitors can view these wonderful, wild creatures throughout the island.
Cape Lookout Lighthouse is also a must-see, must-visit location on the Cape Lookout National Seashore. Actually the second lighthouse to inhabit the area, its black and white diamonds stand as a
beacon for everyone in the area and a warning for sailors approaching the shoals. Open for climbing May through September, the lighthouse’s history dates back to 1859. Costing a hefty price of the time at $45,000, Cape Lookout Lighthouse sported a new lens called Fresnel lens which was clearer and brighter than others during the time. It was later removed during the Civil War leaving Union soldiers incapable for a time to navigate the area, until they captured and replaced the lens in 1864. History continues to tell of a Confederate who blew up part of the lighthouse in an attempt to sabotage the Union forces, and the light was put out again. It was finally put back into working order and the temporary wooden stairs after the explosion were replaced with iron in 1867. Since that time, the lighthouse has been restored and is now open to visitors. Maintained by the National Park Service, visitors are welcome to climb the 207 steps to the breathtaking view above.
Much more history surrounds this area including the extinct Diamond and Portsmouth Cities, museums, and visitor’s centers.
This camping adventure is sure to be a memorable one! There are no designated campgrounds, but more information about where to camp can be found on their website. This is also considered primitive camping, so be ready for adventuring, and light packing! Certain facilities are opened seasonally.
Campers can expect to have plenty of family fun and memories that they will keep forever. Swimming, shelling, bird watching, fishing, kayaking and canoeing, and even hunting (in specified areas) are just a few of the amazing activities one can do on the National Seashore. Guides are available for those searching for the Shackleford ponies, and tours are available for Lighthouse visits. Campers are sure to have plenty of things to do during the day and a peaceful area to spend the night. Like with any primitive camping, families are sure to find a bond with nature they didn't know they had and enjoy all the beauty of these pristine beaches during our gorgeous fall weather.
These are just two of the many, many camping adventures that families can enjoy during their time on the Crystal Coast. And to finish of your wonderful vacation, be sure to return to the equally beautiful Emerald Isle for some Sun-Surf fun!