Guide to Sea Kayaking in North Carolina
by Pam Malec (The Globe Pequot Press)
© Pam Malec/The Globe Pequot Press. All Rights Reserved.
I wish I could say I enjoyed this trail, but we made the mistake of not looking up the tide schedule for the day. We happened to put in on a very windy day and at low tide. After paddling less than .25 miles we hit large sand bars because the water level was low. After turning around and taking the ferry across we learned the tide fluctuation here is rather large, and when the tide is out the trail is not passable unless you want to drag your kayak over the sand bars while walking. Had we not been meeting friends on Bear Island who had taken an earlier ferry would would have not felt so rushed. We do want to go back and do the trail while the tide is high and passable, though, so maybe it'll get a better review then. Before you take the trip out, though, make SURE you call the ranger office for tide times.
The paddle from the mainland of Hammocks Beach State Park to Bear Island is fairly easy and protected. The hard part is finding the park. The road sign to the park is rather small and direcly across with from the turn. You must look carefully, and turn around when you miss it. As for the paddling, there is a boat launch with a small sand beach that is great for loading and launching. All paddlers should check in the Ranger Station, check out the exhibits while you are there. Camping is allowed on the island in designated campsite, make sure you get a permit. The paddling trail is well marked by brown posts with white tops. The first part can be a little confusing, just launch your boat paddle, around the left end of the little island in front of you, then head straight - away from the mainland. You will need to navigate around some oysters. Each trail marker can be seen from the one before it, but you might have to be right next the markers to see the others. 90% of the paddle is through an estuary. The last section takes you around the north end of Bear Island and to the edge of the inlet. The area is protected by shoals and sandbars. When you are paddling around the north end look to your right and you will see a small tidal creek. The creek opens into a great little pond with a protected beach. This is a state park you will want to follow all of the rules because the rangers are very active.
I first did this trip shortly after my wife and I started sea kayaing. The trip was easy and allowed us to employ newly acquired skills in both protected water and in open water. The park is great and uncrowded. We have returned several times and truly enjoy the beauty, nature and the ecosystem of the South Core Banks. I highly recommend this paddle for beginers looking at applying recently acquired skills to advanced paddlers that can take advantage of the open water aspects of this trip.
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