Sunday, May 25, 2014

Bear Island

One day at Cedar Point we decided to drive over to Hammocks Beach State Park (just a few miles away) and take the ferry over to Bear Island to spend the morning and afternoon. Originally, it was named "Bare Island" due to the forest fire that had consumed the maritime forests there. But eventually it was renamed "Bear Island" to correspond with the nearby Bear Creek. There are no bears on the island and, other than a passing animal swimming over temporarily, there never has been.

One curious aspect of the island is that it was once owned by a wealthy surgeon who ended up deeding it to an African-American teachers union. At some point that union tried to develop the island as a resort but were unable to fund a bridge there. Instead, they signed it over to the State of NC as a minority state park (this was in the days of segregation) and it served a few years in that capacity before the Civil Rights Act went into effect and such things faded into history.

Today it's an unusual state park. The only access is by boat and the Hammocks Beach State Park provides a ferry service hourly to and from the island. Bear Island is pretty much pristine wilderness and is roughly five miles in length and a tad over half a mile in width. From the dock one has a half-mile hike to the beach over paved trail and boardwalk. On the beach the Park Service has a very nice series of bathhouses and one concession stand that is open during the summer months only. There are campsites on the island for overnight stays, and hot shower facilities for use by the campers.

We had a good time while we were there. In what would be a taste of things to come for the entire vacation, I saw almost no wildlife at all. Bear Island is supposed to be home to a number of species of wildlife but I saw none of them...only a few sandpipers. But the beach was vast and uncrowded and we did find much peace and quiet there.

The rear of the visitors center on the mainland portion of Hammocks Beach State Park. This is a nice, modern, state of the art facility. But the mainland bit of the park is just a jumping off point to the islands that make up the best portions.

Aboard the ferry, getting ready to head out.

We arrive at the Bear Island dock after a fifteen-minute ride.

The trail across the island to the beach.

One reason it was called "Bare" Island. The forest burned off some time in the past and on much of the island it has still not recovered.

At the beach there are extremely nice facilities for picnicking, showering, toilets, and even a concession stand that is open during the summer.

Solitude on the beach.

So much room to spread out that it was not crowded, at all.

One sign of a pristine barrier island are the large dunes.

Looking down the five-mile beachfront from our personal spot.

The interior of the island.

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