By Guest Blogger Janet Fulp
As soon as the school year ends, my family starts to count down the weeks until we head to Bald Head Island. We have been coming to Bald Head since my younger son was a baby, so all three of my kids have grown up spending time and making memories on the island. With few exceptions, we come every summer and Thanksgiving. Bald Head is a unique island – for example, cars are not allowed on the island – so vacations spent here are unlike any others.
We start each trip by unloading everything for the Bald Head Island Ferry – all “checked baggage” must be labeled and sealed – open bags, laptops, etc. should be carried on. Think airport check-in on summer vacay- beach chairs are okay as long as they have a tag with your contact info and island address, cases of alcohol should have the same info but we just write it on the case with a sharpie.
The Maritime Market is on the island and has anything you would ever want, just not a wide variety of brands. We bring a lot of our staples in a cooler and pantry items packed in a plastic tote. Then we fill in with daily trips to the market to grab extras, the newspaper, and candy (which my kids think is a must for every trip after going with their granddad so often!) After dropping off the luggage and supplies, my husband parks the car while I buy the ferry tickets. In the summer, it will always be busy! But they run the ferry every half hour and we usually don’t have to wait very long. Once you arrive at the ferry dock, you shouldn’t be in a rush, you are on island time now.
When we arrive on the island, we check in with the tram service. Since our car is back at the mainland, our family and all of our belongings are loaded onto a tram and transferred to our island home and the golf carts and bikes that we will use for transportation. Once there, we are truly on island time and even a quick trip to the market becomes an adventure as we drive a golf cart under the canopy of live oaks on Federal Road or along the ocean on South Bald Head Wynd.
This summer we rented a place on Bald Head Creek with gorgeous views of the marsh. It was not until we came to Bald Head several times that we realized there was more to offer than the amazing ocean views. The egrets gliding across the creek, as well the abundance of blue crabs for our crab trap, make the marsh an attractive place to stay as well.
Hitting the Beach
Another unique part of the island is the multiple beaches we have to choose from with very different characteristics. We started our week by loading up the golf cart with chairs and supplies for a full day on South Beach. There are plenty of public beach accesses, and through the years we have picked out favorites.
South Beach is on the southern side of the island that faces the Atlantic Ocean and the Cape Fear River. The waves are a bit calmer than East Beach which faces right out to the Atlantic and leads to Frying Pan Shoals. East Beach is the southern tip of the Graveyard of the Atlantic, so named because of the many ships that sank in its waters. In fact, they say the ship, The Patriot, mysteriously disappeared in 1813 while carrying Aaron Burr’s daughter, Theodosia. A ghost tour on the island will tell you more about Theodosia haunting Bald Head Island as tries to escape the pirates that overtook her ship. East Beach will give you exciting waves for surfing and jumping, as well as allow you to walk out to the point – the southernmost tip of Cape Fear – where the Atlantic meets the Cape Fear River. In contrast, Angel Beach, which is on the north side of the island, faces the river and has very small waves. In fact it was named Angel Beach because when vacationers first started to come to the island, it was the favorite place for young children to play in the gentle, lapping waves.
Each night, we head right back out to watch the sunset. Gathering for the sunset is a popular hobby at Bald Head along access points on South and West Beach.
More Island Highlights
The next day was another beach day, but we headed in early to go to the marina for dinner and family games. We had signed up for trivia at Will O’ the Wisp and ordered pizza earlier in the afternoon so they would have it ready when we arrived (it can be a loooong wait otherwise). We enjoyed dinner and participated in three rounds of trivia. With our mix of adults and adolescents, we had geography, Disney, science, and pop culture topics pretty well covered and brought home the win.
Midweek we took a break from the beach and enjoyed the Bald Head Island Club pool. This is a members only club, but temporary memberships are available for those renting on the island. However, my sister-in-law is a member and was on the island so we were able to go as her guests. The pool was a relaxing break from the waves, and lugging all the beach supplies. With two pools, a splash pad, waterslide, and a full service bar, there is plenty to keep the entire family entertained. With a late afternoon trek up to the top of Old Baldy, it was a full day.
We ended the week on a high note, enjoying dinner at the club and ice cream for dessert at the Sandpiper. The frozen hot chocolate is my favorite. We took our treats to Angel Beach to watch the sunset and play on the sandy riverbank. Our final day was a rainy one, but we were happy to drop our crab trap in the creek to enjoy a dinner of blue crab (acquired from the creek) and shrimp and scallops (acquired from the Market).
Bald Head is an incredible spot unlike any other I have visited. Family times are shared and memories are made while slowing down to enjoy a calmer pace of life. When we boarded the ferry to return us to the mainland, we were happy to check off one more great trip and satisfied to know that Bald Head Island will always have a good time waiting for us.
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