In just one hour, you can be seemingly magically transported from your Myrtle Beach vacation to an island getaway on Bald Head Island, NC. The southernmost of the North Carolina chain of barrier islands sits just across the state line and only a few miles off the coast, but it seems like it's a world away from the hustle and bustle of the Grand Strand.
And with a 40-minute car ride followed by a 20-minute ferry ride, you and your party can experience the solitude and tranquility of this island paradise for a one-day getaway from your vacation.
Arriving in Bald Head Island Port — Photo courtesy of Town of Bald Head Island
From downtown Myrtle Beach, it's only 30 miles to the historic seafront village of Southport, NC, a great place to souvenir-shop and load up on all the supplies you need while waiting for the ferry. Cars are not allowed on Bald Head, which adds to the scenic charm and undeveloped feel of the island. Visitors can bring bikes, coolers, groceries and luggage, but don't bring more than you can carry.
The ferry ride begins at the convergence of the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Fear River, where the infamous Blackbeard frequently sailed and ultimately met his doom. The ocean breeze and view of dolphins and shore birds make the ferry ride an adventure of its own as the historic Bald Head Island Lighthouse appears in the distance. Indoor seating is available for those with queasy sea legs.
Upon arriving in port, visitors are greeted by a tiny village featuring gift shops, restaurants and - most important of all - the golf-cart rental center. For $20 an hour you can explore the entire 14-mile coastline and interior of the island.
Sunset over Bald Head Island — Photo courtesy of Town of Bald Head Island
Those wishing to see the island on foot or bike don't have to travel far to see some of the most significant places on the island. The lighthouse, which steered many sailors safely home throughout its history, offers a great view of the island if you don't mind the climb.
The Bald Head Island Country Club features one of the most highly acclaimed layouts in the Carolinas if you wish to bring your clubs, and the port is lined with beautiful old homes and bed-and-breakfast establishments operated by the island's few full-time inhabitants.
But a golf cart provides a completely different experience, one that affords visitors a peaceful day on a beautiful stretch of beach and breath-taking views of the island's diverse environment. Towering dunes, lowland swamps and marshes, and dense maritime forests make up the magical landscape.
Wildlife is abundant on Bald Head Island — Photo courtesy of Town of Bald Head Island
Wildlife such as deer, alligators, shore birds and turtles call this island home, and precautions were taken in the development of Bald Head to minimize the impact on this one-of-a-kind island. Guests can still spot rare animals, and a sea turtle conservatory has been set up on the island to protect the endangered species.
A trip to the northernmost tip of the island is well worth the trek. Beach accesses allow safe passage over massive dunes to the pristine beaches. Impressive waves make it a secret spot for bolder surfers and braver swimmers, but long stretches of beach are often unoccupied for those looking to get away from it all.
Just make sure not to get too relaxed; you may forget to return in time to catch the last ferry (been there, done that). The final ferry departs at 10 pm during the summer months, but be sure to check the schedule and leave yourself plenty of time to see and do all you can in a day.