HAMMOCKS BEACH STATE PARK
Venture to Bear Island and reward yourself with vivid memories of one of the most unspoiled beaches on the Atlantic coast. Accessible only by passenger ferry or private boat, there's just one thing at Hammocks Beach that's crowded?the list of things to do.
Stroll the beach with laughing gulls and sandpipers. Cast a baited hook into endless rows of foaming breakers. Discover tiny specimens of marine life in tidal pools and mudflats. Use a camera or paintbrush to capture the green and gold grasses that color the salt marshes. Spend the night among the sand dunes, or simply bask in the sun and do nothing at all.
Secluded and tranquil, free from intruding commercialism, Hammocks Beach may not be for everyone, but the island is a retreat for people who welcome the challenges of relentless sun, sand, sea and sky.
Dugout canoes once traveled the vast coastal waterways as woodland Native Americans journeyed between the mainland and surrounding islands. These Native Americans participated in the Tuscarora wars against colonists in 1711 and 1713. Hostilities continued from hideouts around Bear Island until the middle of the 18th century when the Native Americans migrated northward.
Dugout canoes soon gave way to pirate ships. The inlets along the coast and the shallow waterways behind the barrier islands were havens for pirates. Here they could prey upon merchant vessels and hide while repairing their ships. Among the pirates who frequented the area was the notorious Blackbeard. Spanish privateers also terrorized the colonists. For protection, the colonists built several forts, including one near Bear Inlet, which was erected in 1749 and has since disappeared.
Due to its location, Bear Island has often played a role in the protection of the mainland. During the Civil War, Confederate troops on the island defended it against Union forces occupying Bogue Banks. The island again assumed military importance nearly a century later when, during World War II, the Coast Guard used it to secure the coast and monitor German U-boat activity.
Early in the 20th century, Dr. William Sharpe, a neurosurgeon of New York, came to Bear Island to hunt. His love of the island prompted him to acquire it for his retirement. Sharpe intended to will the property to John Hurst, his longtime hunting guide and friend, but Hurst persuaded him to donate it to the North Carolina Teachers Association, an organization of African American teachers. In 1950, the group assumed the deed to Bear Island and attempted to develop the property. Limited funds and the island's remoteness rendered their efforts unsuccessful. In 1961, the association donated the island to the state of North Carolina for a park. Initially planned as a park for minorities, Hammocks Beach State Park opened for all people following the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Huggins Island, located just east of Bear Island in the mouth of Bogue Inlet, is a 225-acre island visible from downtown Swansboro. The island consists of 115 acres of upland area surrounded by 96 acres of lowland marsh. The island's varied natural habitats and cultural resources contributed to the its inclusion in the state parks system.
Huggins Island is home to a maritime swamp forest, which is listed as a Globally Rare and Significant Area. Huggins Island has a rich history, from Native American fishing and hunting grounds, to being home to a Confederate six-cannon battery in 1861-62. Its commanding view of Bogue Inlet and the town of Swansboro was an obvious strategic value. For visitors familiar with Hammocks Beach State Park, Huggins Island's thick, dense maritime forest is a stark contrast to Bear Island's sandy beach and open dunes bursting with sea oats.
Primitive campsites are located near the beach and the inlet. Fourteen family campsites accommodate six people each. Three group campsites, available to affiliated groups only, accommodate up to 12 persons each. Light and simple is the way to travel as campers must carry all provisions to the campsites from the beach or ferry dock.
Due to sand migration in the channel the ferry uses to transport visitors to Bear Island, the ferry schedule has been changed.
Water and other facilities are available on the island, except from mid-November through mid-March when the facilities are winterized. Fires are not permitted, and campers must remove all trash. Camping is permitted on numbered sites only and permits must be obtained from the park office on the mainland. Reservations are required for group sites. Campsites are open year round.
Journey to the island by private boat or marine taxi. Boats may be beached or tied at the island bulkhead, but please do not dock along the ferry pier. When traveling to the island by boat, navigate along the ferry route; boating in the inlet can be dangerous.
Canoeists and kayakers may reach Bear Island and explore the marsh by way of a designated canoe trail. Markers placed along the route indicate points of interest along the way.
Puppy drum, flounder, trout and blue fish are frequent catches on Bear Island. Fishing at Hammocks Beach is a favorite pastime in all seasons but is particularly good in the fall.