Situated in Brunswick County, is not just an area to find one of the best beaches near Wilmington, but also boasts a fascinating history, some awesome restaurants, and beautiful moments. From biking to climbing an old lighthouse there are plenty of things to do in Bald Head Island.
With 12,000 acres of pristine beaches and natural areas, this paradise is a haven for nesting birds and sea turtles. Nature enthusiasts can hike along the M. Kent Mitchell Nature Trail and discover unique ecosystems at the Bald Head Island Conservatory. If you’re feeling adventurous, embark on a ghost walk or sail around the island with Riverside Adventure Company.
For those interested in the island’s past, Old Baldy Lighthouse, constructed in 1817, offers guided tours, and the Smith Island Museum is also a must-visit. But we won’t keep going on about how amazing this place is – let’s dig into the best things to do on Bald Head Island!
Where Is Bald Head Island?
Bald Head, is situated at the southeastern end of North Carolina’s coastline just off the coast of Southport. It is a secluded and petite NC island barrier island not too far from the Greater Wilmington area.
This island serves as a seasonal summer getaway, spanning merely two miles across the Cape Fear River, with no bridge providing access, meaning the only way to get to Bald Head is by boat, and there are no cars on the island
If you don’t have your own boat, you can take the BHI ferry from Southport.
- Getting to Bald Head By Ferry: The Ferry is how most will travel to Bald Head Island. It takes 20 minutes to get to Bald Head Island on the ferry, and you can park your car at Deep Point Marina for a daily fee of $9. You can check current rates and the ferry schedule here.
- Getting to Bald Head By Private Boat: Located close to buoy #13A the Bald Head Island Marina can be accessed via the Intracoastal Waterway, Cape Fear River, and the Atlantic Ocean. The marina offers complete services and can host boats up to 100 feet long, with a draft of 7 feet at MLW. Marina slips are limited and are assigned when a reservation is made, which is essential during the summer, especially on holidays. To reserve a slip, call the dockmaster at 910-457-7380 or email [email protected] or use VHF Channel 16
How to Get Around Bald Head Island?
There are no cars on Bald Head Island, meaning the three ways to get around are walk, bike, and golf cart. Most VRBO and Airbnb rentals include bikes or a golf cart in the price of their rental, however if they don’t you can rent a golf cart here, and a bike here.
Best Things to Do on Bald Head Island
1. Explore the Untouched Beauty of Bald Head Island By Boating
To truly experience the irresistible natural beauty of Bald Head Island, you need to step into the waters and go boating. It is one of the most popular activities on the Island, offering visitors a chance to explore the island’s mesmerizing coastal waters and scenic waterways. Be it fishing, sightseeing, or simply cruising around, there are plenty of boating options to choose from on Bald Head Island.
Numerous businesses around the island can help you rent a boat of your choice, including kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, and motorboats, to explore the island’s waterways at their own pace. Guided tours and charters are also available for those looking for a more planned and organized boating experience.
From dolphin sightings to peaceful sunsets, boating on Bald Head Island is a unique and memorable way to experience the island’s natural beauty. A few recommendations are:
- NC Boat Rentals
- SeaTow (Water Taxi – [email protected])
- Kayak, surf and sail rental and instruction.
- Yeah Right Charters
2. Step Back in Time at Old Baldy Lighthouse and Museum
- Address: 101 Light House Wynd, Bald Head Island (GPS)
- Hours: Tuesday -Saturday: 10:00 am – 4:00pm, Closed: Sunday – Monday
- Cost: $8
The Old Baldy Lighthouse and Museum is a legendary attraction and historic NC lighthouse, not to be missed. Built in 1817, it is the oldest lighthouse in North Carolina and has served as a navigational aid for ships along the Cape Fear River for over 200 years.
To enjoy the stunning views of the island and surrounding waters, climb the 108 stairs to the top of the lighthouse and feast on the remarkable sight. The lighthouse will feel even more significant when you visit the museum and go through the artifacts and photographs of the history of the lighthouse and the island.
In addition to the lighthouse and museum, the surrounding grounds feature historic buildings and a picturesque maritime forest. A visit to the Old Baldy Lighthouse and Museum provides a unique glimpse into the island’s rich history and culture.
3. Bald Head Island Conservancy
- Address: 700 Federal Rd, Bald Head Island (GPS)
- Hours: Monday – Sunday: 10:00 am – 2:00 pm, Closed: Saturday – Sunday
If you want to explore a little deeper and wish to know the story behind every beach, habitat, and marine life that inhibits the island, take one of the many guided tours at the Bald Head Island Conservancy.
The tours are led by knowledgeable naturalists who provide fascinating insights into the island’s ecology, wildlife, and conservation efforts.
The turtle walk tour, in particular, is a popular attraction during nesting season, where you will have the opportunity to observe the nesting and hatching of loggerhead sea turtles. Other tours include kayaking and paddleboarding, birdwatching, and hiking through the island’s maritime forest.
By participating in a tour with Bald Head Island Conservancy, you can deepen their understanding and appreciation of the island’s unique natural environment and the efforts being made to protect it.
4. Discover the Beauty of Nature on the Kent Mitchell Nature Trail
- Address: 432 N Bald Head Wynd, Bald Head Island (GPS)
If looking for some nature, one of the best things to do on Bald Head Island is go for a hike. The Kent Mitchell Nature Trail is a long scenic hiking trail on Bald Head Island that winds through the island’s maritime forest and salt marshes.
The half-mile-long trail offers visitors the opportunity to observe a wide variety of wildlife, including birds, turtles, and other coastal creatures, in their natural habitats. Interpretive signs along the trail provide information on the island’s ecology and conservation efforts.
The trail is easy enough for everyone to experience the surreal beauty around it and it takes less than 15 minutes to finish. The trail is also wheelchair-accessible.
The Kent Mitchell Nature Trail is a serene and informative way to experience the natural beauty of Bald Head Island and learn all about its diverse plants and animals native to the region.
5. Experience Serenity at Island Retreat Spa
- Address: 6 Maritime Way, Bald Head Island (GPS)
- Hours: Wednesday – Friday: 9:00 am-5:00 pm, Saturday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm,
Closed: Sunday – Tuesday
If you traveled to Bald Head with your lover on a romantic weekend in North Carolina, book a couples massage! Visitors to Bald Head Island often find themselves getting tired quickly due to the vast expanse of wilderness and untamed waters available for exploration.
That’s when you head straight over to the Island Retreat Spa for a decadent experience. This retreat spa takes relaxation and rejuvenation to the next level with its tranquil island setting.
Island Retreat Spa offers a range of services, including massages, botanical facials, hair masques, and other body treatments. Visitors can also stretch their muscles with yoga classes or enjoy peace and tranquility with meditation, and other wellness activities. The Island Retreat Spa provides a truly serene escape from the stresses of everyday life.
6. Explore the Great Outdoors at Dutchman Creek Park
- Address: 4750 Fish Factory Rd SE, Southport (GPS)
- Hours: Monday – Sunday: 8:00 am -10:00 pm
Dutchman Creek Park is a beautiful park on Southport that offers families the opportunity to picnic, fish, and enjoy a range of outdoor activities together. Even if you do not want to partake in any activities, the mesmerizing views from the edge of Creek Park will be enough to occupy you for a long time.
The park features a playground, basketball court, and baseball field, as well as a fishing dock and boat ramp. Visitors can also explore the park’s scenic walking trails, which wind through the island’s maritime forest and marshland. The park is one of the most popular launching points for kayaks and canoes.
7. Cruise Around the Island in a Golf Cart or Cycle
One little fact that might surprise you about Bald Head Island is that there are no cars on it. It might sound a little weird, but it is the best thing that happened to the island, its locals, and its visitors.
Instead of cars, everyone can cruise around the island and explore all its pretty nooks and crannies on a golf cart or a bicycle.
Carting or biking around is one of the most popular activities on Bald Head Island. The slow pace of Island life and the flat terrain makes it easy to bike around leisurely and make unplanned stops whenever you want.
8. Get a Memorable Golfing Experience at Bald Head Island Club
- Address: 301 S Bald Head Wynd, Bald Head Island (GPS)
- Hours: Monday – Saturday: 11:30 am – 8:00 pm, Sunday: 11:30 – 5:00 pm
With all its waters and marshes, Bald Head Island’s golf scene is often overlooked by tourists. However, golfers of all skill levels can enjoy golfing on some of the country’s top-ranked golf courses at Bald Head Island Club.
Regardless of your skill level, you’d find a golf course that will be playable but will also challenge your skills. One of the most popular golf courses is found at Bald Head Island Club. The 18-hole championship course is designed by renowned golf course architect George Cobb and features breathtaking views of the island’s natural beauty.
In addition to golf, the club offers a range of amenities, including a pro shop, dining options, and tennis courts. A round of golf at Bald Head Island Club is sure to offer a memorable experience for golfers and non-golfers alike.
9. Shop and Dine at Maritime Market
- Address: 8 Maritime Way, Bald Head Island (GPS)
- Hours: Monday -Saturday: 8:00 am – 6:00 pm, Sunday: 8:00 am – 2:00 pm
Maritime Market is one of the most happening places on the island, allowing tourists to connect with the vibrant island community. It is the main shopping and dining destination and offers a variety of boutique shops, restaurants, and amenities for visitors to enjoy.
The market offers a variety of shops and services that provide a fun and engaging experience for tourists. Here, you can shop for island souvenirs, rent bicycles, and golf carts, and book tours and activities at the market.
If you are lucky, you might just be in time for one of the market’s regular events, such as live music performances, art exhibits, and children’s activities, providing a lively and entertaining atmosphere.
10. Get Authentic Coastal Experience with Crabbing and Clamming
If you have never tried crabbing, Bald Head Island is a great place to get your toes wet. It’s so easy and fun, even the kids can join in on the fun. The island’s location in the Cape Fear River Estuary and the Atlantic Ocean provides an ideal environment for this activity.
You can enjoy crabbing and clamming on any of the island’s beaches, tidal creeks, and marshes. If you think you might need some help, many of the island’s local businesses offer guided tours and equipment rentals for those who are new to it.
In addition, the island’s restaurants often feature fresh local seafood on their menus, including crabs and clams, providing visitors with a taste of the island’s culinary offerings.
11. Go To The Beach!
Obviously you’re on an island, and one of the best things to do on Bald Head Island is have a beach day! Bald Head boasts a coastline of 14 miles, The Frying Pan Shoals Beach, South Beach, and East Beach make up the best beaches surrounded Bald Head, with South and East beaches being the prime spots for swimming.
Remember to bring all the beach essentials including lounge chairs, an umbrella, and a few fun games!
Plan For Your Trip to the South!
- We like to use VRBO when searching for vacation apartment rentals and Booking.com when searching for hotels.
- See our favorite cooler for the road!
- Get Around: We suggest renting a car for traveling the Carolinas. Check Prices on RentalCars.com
- Our Favorite Travel Shoes: Our answer to this question is always Allbirds.
- Check out our favorite North Carolina Souvenir!
- Fly For Free: Turn your spending into airline miles and points with travel credit cards (that’s what we do!). See our favorite travel credit cards.