Over the summer, I vacationed in the central and well-known tourist traps of the south, Myrtle Beach. Even with the thousands of activities located on the grand strand and not too crowded beaches, my family has been vacationing there for over 30 years. In recent years, we have taken one day trips to other locations on the east coast, and this year’s was the small Bald Head Island.
Located at the very bottom tip of the North Carolina shoreline, Bald Head Island is known for its desolate beaches and incredible uniqueness. The trip starts with a ferry ride that leaves from Southport, NC. The ferry leaves at every hour, and leaves the island every half hour. Round trip tickets are $22, so set times that you have to be on the ferry (keep in mind the last ferry leaves at 6:30 p.m. from the island, so you have to be on that one). When you arrive on the island, renting a golf cart for transportation is a must. the only cars on the island are service cars and the occasional transfer truck (I really don’t know how they got there), and everyone else drives golf carts/gators. Rentals reservations can be made online or when you get there.
One of the biggest attractions is the Old Baldy lighthouse. Its located at the northernmost tip of the island, and was originally built in 1817. To the top of the lighthouse is 108 steps which includes a very steep ladder at the top and no air condition, but an amazing view of the whole island. The small price of $6 includes a museum tour and the trip up old baldy, and the gift shop includes its 200 year celebration merchandise and other gifts for just about everyone.
Before traveling up into Old Baldy, you learn all of its history through the ages. The lighthouse is the oldest standing lighthouse in north Carolina, and has stood through the Civil War (when it was the base of Fort Holmes) and countless hurricanes. the lighthouse stood to bring ships to shore and even though it really didn’t see the battlefield, it was there to help out the union forces.
We spent our first hour on the island exploring Old Baldy, getting a feel for the history and checking out the chapel that stood beside it. Tourists first walk through the small museum and gift shop before heading up the five platforms and steep ladder to the very tip top of the lighthouse. If you ever find yourself here, please know that the lighthouse does not have air conditioning, so it will be very hot and you will most likely need a shower when you leave.
We continued our day with driving the narrow roads and taking our time looking the small shops. They have several boutiques, surfing stores and one or two markets to by groceries. Thankfully, the surfing stores are not at all like Wings, Eagles, or Tsunami shops like Myrtle Beach. They are very high quality, but a bit on the pricy side. Unless you are going to buy a kayak or paddle board, the shops are full of expensive clothes.
For lunch, we stopped to eat at the local market which had a great assortment of foods like fried chicken and pizza. I don’t think I’ve ever had a better slice of Hawaiian pizza, but it could have been from the feeling of the beach and island around me. We continued after lunch just driving around the island, checking out the public access points along the beach, and gawking at the beautiful houses along the shore. around 2:30 p.m., it began to rain a little, and we unfortunately had to make our way back to shelter to wait out the storm. But don’t worry, the island’s main market also sells amazing deserts, so it turned out to be a great snack break.
I’m going to go ahead and say that if you plan on going for more than a day, it can be very expensive to rent a beach house. but, Bald Head Island for a day trip to check out the historical lighthouse, get some amazing food and take in the gorgeous scenery, it’s a perfect getaway for anyone on a budget. From the ferry ride there and back, to the small shops and peaceful beaches, Bald Head is an unforgettable vacation and is perfect for any budget.