A crown jewel of the North Carolina coast and Hammocks Beach State Park is Bear Island—a 3-mile-long, undeveloped barrier island accessible by the park’s passenger ferry or private ferry, or by paddling a canoe or kayak. A wide beach between massive dunes and the ocean is interrupted only by primitive campsites and a modest concession/picnic complex. The park’s mainland gateway offers a full-service visitor center and is the launch site for ferry service, canoes or kayaks. Rent or bring your own kayaks, canoes or paddleboards to explore paddling trails leading to marshes, Bear Island or Huggins Island, which is graced with unspoiled maritime forest. Interpretive programs and extensive exhibits teach about park ecology and wildlife including endangered sea turtles and nesting shorebirds.
Backpack and group camping*
*All camping sites are located on Bear Island and are accessible via ferry, private boat or paddling only.
Primitive campsites are located near the beach and the inlet. Fourteen family campsites accommodate six people and two tents each.
Light and simple is the way to travel as campers must carry all provisions to the campsites from the beach or ferry dock.
There are three group campsites, available to affiliated groups only; one accommodates up to 26 people, while the other two accommodate up to 16 people each. Group campsites are reserved locally at Hammocks Beach State Park.
Campsites are open year-round. 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 only on numbered sites and permits must be obtained from the park office on the mainland.
Campers must register in the park office on the mainland before going to Bear Island. All vehicles left in the parking lot overnight must be registered at the park office or they are subject to towing.
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.
A Coastal Recreational Fishing License is required to fish in North Carolina. There is no fishing access on the mainland.
Take a dip or catch a wave. A portion of the beach is a designated swimming area. There are lifeguards on duty in the designated swimming area most days from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Pack a picnic to enjoy under a covered shelter that offers respite from the sun. A concession stand provides cold drinks and snacks from Memorial Day through Labor Day.