Twenty miles long, Bogue Bank is a pencil of an island south of Croatan National Forest. As a barrier island, its job is to protect the raggedy NC coast from Morehead City to the White Oak River Basin, but as it turns out, it's a great outdoor destination.
From the mainland, we crossed the B. Cameron Langston Bridge (Hwy 58) near Cape Carteret, and immediately went to the Bogue Inlet Fishing Pier located on Bogue Inlet Dr in Emerald Isle. The pier is free if you just want to stroll along and admire the view of roiling turquoise waters skimming brown-sugary sand. If you want to fish, stop at the entrance and check out the fees (link is above.) Restrooms are available in the little store that serves as the entrance, and a restaurant opened during the high season is next door.
After walking to the observation tower and watching a few people pull in some nice catches, we headed back to the car and resumed our journey.
With large gift shops displaying beach towels and flip-flops in their windows, Emerald Isle appears to be a typical coast town. But it's clean and the main drag is nice and wide. We continued northward on that road toward Indian Beach and Salter Path. These communities are well developed, but according to the author of exploring north carolina's natural areas, which we brought along, the area is a mix of preservation and development. A thick maritime forest and shrub thickets can be seen throughout the island. In some places, homes have been built within the forest. Many times, we saw only the tips of rooftops and breaks in the trees indicating a driveway exists there.
We drove past those cities toward Pine Knolls, home of the North Carolina Aquarium. We didn't visit on this occasion, but it's on our short list of places to go. Also in Pine Knolls at the aquarium: the Theodore Roosevelt State Natural Area and Nature Trails. According to exploring, the Alice Hoffman Trail is less than a mile and is accessible from inside the aquarium. The second trail, the Theodore Roosevelt Trail is over a mile. Again, we've not explored these yet, so check operating hours by clicking here or call the park office at (252) 726-3775. Also, check accessibility before you take small children, strollers, or wheelchairs. Since this is part of the aquarium, I expect one has to pay an admission fee to enter the trails. An attempt to call during this writing failed--the office is apparently closed on Saturdays, so call in advance. I'll update this post as soon as I confirm the information.
Also in Pine Knolls, the Hoop Pole Creek Nature Trail, which winds through maritime forest and marshes. The book states the trailhead is across the street from Hardees. It is, but it's across the small side street, not the main thoroughfare.I was hungry by this time, but low season has begun along the NC coast which means many of the restaurants are closed, at least during lunch. Fortunately, the 4 Corners Diner, located at 100 E Fort Macon Road in Atlantic Beach, was open. I'm fairly picky when it comes to restaurants, and though the interior has a diner look to it, it's clean, has plenty of seating, and has good food for a decent price. I ordered a crab cake sandwich with a side of fries and a badly needed iced-tea, and my husband ordered breakfast, which is served all day. This will be a return stop on our next visit. Many thanks to them for allowing me to charge my camera battery while we ate (without my mentioning I planned to include them in this report!)
I should mention the fact that we saw beach access in various places along the highway. Emerald Isle isn't the only spot on the island to enjoy the beach experience.
Our last stop on this journey was a place I learned about shortly before we began our trip: Fort Macon State Park, located at the northern tip of Bogue Banks. We were shocked to see that Fort Macon really is a fort, and a rather sturdy one at that. Barely visible from the road, the old pentagon structure built in 1826 is below ground and has quite a history. I found the following on the North Carolina Division of Parks site:
Construction of the present fort began in 1826. The fort was garrisoned in 1834. In the 1840s, a system of erosion control was initially engineered by Robert E. Lee...At the beginning of the Civil War, North Carolina seized the fort from Union forces. The fort was later attacked in 1862, and it fell back into Union hands. For the duration of the war, the fort was a coaling station for navy ships.
Since it is on the tip of the island, Fort Macon has a beach, a pavilion, and a view of nearby Shackleford Island and Morehead City. It's a great place to picnic, fish, stroll along the beach and watch gulls and other coastal birds. One disadvantage: construction is currently in progress. The fences and equipment are unsightly but fortunately, they're not visible from the beach.
Surprisingly diverse when it comes to outdoor activities, Bogue Banks is a great day or weekend destination for eastern North Carolinians and visitors to these shores. For more information, go to http://www.boguebanks.com/