North Carolina is a state graced with a changing natural landscape. Three diverse regions, mountains, Piedmont and seashore set the scene for a variety of outdoor adventures. Over 300 miles of barrier island beaches draw visitors to the surf and sand. Jacksonville, a city in Onslow County, is near a few of the state's most popular and most unspoiled beaches.
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Hammocks Beach State Park
If you seek a secluded pristine beach, a place to visit is Hammocks Beach State Park on Bear Island. Boat travel is the only way to get to the island. The park office and ferry dock are east of Jacksonville near the town of Swansboro. The ferry operates from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Bring your tent and camp out at one of the 14 sites near the beach. Spend a day on the island angling for flounder, blue fish and trout. Bottlenose dolphins are often spotted in the surrounding waters. A new trail has recently been created for kayakers.
Bear Island a three-mile long land mass with beaches, dunes and marshes lies off the North Carolina coast. Native Americans paddled canoes around the island prior to migrating northward. Pirates, among them Edward Teach, also known as Blackbeard, established a base around the barrier islands and attacked merchant ships traveling through the waters. Confederate troops camped on the island during the Civil War. In more recent years, the island was used by the Coast Guard. During the second World War they scrutinized activity of German U-boats.
Topsail Area Beaches
Topsail, a 26-mile long barrier island, is approximately a 20-minute drive from Jacksonville. The island is assessable by two bridges. On the north end of Topsail, the beach has an oceanfront pavilion. In addition to visiting tourists, this area of the island is frequented by loggerhead turtles, an endangered species that nest on the island. From the middle of May well into August volunteers work the 20-mile coastline to identify nests. Islanders are proud of the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle and Rehabilitation Center. This non-profit organization is dedicated to bringing sick and injured turtles back to health.
Surf fishing is a common activity on the island. Casting your line in the shallow waters may bring up flounder, pompano, mullet and blue fish.
Surf City is primarily known for the military establishment on the north side of Topsail Island. If you are a camper, there are places to bring your RV. Blackbeard’s Treasure Campground allows for tent camping and full hook-ups. The camp is pet-friendly. Lanier’s Campground has a large pool, horseshoe pits and boating access.
Approximately 32 miles southeast of Jacksonville is Emerald Isle. Visitors can enjoy the island beach or fish off the Bogue Inlet Pier. Flounder, also known as flatfish, are mostly caught around the pilings with live bait such as shrimp or minnows. The legal limit is 15 inches. Anglers can bring in large pompano near the sand bar section of the pier.