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Can I walk to Bald Head Island?

Judy Royal

Sounds like a strange question. Walk to an island? Only if there’s a bridge. But there’s not. At least not a man-made one.

The truth is, Bald Head Island hasn’t officially been an island since 1999, when Corncake Inlet, which separated Bald Head Island from the end of the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, closed due to shoaling from Hurricane Floyd. Because that inlet is now filled in with sand, it joins the two areas with a continuous beach from Pleasure Island all the way down to Cape Fear at the southern tip of Bald Head Island and back around to the northwest. So yes, you can walk there. The question is: How much do you like walking?

If you start at the office of the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area it’s close to 10 miles down to Cape Fear, said Katharine Womble, a park ranger at Fort Fisher. You can shave about 4.5 miles off that trip if you have access to a four-wheel-drive vehicle and ride to the southern end of Fort Fisher. From there you’ll see a natural area with no development for the first 3 miles before you reach the Bald Head village. The first part is the former inlet, which you’ll recognize because it lacks the tall dunes along the rest of the beach as they are just beginning to form.

If you go at high tide, you may find yourself walking along a very narrow beach close to the dunes, which is much more strenuous than trekking over the water-packed sand below the high tide line. At extreme low tide, the sand is hard enough to ride a bike over, Womble said. Check a tide chart before you embark on your journey to know what you’re up against.

No matter when you go, take along lots of water and sunscreen because there’s nowhere along the way to get these things. There’s also no shade or shelter at all. And if you use the four-wheel-drive area and leave your vehicle behind, be sure to park close to the dunes away from the water and remove your vehicle during park hours. It’s also wise to let someone in the park office know what you’re doing so they can look for you if you don’t return to your vehicle.

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4 Responses to “ Can I walk to Bald Head Island?”

  1. On November 13, 2009 at 10:58 am dee pearson wrote:

    This is becoming my favorite website. What an informative answer. I’m in no shape to make the hike, but the geography/weather lesson is fascinating. I’d love to go to the end of Fort Fisher and look across at the forming of the dunes. Anybody got a 4-wheeler?

  2. On August 5, 2011 at 7:35 pm zac wrote:

    I made that trek last year, from Fort Fisher parking lot to Cape Fear and back. When you get away from everyone it almost feels like you are shipwrecked on a island. You really need to have supplies with you for this trip and check the tides,but with the time needed to walk there and back you are going to hit a high and low tide in the trip. This year iam going again but instead walking there and back Iam going to continue around the “island” and take the ferry back to see a little more of Bald Head.

  3. On July 20, 2015 at 8:38 am Matt wrote:

    I know it’s been a while since you made this post, but do you think it would be possible to bike rather than walk?

  4. On September 2, 2016 at 8:25 am MIKE DONOHUE wrote:

    I just did a fantastic bike ride from Fort Fisher to Bald Head Island . I figured it to be about 15 miles round trip. It turned out to be 26 but it was my fault as I enjoyed the island so much I continued to the BHI ferry in “downtown” BHI. If you go i have a few things I would love to share. Start at close to low tide, by the time you get there and turn around the tide will rise quickly. Let air out of your bike’s tires and bring a small bike frame tire pump to add air as needed. If for some reason you feel like the ride down is unbelievable easy, the wind is at your back and do not forget the same wind will be there on the return trip. I enjoyed everything about this ride, it was absolutely beautiful.

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