Bear Island is an undeveloped barrier island a the southern end of the Outer Banks and Crystal Coast. Accessible only by ferry or private boat, Bear Island never gets the heavy traffic and crowds that many other beaches in North Carolina receive. So if you're looking for a great beach day without tripping over crowds of other people, Bear Island is the destination of choice. During the summer months, the ferry runs on the hour and half-hour to and from the island. In the spring and fall, it runs less frequently, and does not run during the winter. See the park's website for ferry schedule. Once on bear island, it is about a half-mile walk from the ferry dock to the bath house and beach access so only bring what you must because you'll have to carry it a ways. The bath house has drinking water, cold-water showers, and a concession stand selling light snacks and soft drinks. The beach lies along the southern end of the island and stretches for about 3.5 miles. The beach is also a nesting place for loggerhead sea turtles. In the late summer, if you're very lucky, you might just see some hatchlings making their way to the sea.
Primitive camping is available at Bear Island and is a great way to fall asleep on the sand to soothing sound of crashing waves. Reserve campsites through the state park and check in at the visitor center on the mainland. You must check in and get a parking pass to leave your vehicle in the parking lot overnight. You can take the ferry over or paddle over if you have a kayak. Once on the island, it is a good walk to the campsites, so keep this in mind and don't overpack. From the ferry dock, it's 0.5 miles to the beach and another 0.25 to 1.5 miles down the beach to the campsites. The lower numbers (1, 2) are closer than the higher numbers (10, 11), so keep that in mind. Although the beach is flat, walking on sand can be tough. There is potable water and warm-water showers available to campers, but not much else in the way of amenities. During the winter when the ferry doesn't run, the bath house in winterized and there is no water on the island. Everything must be paddled in. But, there's also a very good chance you'll have the island to yourself. Can't beat your own private island for $13 a night.
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