While searching for coastal camping along the Carolina shores, I stumbled upon a spot that was new to me -- Bear Island. Unfortunately, I don't have the gear to "carry in & out" (I need a backpacking tent!), so I chose a site on the mainland to visit the Swansboro, NC area. The campground is more of an RV park, and the few other tent campers were in and out in a night. I slept there but didn't feel like I had a camping experience, or much to chat about with folks.
Swansboro, one of the oldest towns in North Carolina (1783), sits along the White Oak River, and is quite charming for an afternoon stroll. However, most of what's been preserved is 19th and early 20th century in this town of 2,900 people. The culture of the mainland area is dominated by its proximity to Camp Lejeune, and I will say, NOT bike friendly. Putting up "Share the Road" signs on a 4-lane high-speed route with no shoulder does NOT make you bike friendly!
The majority of my week was spent in two places -- Emerald Isle and Hammocks Beach State Park. Cycling days were along the "Emerald Path," a paved multi-use trail that runs the entire 13 miles of this coastal town. The beach was quite appealing, as was a free Beach Music Festival I stumbled upon. When I arrived, a band from Charlotte called Too Much Sylvia, were playing a BeeGees medley. Did I die and go to heaven? I'm hiring these guys for my next party!
My other spot, the State Park, is actually four separate areas, a mainland with a visitor's center and gorgeous views, as well as three islands. You can canoe/kayak to the islands or take the park ferry to Bear Island, a pristine 892-acre barrier island with four miles of sandy beach and maritime forest. The island has a very interesting history as well; it's the only place I've been where integration meant you had to let the white people in! It's secluded and tranquil, and on a Sunday in October, there were less than a dozen people in sight all day.
My week was up and down, but camping on Bear Island remains on the list of experiences I look forward to in the near future. As I drove south, however, it took three Motown Classics CDs for me to get my groove back.
Cyclist, writer, teacher, avid reader, bike/ped advocate, nomad, pie lover