Planning your next vacation to the North Carolina coast? A getaway here isn’t complete without experiencing a Bald Head Island day trip! If you haven’t been to this NC barrier island before, it offers a slow-paced atmosphere that makes you feel like you’ve been transported back through time to a different era. The hidden gem is only accessible by boat, and you’ll find absolutely breathtaking oceanside landmarks to explore. Plus, the primary mode of transportation on the island is golf carts since cars are not allowed, which adds to the secluded island feel.
Want to learn all about what to expect during a day trip, how to prepare before you leave, and all the top things to discover on Bald Head Island? Let’s dive in…
Before You Go
To make the most of your trip to Bald Head Island, we recommend planning at least a rough itinerary before you embark on your journey! Since cars are not allowed on the island, you’ll have the option of choosing between renting a golf cart or bicycles. There’s typically enough supply to rent them once you arrive if you’re visiting in the slower seasons, but we always suggest reserving them beforehand (especially in the peak summer months). It’s also a good idea to register for one of the many tours on the island before departing, as they can fill up quickly and are only offered at select times.
And, of course, no Bald Head Island day trip would be complete without packing your sunscreen, swimsuit, and good shoes for walking or bike riding! The golfers in your group may also want to bring along their set of golf clubs if they plan to head out for a day on the green.
Getting to Bald Head Island
As you’ve already read, Bald Head Island can only be reached by passenger ferry or private boat. Our favorite way to get there is via the Bald Head Island Ferry from Deep Point Marina in Southport, NC. If you’re staying on Oak Island, the marina is a quick 10-20 minute drive away.
The Bald Head Island Passenger Ferry schedule offers multiple departures from Southport and the island daily. Once you’re on the ferry, you can sit inside or outside and enjoy the beautiful views. You may even see a dolphin jump on or swim by during the 20-minute ride. Tickets can be purchased online ahead of time or at the kiosk at the marina.
When You Arrive
After a leisurely ferry ride, you’ll arrive on Bald Head Island! Take some time to explore your surroundings, and then head to the bike and golf cart rental area to secure your transportation for the day. Once this has been done, you’ll be ready to enjoy your time on the island and discover everything this magical place has to offer.
If you’re ready for a boost of caffeine when you arrive, Sandpiper Coffee is a great place to stop for a cup and a map of the island.
Things to Do on Bald Head Island
There’s no shortage of Bald Head Island activities to discover, and we’ve compiled some of our favorites for you to check out:
Old Baldy Lighthouse & Smith Island Museum of History
The Bald Head Island Lighthouse is the oldest standing lighthouse in North Carolina and a must-see during your day trip! You can climb the 108 steps to the top of this historic lighthouse for unmatched views of the island. While you do not need reservations to go on the self-guided tour to the top, you will need to purchase tickets inside the keeper’s cottage. You’ll find more information on their website, including the cost of tickets and the hours that the lighthouse is open.
No Bald Head Island day trip is complete without spending time soaking up some sun on the beach! The island’s 12 miles of unspoiled beaches are perfect for relaxing, swimming, sunbathing, and more. It’s also an excellent place for fishing, kiteboarding, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. You’ll find rentals for a wide range of watersports and various guided tours available through the BHI Conservancy.
The Bald Head Island Conservancy
Speaking of The Bald Head Island Conservancy, this is one of the best resources for everything BHI! They offer an assortment of guided tours, programs, and events that are perfect for all ages. Weekly programs include excursions to different habitats on the island, birding adventures, 2-hour guided kayaking tours, hands-on fishing programs, and more. You can view upcoming schedules and reserve a spot by visiting their website.
The Maritime Forest Preserve Loop Trail
This Bald Head Island trail is one of the best ways to take in all the natural beauty surrounding you. The Maritime Forest Trail is a 3-mile loop perfect for walking, jogging, or biking. Be on the lookout for Bald Eagle nests, osprey perches, and other wildlife as you wind your way through the lush forest. You can find even more trailheads along either side of Federal Road near the Maritime Market.
Shops on Maritime Way
After working up an appetite for all the Bald Head Island sightseeing, take some time to explore the many shops and restaurants along Maritime Way! You’ll find everything from art galleries and cute clothing boutiques to gift shops. It’s the perfect retreat when you need a break from the sun, and you might just find a tasty treat or two along the way.
Restaurants on the Island
Bald Head Island has several outstanding restaurants that will satisfy your hunger after a long day of exploring, whether you’re looking for a casual lunch or a romantic dinner! Some of our favorites include:
- Jules’ Salty Grub & Island Pub is a fantastic spot to grab a snack with a view! It’s located right by the ferry at the marina.
- Delphina Cantina is located at the harbor and serves Mexican food with a Cuban and Spanish flair. We head the Elotero Corn is out of this world, along with their quesadillas and fish tacos.
- Jailhouse Provisions can be found at 251 Edward Teach Extensions and offers a variety of sandwiches, food baskets, salads, and drinks with indoor and outdoor seating.
- The Maritime Market is the ideal place to pick up snacks and drinks while you’re on the island. They also have a great selection of Bald Head Island souvenirs.
Ready to Plan Your Stay on the NC Coast?
You can only imagine that this list only scratches the surface of all the amazing things to see and do on Bald Head Island during a day trip! For those looking for accommodations near BHI, Southport, and Wilmington, you’ll find us in the heart of the action on Oak Island. Browse through our premier Oak Island vacation rentals or give our team a call with any questions you may have about visiting this special piece of paradise in North Carolina.