Who doesn’t love a long walk on the beach? Whether it’s early in the morning just in time for a sunrise, or in the lazy evening hours when the sky is a mixture of orange, blue, and purple, a beach walk is all but required on a Hatteras Island vacation.
The lure of an oceanside stroll is certainly hard to beat, but for folks who love nothing more than a long, leisurely walk to relax and get a little exercise, there are plenty of places on and off the sand to discover. Think that nothing can beat that beach walk? Then you haven’t seen all the off-the-beaten paths that this vacation destination has to offer.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse: Turns out, this destination is more than just the nation’s tallest lighthouse. The National Park Service grounds surrounding the lighthouse has three unique trails for walkers and joggers alike. The ¾ mile nature trail directly across from the lighthouse access is a beautiful, shaded introduction to a maritime forest. On this trail, you’ll encounter wooden bridges that span over saltwater canals, as well as pebble lined paths under a canopy of cedars and live oaks. Take your time and read the brown Park Service signs that indicate the creatures and foliage that call this sample of a maritime forest home.
Drive past the lighthouse towards Cape Point, and you’ll find two more trails that are ripe for exploring. One is an old concrete road that at one time functioned as a military and Coast Guard road to Buxton Village, so cargo and salvage finds could be easily hauled to the town. The other is a wide path through the woods that leads all the way to Frisco. Here you’ll find the relatively unknown British Soldier cemetery, as well as bits and pieces from old NPS projects, like cement or brick remnants from the lighthouse’s original foundation.
Frisco: Not for the map lovers, the paths that line the Frisco Woods are generally unexplored and offer a true adventure. The best way to find a weathered trail is to explore the soundside roads off of NC Highway 12 for sandy parking areas, as dozens of trails intertwine throughout this area. Explore cautiously, as these trails aren’t maintained by the NPS, but rather offer a unique opportunity to see the maritime forests just as they are: wild and untouched. Unlike a typical hiking trail, with the ever shifting nature of the island, it’s not unusual to spot a pine cone or a fossilized clam shell in these woods.
Kinnakeet Shores, Avon: Active walkers and joggers love this soundside community, both for its safe and relatively traffic free roads, and for its scenic beauty. Lovely ¼ mile boardwalks lead to the sound, or through the marshes of Avon, and the community trails offer small fitness stations along the way, with basic stretching equipment and instructions, so active folks can take a moment to stretch and flex their muscles during their route.
Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge: There’s no better trail for nature lovers, as the refuge offers paths and boardwalks that stretch deep into the heat of the sound, offering picturesque wildlife and bird views. The welcome center in between Rodanthe and the Bonner Bridge has information on the local species, access to trails, and public restrooms.
Springer’s Point, Ocracoke: This privately owned nature preserve tucked away in Ocracoke Village is open for anyone to explore. Wooded paths lead in a circular route to the sound, where shell collectors will find piles of scallops and clams. Little signs along the way point out the different attractions, including local and rare plants. Arguably, the best time to visit is in the late spring and early summer, when the flowers are in full bloom and the beauty of Springer’s Point is truly unparalleled.
Whether you embark on a full blown wilderness adventure, or simply take a leisurely stroll in your own backyard, be sure and keep your eyes and ears open. With a unique ecosystem that changes from the oceanfront to the calm waters of the sound, the animals, plants, and odd finds you come across are sure to be a surprising adventure all by themselves.
Naturally, if you’re a traditionalist, there’s always that nice long stretch of Hatteras Island shoreline, just waiting for your footprints.Fan Photo Friday Fan Photo Friday Picture of the Week