The coast of North Carolina has roughly three-hundred miles of barrier islands. Most tourists want to head straight for the famousOuter Banks but there are a slew of other worthy places. In Wilmington, one particular spot is about five miles off the coast of Wrightsville Beach. Its the place to go if you want to escape the usual crowds and feel as if you have an entire island all to yourself.
The (short and sweet) history:
Its official designation is North Carolina Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve.The locals call it Masonboro. While no official records exist on who (or what) Masonboro was the name shows up on maps as far back as the 1700s. Some stories point to a Masonic Lodge that existed in the area. Interestingly, dredging work for a new inlet in the 1950s turned it into an island. It took another 40 odd years for all 8.4 miles of pristine wilderness to receive protected status.
How to visit:
Access by personal watercraft only. The best way to explore the marshy inlets along the way is by kayak. The New Hanover County Trails End Park is an excellent boat launch/ramp to use.
When to visit:
North Carolina's moderate climate means you can be out there about anytime. Keep in mind, in the summer months, it's muggy and HOT. You'll need something for shade and protection from the sand gnats. If you're not into crowds of drunk college students, avoid big holidays like the 4th of July or Memorial Day.
Before you go:
1. Pay attention to tidal charts and times. If you paddle out at low tide, when the water is shallow, you'll end up walking (a.k.a. dragging your kayak) through very thick marsh mud. Bring a pair of diving booties or tennis shoes - not a slip-on shoe because they will come off in the mud - to protect your feet from oyster beds.
3. There are no structures or facilities available on the island. Be prepared to bring in your own provisions (food, water, shelter, firewood, toilet paper) if you're camping overnight.
4. Dogs are allowed.
5. Grilling out is allowed.
6. Be mindful of the dunes and protected areas such as bird nesting sites. Generally, these areas will be roped off and well-marked.