Bald Head Island, North Carolina
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Extending for 12, 000 acres, Bald Head Island, North Carolina is situated where the mouth of the Cape Fear River meets the Atlantic Ocean, and features 14 acres of pristine beaches, salt marsh, spectacular sand dunes and maritime forest preserves. It is the site of the island’s most visible landmark, Old Baldy, the state’s oldest standing lighthouse. This beautiful and secluded island is only accessible by ferry from the nearby town of Southport or private boat. The name Bald Head is said to be derived from early river pilots’ reference to the round sandy bluffs on South Beach, resembling “bald” headland lacking vegetation which is naturally shaped by erosion. Formerly known as Cape Island or Cedar Island, the island was acquired in 1713 by Charleston merchant Thomas Smith.
More than 400 years ago, it is believed that various Native American groups use Bald Head Island as a seasonal retreat, attracted to its abundance of shellfish and creek estuaries. The first documentation of the island came in the 1520s, when Spanish explorer Pedro de Quexos, whose cartographic work of the region appeared on the official Spanish Padron General Charts. English exploration of Bald Head Island occurred in the 1660s with William Hilton, a New England sea captain who surveyed the region and observed that the sandy soil was not ideal for farming, making colonization efforts futile. In the 1770s, Bald Head Island became a safe haven for several infamous pirates, such as Stede Bonnet, known as the “Gentleman Pirate” and Edward Teach, commonly known as Blackbeard.
Bald head Island played a key role during the Revolutionary War, as home to a small British fort, Fort George, and at the time of the Civil War, it was a crucial Confederate base, with the same redoubts serving as Fort Holmes, for shipping and smuggling past the blockade. Bald Head Island is also known for its miles of treacherous sandbars known as Frying Pan Shoals. This preserved and conservation-friendly island is habitat for one of the largest sea turtle nesting sites in the State of North Carolina.
The natural scenery and wildlife on Bald Head Island makes it a truly remarkable place. In the middle of the island is the Bald Head Woods reserve, showcasing giant live oaks, laurel oaks, red cedar and red bay laurels dominating the landscape. Nature lovers can enjoy bird watching and sightings of foxes, deer, and squirrels, along with different reptiles and amphibians. This island is simply a secluded paradise.
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