Take a ferry and visit Bald Head Island from Southport or from any of the Brunswick Islands. The island is only accessible by boat or ferry! Therefore golf carts and bicycles are the main way to get around. I’d say the main attraction is North Carolina’s oldest standing lighthouse nicknamed Old Baldy.
The island got its name from the worn down dunes that resembled a bald head (before it was named Smith Island)! The lighthouse was used to guide ships through the sandbars of the Cape Fear River and avoid the dangerous Frying Pan Shoals (named this for its resemblance of a frying pan!). There are only about 4 square miles of land total of the island. The place is quite small but there is a country club for golfers, a few restaurants and some inns.
You have to take the Bald Head Island Ferry unless you have your own boat. We paid $10 parking for the day. The ferry was $23 round trip per adult and kids under 3 were free but still needed a ticket. We bought at the window when we arrived.
On the way to the island, the ferry leaves at the top of every hour (have to check their seasonal schedule for how early or late they operate though), and back from the island 30 minutes after every hour such as 9:30, 10:30, etc. It’s good to get there at least 30 minutes prior to boarding. For more uptodate info on ticket pricing and timetables, check their website.
The ride takes about 20 minutes. We sat in the front outside both ways because the weather was nice. There is seating inside the cabin and a top deck.
Once you arrive, there are options to rent a golf cart for the day or bicycles. This is a good idea actually. We decided not to because the lighthouse was only a couple minutes walk away and it was about 1.5 miles to the market with a few shops around. So it depends on how much walking you want or have time for.
Old Baldy Lighthouse
The Bald Head Lighthouse or Old Baldy is one of seven NC lighthouses! We hope to make a stop at all of them one day. This octagonal version was built around 1817 and the oldest one still standing in NC.
View from the Top
Climb up the 131 wooden steps to the top for a spectacular view. The lighthouse is no longer in service but open for tourists.
There is the Smith Island Museum of History that can explain more about the island and a gift shop. The tickets were $8 per adult and we bought when we arrived. They included going up the lighthouse and the museum. Find out more here.
We walked along the well shaded road to the Maritime Market for lunch with some local shops around. We saw a few red phone booths too but didn’t know their significance! Signs are on the route with references about the American Revolutionary War and the Civil War.
If you go a little further into the island you will come across the Bald Head Woods Maritime Forest Preserve and the Bald Head Island Conservancy where you can learn about sea turtles. There is a beach access if you want to spend some time there too!
We got the 10:00am ferry going and caught the 3:30pm back and felt like we had plenty of time there to enjoy the island. With a golf cart or a bicycle would have made it easier. The evening we spent in the lovely Southport.
Have you visited Bald Head Island before? Tell us about your experience or how you enjoyed it.