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Hammocks Beach State Park

Hammocks Beach State Park consists of 30 mainland acres, Bear Island, Huggins Island and 3 marked paddle trails. All 3 begin at the mainland park office, located off Hammocks Beach Road, just west of Swansboro.

Bear Island, the main area of the park, is accessible only by boat. There are several primitive campsites, so one can still have a peaceful weekend at the beach. Be sure to pack in all your water and food, as there is nothing available on the island. Also, if you plan to take alcohol with you, think again or be especially sneaky. The park rangers have been known to search coolers.

If you are into history, Huggins is a good place to visit. Huggins Island was home to a Confederate fort until 1862 when it was abandoned. Not much remains but the embankments. The island was privately held until 2001, when the State purchased it to add to Hammocks Beach State Park. At this time, Huggins Island is for day use only. To find out more about Huggins Island, find a copy of Wildlife in North Carolina Magazine, June 2002, available through the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

History not your thing? Then just bring a rod and reel. Some of the best fishing is right off the center paddle trail at the inlet entrance. You are likely to catch flounder or speckled trout, and whether you want to or not, at least one lizard fish.

Shackleford Banks

Shackleford Banks is not accessible through a marked canoe trail, but don't let that stop you. This is a good trip to abandon the canoe and beg, borrow or steal a sea kayak since canoes like to catch wind. A kayak is lower to the water, and ideal for inter-island paddling. Like Hammocks Beach, you will need to carry all your supplies, especially water, with you.

Shackleford is part of the Cape Lookout National Seashore. You can camp wherever you want, eat and drink what you want, and meet the ponies. These animals are descendants of ponies brought over when North Carolina was the New World. If you fall in love with them, you can take one home. To maintain the pony population, a number of ponies is rounded up periodically and sold at auction.

As a bonus, take your boat across the channel to Cape Lookout. This trip can start at either Beaufort or Harker's Island. Both have kayak rental companies, but be sure to call ahead and make a reservation.