With its lush forests‚ wide beaches and varied marine and wildlife‚ Onslow County’s coastal terrain offers diverse scenery and activities for nature enthusiasts.
Nearly 750‚000 people visit the county’s parks annually‚ according to Mac Sligh‚ director of the Onslow County Parks and Recreation Department. “We have some really wonderful natural resources and well-maintained facilities‚” he says.
One of the more historically and environmentally significant parks is Swansboro’s Hammocks Beach State Park. The nationally acclaimed nature preserve includes the 225-acre Huggins Island – which includes a rare maritime swamp forest – as well as the 892-acre Bear Island‚ one of the last unspoiled barrier islands in North Carolina.
With its sandy dunes‚ salt marshes‚ estuarine creeks‚ shrub thickets and maritime forest‚ Bear Island offers a peaceful alternative to overcrowded‚ commercialized beaches.
After accessing the island by private boat or the park’s own passenger ferry‚ guests can take a dip in the Atlantic Ocean‚ fish for puppy drum‚ flounder‚ trout and blue fish‚ marvel at marine life found in the tidal pools and mudflats‚ or hike 3.5 miles of undisturbed beaches.
Visitors also may be greeted by migratory birds‚ raccoons‚ foxes‚ ghost crabs or 150- to 300-pound loggerhead sea turtles.
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