Wednesday, April 11, 2018 - by Peyton Burgess, Wilmington and Beaches CVB
Whether you are a champion of sustainability or just want to gain a better appreciation of the environment, travel is a great outlet for it. From decreasing your carbon footprint to uncovering natural wonders, here are ways to take part in sustainable tourism and eco-adventure at Carolina Beach and Kure Beach, N.C.
Once you cross the bridge from the mainland, it’s easy to get around the island without a car.
Explore by bike – rentals of several varieties are available at Wheel Fun Rentals’ two Carolina Beach locations or at Carolina Beach State Park and Fort Fisher State Recreation area through Paddle NC. It will be even easier to explore the island on bicycle or on foot soon thanks to the Island Greenway Project, a 1.2-mile paved path around the island, along with several other bike and pedestrian projects in the works.
For a more hands-on experience, Carolina Beach State Park recently installed one acre of a proposed five-acre inshore artificial reef just off the park’s riverfront shoreline. The artificial reef will enhance recreational fishing and create oyster habitats along the Carolina Beach coastline.
Located in Carolina Beach, Surf House Oyster Bar & Surf Camp is recognized for its farm-to-table offerings, as well as local, sustainable seafood. Its menus rely on small, local farm involvement and sustainable regional seafood. The casual spot also offers surfing classes and group ocean outings. The nearby Veggie Wagon sources fruits, vegetables and homemade products from local farms and small batch producers.
Show your support to restaurants recognized by the Plastic Ocean Project as Ocean Friendly Establishments on the island, including Ocean Grill & Tiki Bar, Shuckin’ Shack and Lazy Pirate Grill at Carolina Beach and Jack Mackerel’s and Shark Bites Snack Bar at Kure Beach.
There is an abundance of natural wonders to explore at both beaches. The island is home to two state parks – Carolina Beach State Park and Fort Fisher State Recreation Area. One of the most unusual areas of North Carolina’s coast, Zeke’s Island, is located nearby and only accessible by boat.The reserve features dynamic landscapes like tidal flats, salt marshes, shrub thicket, maritime forest, sand dunes and ocean beaches that set it apart from other areas. Wildlife also has a huge presence there. Dating back thousands of years, Kure Beach’s coquina rock formation is only visible at low tide. This unique formation is host to a rare mossy hard rock outcrop cemented together by seashells and coral. Over the years, these shells have created a perfect area to spot marine life such as sea stars, hermit crabs and conchs.
Kayak Carolina offers daily rentals and guided tours of the surrounding areas, like the Zeke’s Island Family Adventure Tour or the Sugarloaf Dune Hike and Paddle. New Hanover County has nine sites on the N.C. Birding Trail. Mahanaim Adventures in nearby Wilmington offers Birder Kayaking Adventures to Carolina Beach State Park, Fort Fisher Basin and Zeke’s Island Reserve where bird species likely to be seen include great egret, white ibis, bald eagle, great horned owns – the list goes on. Campers can get back to nature at Carolina Beach State Park’s recently upgraded campgrounds or Freeman Park, where you can camp right on the beach when you obtain a permit.
It’s easy to get educated about a variety of environmental issues thanks to local organizations and programming. The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher offers a variety of ecology programs and events throughout the years, as well as summer camps for kids. Learn about the Aquarium’s conservation efforts, which are currently focused on three vulnerable animal populations: sea turtles, amphibians and sharks. Carolina Beach State Park offers nature hikes and educational programs featuring the park’s unique habitats and ranger-led programming, such as carnivorous plant hikes and star-gazing parties. The visitor center also features environmental education exhibits.
The Pleasure Island Sea Turtle Project is dedicated to preserving and protecting all sea turtle species. The group is comprised of volunteers who patrol the beach, cover and protect nests, dig trenches to the ocean, and guide hatchlings through the trenches once they are ready for their journey. The non-profit offers Turtle Talks throughout nesting season (May through September) at several island locations. Or you can lend a hand to the volunteers on the beach during your upcoming trip.