Beaches, boating and indoor activities promise memory-making in Onslow County
Make waves this summer in Onslow County, located off of I-95, north of Wilmington and east of Raleigh and I-40, and encompassing the areas of Richlands, Jacksonville, Camp Lejeune, North Topsail Beach, Sneads Ferry and Swansboro. Here are the top picks when it comes to family adventure:
Whether you prefer naps in the sun or scouring the shoreline for seashells, Onslow County is home to some of the best beaches in North Carolina for families. Not only are they beautiful and clean, but fewer people means less competition when it comes to staking out the perfect spot for hours of relaxation. Onslow County offers four public beach access points, located at: 1795 New River Inlet Road and 2950 Island Drive, North Topsail Beach.
If adventure spells relaxation for you, paddle to secluded Bear Island and immerse yourself in the ultimate coastal experience on the natural barrier island. Birds and wildlife thrive in the pristine salt marsh environment that winds out to this jewel of the crystal coast, making this paddle one of the most beautiful in North Carolina. Best of all, its an easy trip along the Hammocks Beach State Parks paddling trail that ends with a gently sloping expanse of golden sand. If paddling is not appealing, hop aboard the a private ferry to and from Bear Island. The island boasts a wealth of unique shell finds, year-round fishing, primitive camping and covered picnic tables, as well as a concessions stand and swimming on the east shore from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Explore the sand and surf at North Topsail Beach or bring the camera to capture views at Hammocks Beach State Park, which also offers a Welcome Center with nature exhibits showcasing island wildlife and history. Hammocks Beach is also a favorite nesting ground for the endangered logger-head sea turtle, with the 150-300 pound females coming ashore every three to four years to nest, laying up to six nests a year. After a two-month incubation period, the hatchlings make their dangerous race to the sea, avoiding the natural predators such as fox, raccoon and ghost crabs, also commonly found on the island. Park rangers often give presentations and showcase exhibits on the wildlife and preservation of the park, combining leisure, recreation and education in one relaxing getaway.
Ride the waves
From dinner boat cruises to fishing trips to kayaking, visitors to Onslow County have myriad ways to make H2O-themed memories. Under the canopy of cypress trees, floating through marshes and swamp forests, catching glimpses of alligators, birds and wildlife–kayaking and canoeing are two of the best ways to truly experience Onslow County’s natural resources. Situated on Carolina’s richly diverse coastline, Onslow County’s creeks, rivers, marshes and inlets offer limitless opportunities for paddlers to search and explore the beauty of North Carolina.
Cow Horn Creek and New River trails lead paddlers through smooth black waters in the dense marshes and hardwood forests, from Richlands to the New River inlet, with skill difficulties of 2 and 3. The White Oak River boasts an exciting AA Black Rapids trail teeming with wildlife, including the infamous alligator, birds and other Carolina critters. Hammocks Beach State Park offers three marked trails over seven miles, navigating canoeists and kayakers through the stunning barrier island estuaries, sounds, salt marshes and maritime swamp forests with highlights such as bottlenose dolphin sightings.
For more information on all the paddling possibilities, call Onslow County Tourism at (910) 347-3141 or visit the website for paddling trails.
If you prefer someone else to do the steering, take a cruise aboard the Lady Swan. This 40-foot vessel is handicap accessible, and the full shade top, padded seats and onboard restroom ensure comfort during a cruise. Lady Swan is the perfect venue for weddings, sandbar parties, rehearsal dinners, birthday parties, anniversaries, family reunions and other events.
Down on the farm
The sweet smells of freshly-made fudge and Yankee candles blend to create that familiar memory of Mike’s Farm long after your relaxing visit. One of the largest and most memorable attractions in Onslow County, Mike’s Farm is a rural farming, shopping, dining and family-friendly getaway, delighting and attracting tourists to the Lowe family’s beautifully converted family farm. With many events and educational programs throughout the year, Mike’s Farm attracts groups with their petting zoo, hayrides, strawberry fields and seasonal produce, such as their famous pumpkin patch every Halloween. A Festival of Lights debuts around the holiday season, and a festively decorated gift shop showcases candles, unique country gifts and Christmas décor year-round. A bakery adjacent to the gift shop specializes in several varieties of mouth-watering fudge, as well as other sweet treats, with a glass window for viewing the bakers at work. Mike’s family-style restaurant boasts a traditional family dinner, Thursday through Sunday nights, where your party is served large dishes of home-made country chicken, biscuits and the like in a warm, intimate setting.