- Except for 33 acres on the mainland, Hammocks Beach State Park is located on Bear Island, an 892 acre barrier island. It is 3.5 miles long and less than a mile wide. The island is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the south and by salt marshes, estuarine creeks and the Inter coastal Waterway to the north. Bogue Inlet lies at the northeast end of the island, while Bear Inlet lies to the southwest.
Copyright: North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation
Hammocks Beach State Park
Shrub thickets and maritime forests create a wilderness environment, yet in parts of the island it's easy to imagine you're in the desert. Perhaps the most interesting animal found at the park is the protected loggerhead turtle. Between mid-May and late August, female loggerheads come ashore at night to nest. Raccoons, foxes and even the tiny sideways scooting ghost crabs threaten the loggerhead's existence.
The area is steeped in Indian, pirate and privateers history. Due to its location, the island often played a key role in protection of the mainland. A fort was built in 1749 but has since disappeared. As recently as World War II, this island was used to secure the coast and monitor for German U-boat activity.
Early in the twentieth century, Dr. William Sharpe, a neurosurgeon from New York, came to Bear Island to hunt. His love of the island prompted him to acquire it for his retirement. Sharpe intended to will the property to John Hurst, a long time hunting guide. Instead, Hurst urged him to donate it to an African American teachers association. In 1950, the group unsuccessfully developed the property. They then donated the land with the intent to create a park for minorities. Hammocks Beach State Park opened for all races following the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
A passenger ferry is operated from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The 25 minute trip leaves every hour on Monday and Tuesday from 9:30 am -5:30 p.m. Two ferries operate Wed-Sun 9:30 am -5:30 p.m. One ferry operates every hour 9:30 am -4:30 p.m. Wednesday - Sunday during May and September and 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Friday-Sunday in April and October. Fees are $2 for adults (13 and up) and $1 for children (4-12). Children 3 and under are free.
Park Hours: September-May 8 am-6 pm; June-August 8 am - 7 pm. Office hours: 8 am-5 pm Monday through Friday (October-April); 8 am-5 pm daily (May-September). Gates will remain locked, except in emergency situations, when the park is not in operation. Please plan accordingly. The park is closed Christmas Day.
Recreation - Hiking, camping and canoeing are available at the park but due to Hurricane Fran, as of this writing, the picnic shelters are no longer usable.
Ocean swimming offers a bathhouse and lifeguards during the summer months.
Surf fishing is allowed from the shores of the park in accordance with NC Wildlife Resources regulations. No license is required.
Shell walks, island hikes and programs about the Loggerhead Sea Turtle are given throughout the summer and are available to groups on request. Programs are available throughout the year. Program calendars are also available upon request. Environmental Educational Learning Experience (EELE) Booklet--Sea Turtle Trek. Grades 6, 7, and 8. Introduces students to the life history of the sea turtles, focusing on the loggerhead sea turtle. Major concepts covered include: animal adaptation, sea turtle life cycle, endangered species, natural and human threats, habitat, resource management, and stewardship. This publication is available free of charge to North Carolina educators through an EELE workshop. Contact the park office for details.
A refreshment stand is located near the swimming area on Bear Island and is open during the summer months to provide light snacks from 10 am - 5:30 pm, Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Mainland parking and the pathway down to the ferry dock are accessible for wheelchairs, but the ferry and the restrooms are not accessible.
Climate - Winter daytime temperatures average above 44 degrees Fahrenheit (7 Celsius). Summer daytime temperatures range above 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 Celsius). The state has a fairly wet climate with an average precipitation for this area averaging more than 52 inches (132 centimeters).
The mainland portion of Hammocks Beach State Park is located in Onslow County between Jacksonville and Morehead City. From Swansboro, SR 1511 (Hammocks Beach Road) leads to the park entrance adjacent to Queens Creek. From here, the passenger ferry departs for Bear Island. The island is also accessible by private boat, marine taxi service or by canoeing the park designated canoe trail / route.