Get plant and animal checklists at the park office.
While most visitors to Fort Macon spend their time at the fort or relaxing on the beach, the park is also an excellent introduction to the varied and abundant plant and animal life of the North Carolina coast.
Explore the base of the jetty at low tide or walk the beach in search of mollusk shells washed ashore by the last storm. Sea urchins, sea stars and coral may be spotted on or under rocks or other objects in the shallow water.
Visit the nearby Theodore Roosevelt State Natural Area, 8 miles west of Fort Macon. This area with extensive maritime forests and freshwater ponds is also the site of the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, an educational facility with a variety of marine exhibits.
Like other barrier islands, Fort Macon boasts a line of sand dunes covered with sparse stands of sea oats behind the beach. The park's interior is covered by dense thickets of wax myrtle, eastern redcedar, yaupon and live oak. The regularly flooded marshes along the edge of Bogue Sound are dominated by smooth cordgrass, while the drier upland margins are covered with saltmeadow cordgrass and other grasses and sedges.
The muddy bottoms of the marshes along the backside of the island are home to oysters and clams. In the summer, the diamondback terrapin, the only reptile to regularly inhabit estuarine waters along the coast, may be seen in tidal creeks. These rich, regularly flooded estuarine waters are vital to the coastal ecosystem. They supply food for marine organisms and serve as nurseries for economically important fruits of the sea such as crabs, shrimp and other shellfish.
Look for a heron or egret roosting in the cedars, or catch a glimpse of a painted bunting in the thickets around the fort. Fort Macon is a great place for bird-watching in all seasons. In the summer, gulls and terns may be found feeding in the marine waters or resting on the beach. Late summer migration brings flocks of sanderling, dunlin and other species to the beach, and the thickets come alive with warblers, sparrows and other migrants. In the winter, the rocky jetties attract birds more often associated with rocky coasts farther north. Such rarities such as purple sandpipers and common eiders may be spotted feeding along the jetties.
Fort Macon State Park
Fort Macon: 9am - 5:30pm daily.
Coastal Education and Visitor Center: 9am - 5pm daily.
Bookstore: 9am - 5pm Phone 252-247-3100
November - February:
8am - 5:30pm
March & October 8am - 7pm
April, May and September: 8am - 8pm
June - August: 8am - 9pm
Fort Parking Area:
October - March: 8am - 6pm
April, May and September: 8am - 7pm
June - August: 8am - 8pm
Closed Christmas Day
10am - 5:45pm Memorial Day until Labor Day, if staffing permits
8am - 1pm, 2pm - 5pm Monday - Friday
Closed state holidays