Hammocks Beach State Park Facilities Collage

Status of Facilities as of July 1, 2024
at Hammocks Beach State Park

Ferry service, campsites, and all other facilities at Bear Island are closed, while the mainland access remains open. Please note there is no beach access on the mainland.

Open Facilities

The mainland area and hiking trails are open daily. The visitor center is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Gate hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. The restrooms are open and can be accessed through the visitor center or outdoor entrances.

Please note there is no beach access on the mainland.

Masks are optional in all park buildings. Those who are unvaccinated or at high-risk are strongly encouraged to wear masks.

Bear Island Closures

The ferry service, campsites, and all facilities at Bear Island are closed. There is no running water.

See FAQ below for additional information

Camping Information

Bear Island campsites and group campsites are closed. The bathhouse, including restrooms, is closed, and there is no potable water on the island. 

The Simmons Mainland Campground will be opening soon.  Check back for updates.

Open fires are not permitted anywhere on Bear Island. There are no white lights (flashlights) permitted on Bear Island at night during turtle nesting season approximately May through October. Use a red lens only on the beachfront at night.

Paddling and Boating Information

Kayak launch and paddle trails are open for use.

The five paddle trails are all marked:

  1. Huggins Island Loop Trail: 6 miles round trip (difficult)
  2. Bear Inlet Trail: 5.6 miles one way (difficult)
  3. Bear Island Trail: 2.7 miles one way (moderate)
  4. Queen's Creek Trail: 0.7 miles one way (easy)
  5. Trout Channel Spur: 0.4 miles, one way (moderate)

Please see the paddle trail map for additional information.

The boat ramp in the maintenance area is open.  There are eight parking spaces allocated for boat trailer parking. You must obtain a permit to utilize the boat ramp — present your Annual Pass at the visitor center or pay the boat ramp fee ($7). All boaters must check in at the visitor center. 

Please note that park, emergency, and construction vessels have priority use of the boat ramp.

Contact Information

Questions can be directed to the park at hammocks.beach@ncparks.gov or 910-326-4881.

 

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Bear Island Closures

Why is the project happening now?

The water and sewer system at Bear Island requires replacement. Federal health and safety laws mandate that potable water and restrooms are provided for both staff and visitors at the island, so we are unable to keep any facilities on the island open. We understand the timing of the closure will have visitation and economic impacts to the park and the area, and this is not a decision that was made lightly. Ultimately, the safety of our staff and visitors are paramount and we are unwilling to risk that.

Where did the funding for this project come from?

Funding from the project came from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, specifically the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds. Under the provisions of the grant, North Carolina must obligate the funds in 2024.

Why can’t the ferry run during construction?

The safety concerns are twofold: the construction will create safety hazards for pedestrian access and paths on the island, and the lack of potable water and restrooms also make it unsafe for staff and visitors to be at the island, even for day use. Central and park staff worked diligently over the last few months to explore all alternatives to avoid closure but were unable to find options that would allow us to safely permit day use and camping on the island.

Why was the closure not announced sooner?

Central and park staff worked diligently over the last few months to explore every avenue to avoid the closure. Due to the safety issues posed by the lack of facilities and by the impending construction, we are forced to close the ferry service as well as the campsites to new reservations.

How long will the closure take?

Once a contractor for the project has been selected later in April, we will have more information about the exact length of the closure.

What if I have an existing camping reservation?

Park staff will contact campers with existing reservations to provide information about options.  Campsites are closed to new reservations, effective immediately.

What if I bought an NC State Parks Annual Pass?

Please contact the park by May 24, 2024, to request a refund on the NC State Parks Annual Pass and the Four-Wheel-Drive Beach Access Annual Pass. No refunds will be issued after this date for either pass. There are no refunds on the NC State Parks Seasonal Access Pass, which does not include the Hammocks Beach State Park ferry service.

Can I still go to Bear Island?

There is currently no potable water or restrooms at Bear Island. We discourage visiting Bear Island without proper preparation and prior experience with harsh remote conditions, especially during the summer months when heat exhaustion and illness can happen quickly. Please note that the ferry dock and the trail to the beach will be closed to all visitors when construction begins.

What are some alternatives for free beach access or summer trips?

Hammocks Beach State Park’s mainland access is still open, and park staff will be offering free educational programs throughout the closure, including educational marsh tours. Please visit ncparks.gov/habe/events for a full list. Private concessionaires in the area also provide paddling equipment rentals and tours.

Fort Macon State Park, located 30 miles away, also offers free beach access. Please note that Fort Macon is one of our most popular parks, so make sure to plan accordingly, including having backup plans.

Some other nearby options that are part of the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources include: the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, Theodore Roosevelt State Natural Area, and the North Carolina  Maritime Museum in Beaufort.

The Swansboro Tourism Development Authority, visitswansboro.org, and Onslow County Tourism, onlyinonslow.com, also provide additional trip planning information and resources.

Related Topics: