The 178 acre parcel of undeveloped territory, managed by the N.C. Division of Coastal Management (DCM), in partnership with the Bald Head Island Conservancy, effectively acts as a protector of the island, allowing storm winds to pass over the canopy of trees protecting the interior of the preserve and outlying beaches, homes and communities. The natural terrain also provides some extra elevation to the small, approximately 5 square mile island, with ancient tree roots that holds sand in despite any harsh storms or saltwater surges that pass through.

But despite being an instrumental component to the island's very existence, and a protector against erosion and storms, Bald Head Woods serves a more visible role as a fun, outdoor destination for visitors to enjoy off the beach. A popular spot with bird watchers, hikers and nature fans alike, this rustic destination allows vacationers to easily step off the beaten path, and dive into Bald Head Island's natural landscape.

A Maritime Forest Preserve marker at Bald Head Woods, NC

The reserve borders both a collection of oceanside communities and the salty Bald Head Island Creek along the southern portion of the Island, close to the Shoals Watch Club. Federal Road cuts through the center of Bald Head Woods, and features several trailheads where adventurous vacationers can start their explorations of the undeveloped territory.

A guided tour hikes through Bald Head Woods, NC

Trails can vary from easy to moderate, and effectively make up an entire 2.2 mile "loop" which winds through the preserve in almost its entirety. The main trailhead features a famous resident - a live oak tree affectionately called "Baldy" by locals - which has earned a spot on the national Live Oak Society register due to its massive size.

A sign marks an entrance to Bald Head Woods, NC

Baldy will certainly not be the only giant live oak that visitors encounter, however. The interior of the preserve is protected by an intertwined network of giant oak trees, including live oaks and laurel oaks, which protect the fragile forest environment below. Smaller flora and fauna species that thrive under this canopy include wild olive, American holly, yaupon, and catbrier, and other shade-loving plants such as cabbage palmettos and spleenwort can be found throughout the woods as well.

A wooden bridge in Bald Head Woods, NC

Nature lovers should be on the lookout for a number of wild residents, including gray squirrels, raccoons, white-tailed deer, eastern mud turtles, and even green tree frogs which take up well-camouflaged residence along the bright green foliage. Bird watchers will find plenty of vantage points to spot a number of woodland birds, including Carolina wrens, cardinals and blue jays, which are happily at home throughout this dense protected portion of an otherwise salty barrier island.

Bald Head Woods trail map

While the woods provide ample shade from the sun, visitors will want to load up on bug spray, especially in the summer months when the reserve can serve as a haven for overheated mosquitos. In addition, visitors will want to keep their eyes peeled for ticks and snakes which, while rare, can still startle hikers that delve deep into the woodsy parcels of the region.

Bald Head Woods, NC

The reserve is open year round, and hikers can tour the terrain at will, although several local clubs and programs, like the Bald Head Island Club, may offer seasonal special tours which highlight some of the Bald Head Woods' most notable wild residents and plant species. Visitors can check with local calendars of events or their vacation rental companies for details on upcoming, guided excursions that coincide with their vacation. The Bald Head Island Conservancy, located nearby, can also provide visitors with a complete list of local trails to uncover and discover during a natural adventure through the heart of the island.

Bald Head Island may have a reputation as an elite vacation destination, but a big part of its allure comes from its natural surroundings which both protect and beautify this barrier island. The Bald Head Woods State Reserve is a perfect representation of Bald Head Island's wild nature, and visitors from all walks of life can enjoy a quick stroll, an in-depth hike, or a simple drive through this undeveloped parcel of natural paradise. Unique and always fascinating during all seasons, Bald Head Woods is an incredible slice of wild North Carolina that sheds new light on this island's inherently wild nature.


Bald Head Island
Victory Beach Vacations

Visitors who are on the hunt for the postcard-perfect vacation rental in the heart of the Carolina Beach or Kure Beach area will find an enticing selection and plenty of friendly customer service when they rent through Victory Beach Vacations. Based in Carolina Beach in the coastal Cape Fear region, Victory Beach Vacations has more than 100 vacation rentals in all shapes and sizes to ensure that every vacationing family can find their dream home away from home on the beach.   When you book your Cape Fear getaway with Victory Beach Vacations, the fun doesn’t end when you leave the beach, it continues with an array of privately-owned properties outfitted with all of the amenities needed for a fabulous beach vacation.   Jenna Lanier, General Manager, explains that her family first opened the rental and property management business in 2002. At the forefront of Victory Beach operations is Lanier’s mother, Caroline Meeks. Meeks is both the Broker in Charge and co-owner with husband, Buck Meeks, who manages the Field Services team with Lanier’s husband, Scott.   For nearly 20 years, the Victory Beach team has worked tirelessly to establish a network of top-of-the-line rental properties for Cape Fear visitors to enjoy. “As far as our properties go,” explains Lanier, “they are all updated, well-furnished and appointed. “We have always performed post-cleaning inspections and since the pandemic, have put freshly laundered duvets over all of the comforters between rentals.”   Lanier emphasizes how important the guests experience is “we strive to give our guests a relaxing, stress free, memorable vacation.” This emphasis on customer service has led to Victory Beach Vacations having a 4.8 Google rating with over 300 reviews by happy owners and guests.In addition to Victory Beach’s superior sanitation practices, the company offers properties for every type of visitor. Choose from luxury oceanfront houses and condos to more reasonbly priced 2nd row properties with oceanviews. Many properties include pools and hot tubs as well, perfect for outdoor entertaining, and many are dog friendly.   Lanier also notes that all properties are within walking or driving distance to Pleasure Island’s main attractions – Carolina Beach and Kure Beach. The former, as described by Lanier, is the more commercialized of the two destinations and features a boardwalk, outdoor dining options and a plethora of weekly activities including fireworks, live music, amusement park pop-ups, and movies under the stars. Kure Beach offers a more residential feel with its fishing pier, intimate restaurants and family favorite, North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.More water fun awaits, too. “There is a harbor and a canal that feed into the intercoastal. We have several properties on the harbor so guests can bring their boat, kayak, [or jet ski] and travel between islands,” says Lanier.   A stay with Victory Beach Vacations is an annual pilgrimage for most. “A large percentage of guests are previous guests. Some even reserve the same property for the next year as they’re checking out,” Lanier says. “It’s almost like it’s their personal vacation home.”   Even before guests arrive at their vacation destination, the Victory Beach Vacations’ website greets them with a live beach cam and exquisite aerial footage of both Carolina and Kure Beaches. See for yourself by scanning the QR code and call Victory Beach Vacations at 910.458.0868 to book your Cape Fear getaway. Start making your memories today! —Grace Silipigni