When it comes to the beach, we mainly think of sandy dunes, crashing waves, and a palm tree or two. Rarely do we think of the coastal ecosystem that encompasses the sound, marsh, and tideland forests. While the beach will always be beautiful, there’s exquisite beauty hiding behind the shore and sand. One such place that introduces you to this unique environment is the 761 acre Carolina Beach State Park.
Located beside Carolina Beach on Pleasure Island, this beautiful state park is home to primitive, tree-towered camping grounds, miles of hiking trails, a marina with access to some of North Carolina's most sought-after fishing spots and the native Venus Fly Trap.
Here, you'll find seven miles of trails weaving you through diverse coastal habitats. The flytrap trail (pictured above) is three tenths of a mile with several boardwalks elevating you above the pocosin wetlands. The loop trail begins and ends at the parking area and allows guests to see native fauna and flora as well as the elusive Venus fly trap.
There's also the popular 2.8 mile Sugarloaf Dune Trail. The trail begins at the end of state park road in close proximity to the marina. Bring your binoculars as this is in an excellent location for birdwatching. The trail starts you along the marsh and takes you into a mesmerizing pine forest. Your endpoint is the trail's namesake, Sugarloaf, a natural mudflat habitat popular with fiddler crabs. There's also the Sugarloaf dune with historical ties to pre-Colonial and Civil War-era.
If you're in search of trees, the Snow's Cut Trail is only three fourths of a mile but provides an intimate forest experience. On your journey you'll see the largest pine and hardwood trees found in the state park. There's also the Swamp Trail, staying true to its name, it allows hikers to witness tidal-cypress gum swamp and opposing brackish marsh that run parallel to each other along the trail.
If you're seeking more water views, there's also the Oak Toe Trail which takes you to the marsh overlook and provides stunning views of the mighty Cape Fear River.
While many take a day of their beach vacation to explore the park, others make a whole weekend of it by camping. The family campsite is equipped with 83 sites, two of those are wheelchair accessible and nine are RV/trailer sites with full hook-ups. If you don't have the camping gear, don't fret, there's also family camping cabins. The four camper cabins can sleep up to six and include electric receptacles and air/heat units. If you're traveling with a group or camping for a special occasion, two group camping sites near Sugarloaf Dune Trail can accommodate between 26-40 people (available by reservation only).
Carolina Beach State Park offers a number of year-round events and informative hikes. Coming up this Saturday and Sunday is the carnivorous plant hike. The guided hike lets visitors learn about the fascinating meat-eating plants native to this area. You can even see a few like sundews, bladderworts, butterworts, pitcher plants, and the Venus fly trap "bite back."
Even if you're just passing through or visiting for a day, Carolina Beach State Park is a majestic place where you'll find rare plants (some who eat meat), diverse forests, sweeping marshland and abundant coastal charm. There's nothing wrong with having a lazy day or two on the beach, take some time to see the environment that exists pasts the shore.
While many associate state parks with the mountains, it’s always neat to discover the ones that are hiding along one of North Carolina’s many unique landscapes. Have you ever visited Carolina Beach State Park?
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