“Like the sea itself, the shore fascinates us who return to it, the place of our dim ancestral beginnings. In the recurrent rhythms of tides and surf and in the varied life of the tide lines there is an obvious attraction of movement and change and beauty. There is also, I am convinced, a deeper fascination born of inner meaning and significance.”
Rachel Carson from The Edge of the Sea
With all the changes that the National Park Service has made in getting visitors over to Shackleford Banks, many Beaufort locals and visitors have been looking for an alternative.
Bird Shoal is that alternative.
We think that Bird Shoal is yet another one of North Carolina’s best places.
Looking east on Bird Shoal, with Shackleford Banks on the horizon to the right
It’s closer to Beaufort (though it seems a world away), the ferry service is less expensive, you’ll often have the beach to yourself, and in utilizing the ferry service you’ll be helping a local Beaufort small business.
Why should you visit?
Bird Shoal is one of the reasons we love Beaufort…you can go from Beaufort’s waterfront to a nearly secluded beach without ever having to jump back in your car!
If you need more reasons enjoy the photos and read on…
What is Bird Shoal?
A current Wikipedia entry defines a shoal as a characteristically linear landform completely within or extending into a body of water. It is typically composed of sand, silt, and/or small pebbles.
Looking west on Bird Shoal with Radio Island and the Olde Town Yacht Club on the horizon
That definition is pretty much on target as Bird Shoal is a narrow island/sand bar that extends across most of the south side of the Rachel Carson Reserve.
Rachel Carson herself wrote a wonderful description of the Shoal in her book, The Edge of the Sea:
“Some of the shoals bear the names of the creatures of air and water that visit them – Shark, Sheepshead, Bird. To visit Bird Shoal, one goes out by boat through channels winding through the Town Marsh of Beaufort and comes ashore on a rim of sand held firm by the deep roots of beach grasses – the landward border of the shoal. The burrows of thousands of fiddler crabs riddle the muddy beach on the side facing the marshes. The crabs shuffle across the flats at the approach of an intruder, and the sound of many small chitinous feet is like the crackling of paper. Crossing the ridge of sand, one looks out over the shoal. If the tide still has an hour or two to fall to its ebb, one sees only a sheet of water shimmering in the sun.”
“On the beach, as the tide falls, the border of wet sand gradually retreats toward the sea. Offshore, a dull velvet patch takes form on the shining silk of the water, like the back of an immense fish slowly rolling out of the sea, as a long streak of sand begins to rise into view.”
That’s a description from a half century ago, but it still holds true. Today, you and I can easily enjoy this natural treasure.
How do you get to Bird Shoal?
Just as Rachel Carson mentions, Bird Shoal can only reached by boat. It’s a short, easy ride though.
Bird Shoal is on the south side of the Rachel Carson Reserve, just across Taylor’s Creek from Beaufort. A boat going to Bird Shoal will head around Town Marsh and then east to the beach. You can also reach it by foot from parts of the rest of the Reserve (though you make get a bit wet) or by paddling around or through a number of spots in the Reserve, especially at high tide.
Island Ferry Adventures can get you there easily.
Check out their Bird Shoal page.
They normally drop off near the western end of the Shoal. Depending on the time of your visit, there may be plenty of other folks enjoying the beach at that end.
Just walk east along the beach and you’ll find yourself all alone in 10 minutes or so (or maybe a little less). The beach at Bird Shoal extends about 2 1/2 miles.
Does Bird Shoal have wild horses?
Yes, the Rachel Carson Reserve does have a population of wild horses similar to those on Shackleford Banks.
Depending on the tides (at low tide the horses can move from island to island within the reserve), you will almost certainly see at least a few, but remember to keep your distance.
Taken with a phone and a little fuzzy, wild horses moving in shallow water behind Bird Shoal
They are beautiful animals, but they are wild and the Reserve recommends that you stay at least 50 feet away from the horses at all times. If you find yourself stuck closer than that to them, just stay still and quiet and back away as soon as you can.
Will you find lots of shells on Bird Shoal?
As with all the islands, beaches, and sand bars around Beaufort, the chances are good that you’ll find great shells – including sand dollars and small whelks. Check out Seashells of North Carolina for a great guide to shells you may find around Beaufort.
How did Bird Shoal get it’s name?
Just as Rachel Carson said, local legend has it that a Beaufort boat captain named it for the many birds that always seemed to be hanging out on the shoal. See a great photo of bird on Bird Shoal from John Norman that we shared on the Bringing Home Beaufort Facebook Page.
What should I take along?
We always take a small cooler with a few cold drinks (ok, ok, a few cold beers), a towel to sit on, and maybe something to carry back a few shells. Don’t forget the sunscreen, there’s no shade on Bird Shoal. Oh, and make sure to bring along your camera!
If you have any questions at all about Bird Shoal, make sure and drop us a line.
Thanks so much for joining us here at Bringing Home Beaufort!
And always remember to:
Relax…you CAN get to Bird Shoal from here!
Please feel free to check out the books we’ve linked to in this post. If you purchase one of them, we’ll earn a small commission that will help us to keep publishing Bringing Home Beaufort. Thanks!!!
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