Visitors looking for a “greener” vacation will quickly find the Crystal Coast is a natural wonder, teeming with wildlife. And there’s perhaps no better place to discover this than the Rachel Carson Reserve, a component of the North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve. The breathtakingly beautiful area is a series of islands referred to by locals as Bird Shoal or Carrot Island and lies just across from the Beaufort waterfront. It can only be accessed by boat and lucky explorers might spot a few of the beautiful Carrot Island wild ponies congregating along the shore.
The 2,650-acre reserve is a favorite place for hiking, shelling and exploring the natural and human processes that affect coastal areas. The site was named for Rachel Carson, the famous scientist and author who conducted research on the island’s coastal habitat.
Comprised of salt marshes, salt flats, tidal flats and eelgrass beds, the area is a favorite place for beachcombing, swimming and sunbathing, but is only accessible by boat. While there, you’ll spot water birds, wild horses and other natural attractions.
More than 200 species of birds have been sighted on the reserve and a checklist of these feathered-friends is available. The site is an important feeding area for Wilson’s plovers in the summer and piping plovers in the winter. The shrub thicket of the area’s middle marsh supports an egret and heron rookery. Guided nature tours are offered from 8:30-10:30am, Tuesday and Thursday, June through August. For more information call 252-838-0883 or nccoastalreserve.net.