Allen On Travel

A 30 year veteran of world travel (but knows nil about Orlando-area attractions), Will Allen III writes about his weekly odysseys by air on business and how the airlines rob him--and you--of time, the most precious commodity on earth. Time: It's all we have, and the airlines routinely take it from us. This blog challenges the airlines to keep their basic promises.

My Photo
Location: Raleigh, North Carolina, United States

Born 1948 in Kinston, NC and raised there in beautiful eastern North Carolina, I now live in Raleigh and commute around the country and the world.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Take A Ferry To Cape Fear’s Bald Head Island For Seaside Seclusion, Serenity, & Natural Beauty

I’ve written ad nauseam about the trials and tribulations of flying, and about the occasional relief from the tyranny of air travel. For example, we had a great Amtrak experience at Thanksgiving from Seattle to the Twin Cities aboard the Empire Builder, and recently I logged over 1700 miles in a rented Toyota Avalon to Chicago and back from Raleigh. Until now, though, I haven’t written about water-borne transport.

Just prior to a recent weekend, my wife and I, needing a break from Raleigh, knew that we did NOT want to fly anywhere. Why tempt the misery that too often comes with a trip to the airport? So instead we booked Friday and Saturday nights in a rented condo on Bald Head Island, the exclusive and beautiful island retreat near Southport, about 40 minutes south of Wilmington.

Bald Head Island, less famous than more exclusive Figure Eight Island some miles north, is one of North Carolina’s barrier islands. Bald Head juts out into the Atlantic and at its southeastern tip is Cape Fear. Beyond the cape lie the treacherous Frying Pan Shoals.

Yes, it was still a bit chilly on the N.C. coast, but the beach beauty and tranquility can’t be beat, even when we are wrapped in quilted jackets. So off we went on a Friday afternoon, a quick two hour drive to Wilmington and a slower one hour crawl from there to Southport to catch the private ferry that moves the rich and famous between the mainland and the island.

Just made the 7:00 PM ferry—a PEOPLE-AND-PETS-ONLY ferry, I hasten to add. No cars are allowed on Bald Head Island, one of its appeals.

Once on board the boat the magic began! It was by then dark, and we watched Southport recede as the lights of Bald Head Island hove into view. I swear there were more dogs on board than people! There are Bald Head year-round residents (well-heeled) and mere weekenders, but they all share a great love of dogs, and the variety of breeds crossing the waters with us would have made any dog show proud. My kids enjoyed going from mutt to mutt to pay their respects, and they were rewarded with plenty of love and licks in return.

So far, so good, I thought. The ferry staff was professional and friendly, and the boat left the dock dead on time and arrived at the island in about 20 minutes. Sure beats flying!

A bevy of elongated golf carts with trailers and chauffeurs met us at the dock. Once our luggage was brought off the ferry (very fast and efficient handling) we loaded everything into the waiting electric limos, and we were delivered to our respective abodes. In our case we had rented a 3 bedroom condo with a gorgeous view of the salt marshes on the inner stretches of the island. It was like a hotel: all linens, towels, and so on provided. We only needed to stock the fridge.

Next morning we were up early to explore the island, just a few miles wide and long in our own golf cart. Every house and condo has its own golf carts, many of them large and fancy affairs with room for as many as six. The prevailing golf cart culture is stress-free, quiet, and keeps you close to the outdoors.

Stress-free, that is, until we were stopped by the island police! Seems our condo owner had forgotten to renew his Bald Head Island golf cart annual license and registration, an oversight which had been spotted by the electric car constabulary. Although I thought it petty and stupid to regulate golf carts on a private island that bans automobiles, we nonetheless traded in our cart for one with a current registration.

And headed off to the mid-island grocery store and snack bar. There we enjoyed a quiet, peaceful breakfast amid the gorgeous live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, and then shopped for lunch and dinner victuals in the well-stocked emporium. In addition to a decent deli of fine foods, the store boasts an impressive wine selection.

With our bellies full and our pantry stocked, we tooled quietly off in our electric limo to all parts of the island: Nature walks through primeval maritime forests with poison ivy vines so frighteningly mature they are as big around as your arm, gorgeous palm trees and live oaks; sea birds galore on the ocean and beach, along with schools of dolphin swimming ten feet from shore; alligators sunning themselves in the marsh; and picture postcard white sandy beaches ranging from gently lapping waves to roaring thunder surf, with plenty of beach access points.

Bald Head Island has a tropical-like environment even in the waning days of winter, and we thoroughly enjoyed the day. Wilmington is the northern limit of a number of palms and semitropical flora, so the island has the feel of a place far south of its location. Add to that the inherent privacy and exclusivity—and no automobiles—and you have a pretty good set-up for a relaxing weekend…or week, if you can afford it.

We achieved our purpose for the weekend: to recharge our batteries and to relieve stress. Best of all, no airports and no airplanes.


Post a Comment

<< Home