Life on Bald Head Island

Today I'm so excited to have Pam Smith as a guest on my back porch. She's going to share a little about life on Bald Head Island. Here's Pam...

Do you remember the movie "Trains, Planes & Automobiles"? Replace those with "Car, Ferry and Golf Cart" and you have an idea of the unique commute to Bald Head Island, a barrier island directly off the coast of North Carolina. Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Cape Fear river, Bald Head Island is accessible only via boat or ferry, there is no bridge connector to the island. As they say on the island, getting there is half the fun!

I first encountered Bald Head Island back in 1999 during an impromptu "lighthouses" of NC tour with my mom ( my mom is famous for her spontaneous road trips). We rode the ferry over from Southport to see Old Baldy, the oldest standing lighthouse in NC. I fell in love with the island then and when an opportunity arose to work there in 2014, I jumped at the chance! I work for the Bald Head Island Conservancy, a non-profit formed by island residents and land owners in 1983 who wanted to preserve its natural landscape and habitats, in essence "live in harmony with nature". Bald Head consists of three various eco systems - the coast / dune ridge, maritime forest and salt marsh, all of these provide homes to a wide variety of critters and creatures on the island, including; deer, alligator, a wide variety of birds; heron, ibis, painted buntings and bald eagles, river otter, an abundance of crab and fish, nesting sea turtles and this year, a group of nesting least terns.

(This is a white ibis.)

The BHI Conservancy's mission is barrier island education, preservation and conservation, including its well known Sea Turtle Protection program. Working in conjunction with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission and the National Marine Fisheries Service, Bald Head Island has been designated as an "index beach" making our sea turtle nesting activity and protection program nationally recognized.

The BHI Conservancy is funded a variety of ways including; Corporate sponsors, memberships, donations, programs, 5K Turtle Trot runs and Turtle Central- the non profit gift shop benefitting the Conservancy. Now here is where I come in! I manage the non-profit gift shop and online store on the Conservancy campus along with part-time staffers and volunteers. We serve as the Gateway to the BHI Conservancy and even the island itself as we are often asked a myriad of questions pertaining to the island. We know where the eagle's nest is on middle island, where the big gators like to roam, how to kayak the creek, where the beautiful painted bunting likes to flit and flutter in spring as he serenades his lady love and all about sea turtle nesting, boils and excavations. We can discuss our groundbreaking non lethal deer population control methods and how sand temperature affects the sex of baby loggerhead sea turtles, all while selling you a t-shirt!

Bald Head Island is truly like no other place I have ever been or worked, there is a distinct effort by residents, workers, business owners and vacationers alike to keep the island as close as possible to its natural state. The homes and cottages are nestled in between rugged dunes and centuries old live oaks, there are no cars on the island. There is a charming post office and chapel situated close to Old Baldy. Kids can roam and explore and parents are grateful for a sometimes spotty cell phone and Internet connection. I hear over and over how families connect and enjoy time together, they feel the island is an escape from the real world, back to the way things were before Golden Arches and discount stores dotted every corner of our landscape.

The sense of community is strongly felt on the island, you feel it when a collective group of islanders and tourists alike are gathered on a beach as the sun begins to set, a hush falls over the crowd while a sea turtle intern checks a nest that has boiled 72 hours prior, she counts the eggs noting the hatch rate, and then as everyone waits with baited breath, she draws a baby up and shows it to the crowd, there are gasps, sighs and sometimes tears as the baby is shown and taken down to the ocean's edge where it begins its journey to the Sargasso Sea. According to our collected research, she will eventually return to Bald Head, as her mother did some thirty years before and lay her own nest, completing the cycle.

Pam, thanks so much for stopping by and sharing with us today.

Please stop by and visit Pam, Turtle Central Gift Shop, and the Conservancy.

Here's the Instagram link:

Here is the Facebook

And the link to the online store:

Shop address and contact info:

Turtle Central Gift Shop
700 Federal Road
Bald Head Island, NC 28461