Top 3 parks to visit in Bogue Banks, North Carolina

Emerald Isle Boating Access Area

My wife and I have spent the months of December, January, and February (2020 through 2021) in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina.  This was our second long term destination, after Ocean City (Maryland), where we spent a month or longer, as part of our slow travel plan.

By ‘slow’ traveling, we’re able to see and experience a destination’s attractions much more in detail.  We can explore the nooks and crannies, places most visitors may not get to see.  On a ‘normal’ vacation lasting a week, our itinerary would be somewhat hurried as we were eager to discover as much of the destination as possible.  This would also tire us out to try to keep to our itinerary!

The three parks we’ll be covering in this post are my favorite parks on Bogue Banks.  Our pack (my wife, myself, and our 13 pound Pomeranian, Toby) spent countless hours in these parks.  

Our top 3 Bogue Banks parks:

     1.   Fort Macon State Park ***Fort Macon State Park was previously covered in my post.  Please click here for ‘Top 3 things to do in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina’ for the full article. 



2.   Theodore Roosevelt natural area:  Located next to the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores 

Encompassing 265 acres, Theodore Roosevelt natural area may be smaller than Fort Macon, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for it by its unspoiled/undeveloped beauty.  The Theodore Roosevelt natural area surrounds the North Carolina Aquarium so it’s worth visiting both on the same trip.  

The natural area protects the barrier island’s only remaining intact maritime forest.  Natural area was donated to the state by the grandchildren of Theodore Roosevelt as a memorial to the 26th President of the United States.  Most of the natural area is not opened to the public to protect its fragile ecosystem, but two nature trails provide limited access to the area.

This area, for whatever reason, was beloved by our Pomeranian.  He instinctively took to this natural area the first time we visited there.  He started to sniff more than usual, had his ears fully perked up, and was walking (pulling actually!) ahead of both of us.  These are all signs our dog is really happy!

We had to ask the friendly Aquarium employee for directions to the nature trails.  It was literally right next to the Aquarium.  *As you go into the Aquarium’s parking lot, the Theodore Roosevelt nature trail is on the west end of the parking lot.  Look for the signage at the front of the entrance to the nature trail.  

Please keep in mind the trails close daily at 4:30 pm.  

Entrance to the nature trail

There are two trails to choose:

  • Theodore Roosevelt nature trail is the longer of the two trails at approximately 1.2 miles.  This is a more rigorous trail that scales a high dune ridge and travels over marshes.  Benches are stationed throughout the trail to provide a resting area during the trek.  There are bird viewing areas along the marshes.  The trail itself is not wide.  It’s about 3 feet wide so it’s probably best to walk one person at a time.  We had to move a bit to the side to allow others to pass...The highlight of my hike to this trail were the Bogue Sound views (below).  It was super windy, but the views made up for it!  


  • The Alice Hoffman nature trail is approximately .7 mile long and is ideal for hikers of all skill levels and ages.  The trail leads out to viewing of the East Pond then loops through the marsh.  This trail can be found off the Marsh Boardwalk outside the Coastal Plains Gallery at the NC Aquarium. 
3.   Emerald Isle Boating Access Area:  Located at 6800 Emerald Drive, Emerald Isle

This was a hidden gem!  On our drive out to Emerald Isle, we passed by this area the first time, and promised to stop by on our next trip.  We’re glad we did that.  

This is listed as a boating access area, but the views here were phenomenal!  Park your car as soon as you enter the area, then look for the Boardwalk in front of the bay.  Note the long fishing pier.  Take in your surroundings for few minutes.  You’ll see marshes, birds, and incredible views of the Bogue Sound.  Walk all the way to the end of the fishing pier to really appreciate the panoramic views of the bay.  

See some pictures below.


Fishing pier at Emerald Isle Boating Access

We hope you enjoyed our top 3 parks on Bogue Banks, North Carolina.  Thank you for reading!

Jake
Wandering Money Pig 


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