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Best North Carolina State Parks to Visit in the Winter


Best North Carolina State Parks to Visit in the Winter

Hammocks Beach State Park - courtesy of North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation

The Top Choices Include an Antebellum Plantation, a Civil War Fort, and Beach Camping.

Three state parks that visitors might enjoy the most during the winter months are Pettigrew, Fort Macon, and Hammocks Beach state parks. These are all located on North Carolina's coast, and the parks attract the most visitors during the summer months. However, the seasonal summer visitors miss the unique perspective winter brings to the North Carolina coast and its environment.

Pettigrew State Park

(Creswell, NC) Visit the 17,450-acre park before the largemouth bass and yellow perch begin drawing fishermen to Lake Phelps, the second largest natural lake in North Carolina. An important resource for wintering birds, Pettigrew State Park also contains several species of trees that reach widths of more than five feet. The park is also home to the longest Native American dugout canoe in North Carolina and the second oldest canoe in the nation, radiocarbon dated back 4,400 years. View dugout canoe exhibits, hike nearly nine miles of trails, and enjoy a picnic at our wheelchair accessible picnic area, overlooks, or fishing pier. Or visit the Collins mansion at historic Somerset Place, an antebellum plantation that was once one of the four largest farms in North Carolina. During its eighty-year existence as an active plantation (1785-1865), it encompassed as many as 100,000 acres and became one of North Carolina's most prosperous rice, corn, and wheat plantations.

Fort Macon State Park

(Atlantic Beach, NC) During the summer, people flock to Fort Macon for the sun, sand, and sea. But during the winter, the history and educational programs in this state park are the main focuses. The park includes a restored fort that stood guard over Beaufort Harbor during the Civil War. Constructed of brick and stone, the fort contains 26 vaulted rooms, which are enclosed by outer walls more than four feet thick. Other features include powder magazines, counter fire rooms with cannon emplacements, and a wide moat, which served to protect the fort when it was flooded with waters from Bogue Sound. An inner court or parade ground is often the scene of historic re-enactments. Visit the fort museum, join a guided tour of the fort, or take a self-guided tour by following the printed guide available at the bookstore. In addition to the fort, the park offers numerous nature programs and is located close to the Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area and the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll shores.

Hammocks Beach State Park

(Swansboro, NC) Popular in the summertime for its beaches and renowned for its loggerhead turtles, Hammocks Beach State Park is the perfect getaway for the winter camper who values seclusion. The mainland portion of Hammocks Beach State Park is located in Onslow County between Jacksonville and Morehead City. The main portion of the park, Bear Island, is accessible only by boat. Although the park has a ferry service that runs during the summer, winter visitors must travel to the park by private boat or water-taxi service. One of the park’s most recent additions is a canoe and kayak trail that leaves from the mainland and follows markers that identify points of interest. After working through the marsh to arrive at Bear Island, an easy, 3.8 mile hike leads to the beach strand. Campsites are located nearby in the dune system.

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