On one of those warm November weekends, I was able to make an impromptu trip to the Crystal Coast for the weekend. We camped at the Cedar Point campground in the Croatan National Forest. Being able to watch the sunset set over the White Oak River and hike the Tidelands National Trail, a 1.9-mile path divided into two loops that lend themselves to wildlife viewing was great.
Cedar Point, at the mouth of the White Oak River, is bordered by a salt marsh and a coastal forest. The salt marsh, where fresh water meets salt water, stretches out like a sea of grass. This nutrient-rich wetland is a valuable habitat for commercial seafood, including fish, shrimp, crabs, and oysters. The recreation area is part of the Croatan National Forest, a 160,000-acre tract on North Carolina's coast, bordered on three sides by tidal rivers and Bogue Sound.
We ventured out of the campground to explore Emerald Isle and found Emerald Isle Woods Park. With 41 acres, it is located off of Coast Guard Road and accessible just as you cross the Intracoastal Waterway on the Emerald Isle bridge. Complete with disc golf, a floating dock to enable kayak launching, a picnic pavilion and hiking/walking trails this park offers a variety of activities for visitors. As a coastal community, the town has just under 4000 year-round residents and grows to as much as 50,000 during the tourist season.
From the parking lot, we walked past the pavilion along the boardwalk down to the dock. It was great to see gentlemen coming up the dock with his kayak in tow. He told me comes there several days a week to paddle and get his exercise. After enjoying some time along the water's edge watching boats and birds, we checked out the hiking/walking trails. I was surprised when there were inclines on the trail as we traditionally think of the beach as being flat. It was a very nice walk with lots of birds and trees to be enjoyed.
If you find yourself being one of those 50,000 tourists, I recommend a visit to Emerald Isle Woods Park. More information is available at https://www.emeraldisle-nc.org/emerald-isle-woods-park