Every town has a “you-gotta-do-it” place to go. For paddlers in Wilmington, it’s Masonboro Island.

The 8.4-mile-long Masonboro is the longest undisturbed barrier island along North Carolina’s southern coast. Its 5,653 acres consist of marsh and tidal flats, beach uplands and, according to the North Carolina Coastal Reserve & National Estuarine Research Reserve, “dredge material islands.”

Adds the Reserve: “Masonboro Island is an essentially pristine barrier island and estuarine system. The various salinity patterns found in the extensive subtidal and intertidal areas along the sound side of the island support a myriad of estuarine species. The habitats found within this site include subtidal soft bottoms, tidal flats, hard surfaces, salt marshes, shrub thicket, maritime forest, dredge spoil areas, grasslands, ocean beach, and sand dunes.”

What that means to you, the paddler, is some of the best coastal paddle exploring around. The island is accessible only by boat, and there are trails, so you can feel free to explore by foot as well. In cooler weather, you might also want to take advantage of a new opportunity on the island — primitive camping.

More info


Getting there from downtown Wilmington
Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 20 minutes from downtown Wilmington
Time to complete: 1-4 hours
Address: Trail’s End Road Access
City: Wilmington
State: N.C.
Zip: 28409
Latitude: 34.0935
Longitude: 77.5142