C2 Photography

This lush, low-key island is a true North Carolina treasure.

By Tracey Minkin

Despite lying only two miles off the North Carolina coast and due south of Wilmington, this three-by-one-mile barrier island feels like a secret hideout from a Robert Louis Stevenson story. Maybe it's the history of pirates prowling the state's southernmost shoreline. Maybe it's that nearly 85 percent of Bald Head's total area is a preserved landscape of salt marshes, tidal creeks, and scrubby, subtropical forest. Maybe it's the 14 miles of pale, pristine beaches tucked beneath the watch of Old Baldy, the oldest lighthouse in North Carolina. Or perhaps, instead, the charming vibe arrives via a superbly planned community of beach houses, the benign scatter of golf carts (no cars allowed), and the never-gets-old necessity of a ferry or boat journey to make landfall.

RELATED: The Best Beaches in North Carolina

Courtesy of Bald Head Blues

Souvenir Shop: Bald Head Blues

At the flagship shop next to Maritime Market, browse Bald Head Blues's line of logo clothing and accessories—including trucker hats, belts, and pet collars—that pairs a preppy Nantucket sensibility with Bald Head's golf cart style of life.

Buy it: Canvas Golf Cart Belt, $88; baldheadblues.com

Stay Here

The lodging scene on Bald Head is dominated by top-shelf home rentals; scout the shingled beauties at baldheadisland.com. The New England–style Marsh Harbour Inn has bright, cozy rooms with marina, ocean, and marsh views. Rates start at $295.

WATCH: A Perfect Weekend in Wilmington, North Carolina