Paddle Your Way to Masonboro Island

grab paddle make way masonboro island kayak

Ever wondered how explorers felt looking out a coastline completely free of signs of human life? You can still have that experience when you venture to Masonboro Island on the North Carolina coast, not far from Wilmington. It’s the largest undisturbed barrier island on the southern part of the N.C. coast.

Grab a kayak, canoe, boat or sign up for a guided tour aboard by private carriers, such as the Wrightsville Beach Scenic Tours led by Captain Joe Abbate. The only way to visit Masonboro Island is via the watercraft of your choice. This 8.4-mile long barrier island falls under protection of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System.

“It’s the same beach quality the colonists saw and the pirates saw,” said Abbate. “This is a very special place. I’m a poster boy for appreciating Masonboro Island.”

Abbate, who offers a Masonboro Island birding tour as well as other excursions, loves the opportunity to introduce people to the island birds as well as providing conservation awareness about their sensitive habitats. Some of the common species seen here are Brown Pelican, Terns, Gulls, Willets, American Oystercatcher, Black Skimmers and Herons.

The back side of the island has big sand bars making it an optimal habitat for birds like skimmers and terns. Abbate said, “it’s an overall kind of epicenter for wildlife.” In addition, there’s amazing shell diversity on the island.

One participant on one of his tours recently spent five hours combing the island and came up with an impressive collection of shark’s teeth and sea glass. “There are treasures out there, but you can’t do it in ten minutes. You have to be willing to put in some time,” said Abbate.

If you want to glide through the waters in a kayak, Watersmith Kayaking in Wilmington is one of the companies geared toward setting your plan in motion. Along with the bird sightings, you’re also likely to see dolphins flipping in the surf as well as sea turtles. Kayaking tours to Masonboro Island generally range from three to four hours.

For those extra adventurous, take along a pack in your kayak or canoe and stay overnight. Make sure to leave no trace and have all of your personal property removed within 48 hours. Click here for all the rules of Masonboro Island.