Visitors to the central Crystal Coast region who want to embark on a wild island adventure without venturing too far away from the mainland can enjoy a relatively easy trek with a visit to Sugarloaf Island. Veritably hidden in plain sight, this unique little island is located just a shell’s throw away from Morehead City, and yet feels like it’s worlds away from the busy downtown area.
About Sugarloaf Island
Sugarloaf Island is a small island that’s located within the Bogue Sound, and which borders the Harbor Channel. Parallel to Downtown Morehead City, this small island is just 47 acres in area, but is wonderfully undeveloped with no residential or commercial structures to speak of.
The island is part of a string of small and undeveloped islands that are permanently preserved in their natural state, and which are protected by the North Carolina Coastal Federation. Morehead City helped purchase the land originally, saving it from future development, and working to add small features that would entice hikers, boaters, and nature fans of all varieties to pay the site a visit.
Currently, visitors to the island will find a floating dock that’s ideal for small boats, canoes, and kayaks, and which is adjacent to a natural park area for picnics and admiring the view of Downtown Morehead City from an on-the-water perspective. The island also has public restrooms for the convenience of visitors, as well as a nature trail that cuts through the heart of the island and which includes a scenic boardwalk. Considering the small stature of the island, taking a trek is not a long adventure, but along the way, visitors will encounter small patches of maritime forests, soundfront beaches, marshlands, and everything in between. As a result, Sugarloaf Island is a prime destination for fishermen, hikers, nature fans and birdwatchers of all varieties.
Accessing Sugarloaf Island
Considering that Sugarloaf Island is home to restrooms, easy-to-traverse nature trails, and a boardwalk, the only difficult part about exploring this island is actually getting there.
However, the island is very close to the downtown Morehead City waterfront and is roughly .1 miles away from the edge of the docks at the widest point of the adjacent channel, making it very easy to reach.
The best way to explore the island is to head over on a small skiff, canoe, or kayak. A canoe or kayak arguably works the best, as it allows for easy docking at the floating dock, or along the soundside beaches which are most prominent on the northwestern side of the island.
Visitors can launch for the island via a number of local docks and marinas that are found along the Morehead City waterfront, or can head to Jaycee Park off of Shepard Street to blaze a trail. Jaycee Park is arguably the easiest launching point for explorers, as the site has free parking for visitors, a fishing pier / dock, and ample waterfront terrain for easing into the water.
Once paddlers have made it across the channel, they can dock their vessel at the floating dock or at one of the sandy beaches. The trail’s entrance, as well as access to restrooms and other park facilities, are located close to the central dock on the northern (or downtown-facing) side of the island.
Tips and Trips for Visiting Sugarloaf Island
- Bug spray is a must in the spring, summer and fall months. Mosquitos can be thick, and can be very attracted to the few humans that pay this isolated island a visit.
- Sugarloaf Island is a fine destination for a little local fishing, and especially on the deserted southern side of the island where maritime traffic is relatively light. Bring along a pole, and get ready to target flounder, gray and speckled trout, puppy drum, bait fish (mullet), and other species, depending on the time of year.
- Watch out for local traffic when paddling across. Vessels of all sizes ease through the Harbor Channel that separates Sugarloaf Island from downtown Morehead City, so use caution. Cut across quickly if possible, and then hug the borders of the island to do a little on-the-water exploring.
- Don’t forget the camera! Considering that Sugarloaf Island is located directly across from downtown Morehead City, visitors can expect to capture some incredible shots of the waterfront – with the water literally in the foreground.
- Tours of Sugarloaf Island are readily available, and depart from the heart of Morehead City and / or Downtown Beaufort. Costing roughly $10 per person or so, a tour is an inexpensive and easy way to explore the area without excess effort. Check out local water taxi or ferry services, like the Morehead City Ferry Service, for options and seasonal tour dates.
- Calling all birdwatchers! - A stroll through Sugarloaf Island serves as an ideal way to check a number of coastal species off your list, due to its varying terrain that includes saltwater / brackish marshes, maritime forest, shrub thickets, and open water.
Sugarloaf Island is a bit of a hidden treasure on the Crystal Coast, and despite its proximity to Morehead City, is surprisingly one of the least visited barrier islands on this central stretch of North Carolina shoreline.
Visitors who make the trek, however, will be rewarded for their efforts with abundant wildlife, a peaceful and natural atmosphere, and one of the best vistas of Downtown Morehead City on the Crystal Coast.