Day Trippin’ to Shackleford Banks


Shackleford Banks is an uninhabited, but often visited, island just South of Beaufort and Harker’s Island.  Uninhabited that is by people, it’s population made up only by wild horses…and day trippers.  Like much of the Outer Banks, the Atlantic Ocean is on one side and the calmer waters of the sound are on the other, literally the best of both worlds.

We got a boat

So I might have given Blair a bit of a hard time about buying his dream boat last year (or at least the only dream boat in our price range)  the 23ft – center console – outboard 250 – NC born Parker with a T top and pole holders aplenty. He found this unicorn one day and jumped on the deal without much wife-consulting.  With reservations, I said yes… but looking back I’m not sure I had say in the matter.  His enthusiasm and pitch about how good of a ‘family’ boat it would be, was decently convincing.  One smooth ride across the Neuse with a 2-3ft chop and ate crow, he was so right.

The perfect day

Kids on the boat headed to Shackelford Banks.Ask me about my favorite day and the answer will always be boating to Shackleford.

We used to trailer our smaller boat to the launch ramp in Beaufort which was fun, but now we boat all the way down, one of my favorite parts of the day being the ride itself.  (We also drove the boat all the way to Ocracoke Island, read more about that adventure HERE.)

From the AP docks we went across the Neuse River to Adams Creek, which is part of the ICW and our waterway link to the Crystal Coast.  Around every turn, there is cool nature or cool houses, not sure which one I like better… I guess I’m supposed to say nature but have you met me?

I really like houses and I think the back of a waterfront home kinda tells a little story about the people who live there, and how they live there.

On the way you’ll pass just about every kind of boat which is probably true for most of the ICW.  Huge commercial shrimp trawlers, historic tall ships, 4 story yachts, tiny fishing boats bouncing in the wake, kayaks… a bit of everything that floats.

Fishing poles and shrimp trawler.

What’s your pleasure?

Fishing in the Atlantic Ocean near Shackelford Banks.The sweet ride is just shy of an hour and we usually head straight through Beaufort Inlet to the ocean where we set out poles and planers with our trusty clarkspoons to troll for dinner… Spanish Mackerel preferably.

Blair’s new GPS (another unsanctioned purchase) tracks our path, our past paths, and shows you where all of shoals and shipwrecks are, surprisingly useful I must admit. No Spanish this trip but we had fun reeling in big bluefish.

Onto Evie’s favorite part of the day, beaching the boat at sand dollar island.  Water depth goes from about 10ft to 2ft and it’s easy to anchor up, hop off and wade to the tiny island which only exists at low tide.

Keep your eyes peeled because hidden treasures peak out of the sand in the shallow water.  We found 8 whole sand dollars, a new record, and a bunch of cool big shells. In our house, sand dollars are a coveted prize proudly displayed next to our shark’s teeth collection.Kids collecting sand dollars on Shackelford Banks.

 

The wild ponies

Wild horses on Shackelford Banks.Then it’s a 5 minute ride to the banks of Shackleford where we again, anchor up and wade in.  We didn’t make it to the ocean side of the island this trip, but on previous trips, we have found huge conch shells and a pocketful of beach glass, especially after a big blow.

But the neatest thing is the wild horses, a herd of about 100 sunkissed Banker ponies.  Actually, we’ve never been and not seen a horse, and from our experience they’re quite friendly.  The island is undeveloped and perfect just the way it is.

Sometimes it just feels right to be in an environment that’s still in its natural state.

Want to see Shackleford but don’t have a boat?  The Island Express Ferry runs from downtown Beaufort year round and is an easy and fun 15 minute ride to the island.

Time to eat

Beaufort docks.

It was pushing 2:00 and we’ve worked up a Lang size appetite fishing, shelling and swimming.  Anchors up, sites set on The Dockhouse on Taylor’s Creek in Beaufort.

We tied up right to the dock in front of The Dockhouse, hence the name I’m assuming.  It was a little tricky parking our yacht though.  Just kidding, ours would be the baby boat in front dwarfed by the mega yacht!

Shrimp burgers, an ice cold beer, and a view.  Seriously doesn’t get much better than that, especially when you’re surrounded by sunshine and family… and did I mention it was my birthday?  These days are the best gifts.

Sometimes after lunch we go back to Shackleford but we headed home this day, we had a date with the back porch and a crab pot.

The Beaufort boardwalk.