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Experiencing the North Carolina Coast by Bike

Updated on November 30, 2007

Experiencing the beautiful North Carolina Coast by bicycle gives you a front-row seat for the natural scenic beauty of the beaches. The flat terrain makes it easy to travel on two wheels. From the northern Outer Banks to the southern Brunswick Isles, you will experience a multitude of peddling pleasures along the coastal scenic byways.

Hearty cyclers may want to attempt the entire 127-mile Pamlico Scenic Byway. It begins on the Pamlico River waterfront in Washington, North Carolina, travels through historic Bath, picturesque Belhaven, alongside the Swan Quarter National Wildlife Refuge, and up the Pamlico Sound, ending at Mann's Harbor.

Less rugged peddlers may want to break it down into manageable chunks. A nice ride begins in historic Bath, which is North Carolina's oldest incorporated town. Bath was settled by French Protestants and Virginians in 1690 and incorporated in 1705. Royal Governor Charles Eden established it as the capital of North Carolina. One of its famous early residents was Blackbeard the Pirate.

Travel about 5 miles on Highway 92 from Bath toward Belhaven. At the intersection of Highway 306, the road becomes Highway 99. Follow Highway 99 for about 7 miles to the bridge at Pungo Creek. From there it's only 3 ½ miles to Pantego Creek and the Belhaven town limits.

Also, out of Swan Quarter, you can take US Highway 264 and follow the southern shore of beautiful Lake Mattamuskeet, a 30,000-acre freshwater lake discovered by Europeans in 1585.

The Outer Banks Scenic Byway is a favorite. This 111-mile ride is easily broken down into shorter segments. It follows Highway 12 down Bodie Island and onto Hatteras Island. You will pass through the towns of Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Buxton, Frisco and Hatteras.

At the end of the island, take the ferry to Ocracoke Island, peddle on down Highway 12 to Ocracoke Inlet, and pick up the ferry to Cedar Island. Heading south, Highway 12 turns into Highway 70, and your ride ends at Beaufort. This is an interesting, historic, village settled around 1715. You'll have the sound on one side of you and the sea on the other.

If you enjoy lighthouses, you will now be in high cotton. You'll pass the Bodie Island Lighthouse, the famous Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Ocracoke Lighthouse, and diamond-patterned Cape Lookout Lighthouse. Peddle through Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, where hundreds of species of birds reside. You might see the Banker ponies, wild horses descended from those brought by early explorers. One herd lives on Ocracoke Island, another on the barrier islands near Beaufort.

From lighthouses and horses, head south for a ride in the Wilmington area. Take the Pleasure Island bike route, extending around 7 miles from Carolina Beach to Fort Fisher. Start in Carolina Beach on Highway 421 and follow the marked bike lanes south. Along the way, you'll pass two regional beach access points.

Near the end of the line is the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, with the Aquarium and ferry. Highway 421 ends here. If you have the time, board the ferry and float over to Southport to tour this quaint town with its historic sites, antique shops, and restaurants.

For other travels in eastern North Carolina, see:

The Blue Gray Byway


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