by Judith Bailey on the Hidden Gem of the Bodie Island Lighthouse Trails
Some hidden gems of the Outer Banks are so hidden, even most locals don't know about them. That is really true of the trails that wander through the marsh above Oregon Inlet near Bodie Lighthouse.
A photographer friend of mine showed me a photo of some boats and tumbled down shack and I said, "Where in the world is that?" And she said, "Bodie Island." So, this winter, I had a chance to go there and take a few photos of my own.
This trail is easy to find. All you have to do is get yourself to South Nags Head, NC on Highway 12 and turn toward Bodie Island Lighthouse, opposite Coquina Beach. There isn't a sign at the entrance -- thank the NPS for that because they put the sign 1/4 mile up the road and if you start looking too late, like I always do, you'll go right past it. (Consider yourself warned). Once you have turned right and are headed toward the lighthouse, as you are going around the loop road, you will see a gate. You can park in the nearby parking lot and walk back over. There is a gravel road that leads down to "Off Island Hunting Club" and two docks with skiffs. The clubhouse is across the waterway. It looks great, but you can't go there uninvited or without a boat.
Out in the mouth of the estuary is what is left of another hunting lodge. It's fun to look around here and on your way back up the road you will see a little bridge over a waterway and a trail to the right. This trail seems to go on forever so be prepared for a long hike. There are some wonderful views of the lighthouse in the marsh. Right now they have scaffolding over the Bodie Island Lighthouse so it looks like a mideaval fortress, but that's okay -- there is still plenty to look at on Bodie Island.
For a little history, Bodie Island was once called Bodies' Island, obstensibly because bodies of shipwrecked sailors washed on shore there. It is not far from the famous Oregon Inlet which is named after a ship that got stuck in the shoals. There is an account in David Stick's "An Outer Banks Reader," by C. O. Boutelle of a Mr. Midgett who lived on the island and couldn't get to his house one September storm in 1846 because of the high water. He had to sit on his horse during the storm and hope his home and family were okay while the sound and ocean did their work of cutting a new inlet. You may wonder why there are hunting lodges in the sound if you cross the Bonner Bridge. Both Bodie Island and Pea Island to the south have been the winter home of many species of subarctic water birds for generations. Be sure to bring your binoculars and bird identifier book so you can add a few new feathered folk to your life list.
After a long day hiking in South Nags Head, NC I would recommend a relaxing dinner at our most famous eatery in that area, Owens Restaurant. They've been serving wonderful meals since the 1940's. Also worth trying is Basnight's the Lone Cedar on the Manteo/Nags Head Causeway. Both places are locally owned and offer lots of seafood choices. Take my advice, there's no reason to eat at a chain restaurant when you have options like these.