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Old 04-11-2011, 12:46 PM
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Default Tide pools in North Carolina

Hey all,

My wife and I are taking a trip all along the outer banks/Wilmington area for our one year anniversary this summer. I had heard that JoeCreature and some of the others on this forum were able to do local collection and I heard some talk about tide pools in one of the threads. I'm not interested in local collection yet, but my questions are:

Where are the best places in NC to see saltwater wildlife? We both love snorkeling if there are any areas that are good for that and I haven't been to a really nice tide pool area for a long time.

Besides aquatic life, are there any places you guys would recommend staying?
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Old 04-11-2011, 11:07 PM
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having lived in both area for a great amount of time, i would have to say northern obx wouldnt be the place to snorkle...as for ocean life they are about the same...as for crystal coast...aka southern obx i cannot say maybe someone from that area could help.

as for expense id say wilmington/wrightsville beach area is the better...due to wilmington can offer hotels cheaper as you get off the beach, and you can basically get to the beach within 15 minutes of any hotel...on the northern obx all the hotels are considered on the beach, so they are gonna be more expensive. n.obx is basically a beach...wilmington is a city along the beach.
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Old 04-12-2011, 11:14 AM
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Ummmmm.........save your money and go somewhere really cool

There are some decent snorkleing spots but its all conditional on day , tides, winds, offshore conditions etc. I do alot of freediving and snorkeling inshore, most days I am lucky to see stuff before I run into it. We do not have many naturally occuring reef-like structures that are accessible without SCUBA, of those most are not accessible without a boat.

Otherwise I stick to the jettys, some rockpiles, and a few of the cuts in marsh grassbeds. There are the rocks at Carolina Beach but access from the water borders on a Darwin Bullseye between the currents, waves, and reckless redneckitude

The Southern OBX and Emerald Isle area do have seagrass beds which are definitely worth a roll but there are not any in the Wilmington/Cape Fear area.

The backside of Topsail Island is probably the best place for the combo of structure, visibility, and biodiversity for snorkeling in SE NC.
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Old 04-12-2011, 12:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeCreature View Post
Ummmmm.........save your money and go somewhere really cool

There are some decent snorkleing spots but its all conditional on day , tides, winds, offshore conditions etc. I do alot of freediving and snorkeling inshore, most days I am lucky to see stuff before I run into it. We do not have many naturally occuring reef-like structures that are accessible without SCUBA, of those most are not accessible without a boat.

Otherwise I stick to the jettys, some rockpiles, and a few of the cuts in marsh grassbeds. There are the rocks at Carolina Beach but access from the water borders on a Darwin Bullseye between the currents, waves, and reckless redneckitude

The Southern OBX and Emerald Isle area do have seagrass beds which are definitely worth a roll but there are not any in the Wilmington/Cape Fear area.

The backside of Topsail Island is probably the best place for the combo of structure, visibility, and biodiversity for snorkeling in SE NC.
Thanks, thats exactly what I needed to know!

My wife and I honeymooned in Bora Bora so I definitely saw good reefs there, but we were looking to have a relatively inexpensive and relaxing anniversary and see the NC coast since we just moved here. I also really wanted to see the local sea life, especially pipefish/seahorses and maybe some gorgonians. Is there a particular place that would be best to see those?

Can you give me hints on specific places to stay in Emerald Isle or Topsail? I can't really tell how big these places are from looking at the maps, to find the reef structure/sea grass beds would I have to find a specific beach or are they all over?

Whats bad about the rocks at Carolina Beach?
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Old 04-12-2011, 12:36 PM
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Sure, gimme a day to look up the hotels closest to the spots.

For seeing marine life your best bet is to get lucky. No seriously. I spend countless hours scouring my spots and I have been able to drawn some very loose conclusions but its still a crapshoot whether or not the critters feel like hanging out on a given day. Patchy distribution if you will.

The seagrass beds will be the most consistent just because they provide constant shelter and harbor a wide array of critters. You can find some sea whips and smaller gorgonians in the sandy flats around grass beds but the really big and cool ones are all offshore. Only problem with that is many of the seagrass beds require a boat to access, there are some that can be reached by wading or a short swim.

Structure and the seagrass beds are very very site specific. Fixed stuff like wrecks, rocks, and debris (old docks, seawalls etc.) don't move but you have to know where they are, and be able to get to them. The seagrasses are a little more cosmopolitan but would still require an easy access launching area. I will dig through my field notes and try to line something up for you that should be easy to find.

The reasons to avoid getting in the water with the rocks at CB:
1. Currents=> Very strong and prone to sudden changes. That stretch of CB is notorious for drownings........I think 7 in the last 5-10 years.
2. Visibility=> Slim and none due to #3.
3. Wave Action=> Being releif on an otherwise smooth(ish) bottom they cause errant and erratic waves to crash in and around the rocks constantly. This stirs up sediment and kills the visibility. Plus the waves are prone to bash an unwary individual on the rocks.
4. People=> The area is frequented by vacationers and anglers so there is a ton of not so nice debris out there to get jabbed with or hung on. For some reason visitors to NC fishermen or not, seem to think a snorkel in the water is a target. I have been hit with bottom rigs, gotcha plugs, some moron hit me with a bass plug, and rocks or shells hurled by unattended (not always) children.



Hope that helps.
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Old 04-12-2011, 04:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeCreature View Post
For seeing marine life your best bet is to get lucky. No seriously. I spend countless hours scouring my spots and I have been able to drawn some very loose conclusions but its still a crapshoot whether or not the critters feel like hanging out on a given day. Patchy distribution if you will.
NC has some of the most beautiful beaches on the east coast. Depending on the conditions,that Joe referred to, water clarity can drastically vary. Not trying to discourage you at ALL, just trying to slightly bring down your expectations (specifically on the snorkling - and the likelyhood of running into an abundance of critters) unless you had a guide or someone like Joe pointing EXACTLY where to go. Not trying to put words in Joe's mouth, and I could be wrong, but I think that Joe also was trying lower your expectations.

If you do decide on a beach near Wilmington (Carolina Beach, Topsail, Kure Beach, etc) all of which have great beaches, you could take in a trip to the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher. If you decided on any of the beaches at or near Emerald Isle (Pine Knoll Shores, Indian Beach, etc) which also all have beautiful beaches, you could visit the NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores.

Not sure if you or your wife would enjoy it, but IMO, you might consider doing a little fishing (with a pole and not the mask). Lots of fun, and honestly IMO you will likely see alot more finned friends than you would snorkling in NC. I take both my 5 and 8 year surf fishing as much as possible.

Sunset Beach (southern most beach in NC) is my families favorite. This is primarily do to the fact that my inlaws have a place there. Because of that fact and the economics behind it we spend many weekends there. In addition its worth noting that it and the surrounding beachs are stunning as well. It is just close enough yet just far enough from Myrtle Beach, to avoid the crowds and traffic, yet easily make the trip if desired. Ripley's Aquarium (Myrtle Beach)is another aquirium I'd strongly if you ever get a chance. Calabash is also a stones throw away, and home of some GREAT seafood restraunts. If you like golf, you can't beat this area as well.

All of the beaches you mentioned are GREAT, and no matter which one you choose you will likely not be disappointed.

Have fun!!
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