Explore the Rachel Carson Reserve in Atlantic Beach

It’s easy to spend time on the North Carolina coast by Atlantic Beach or Beaufort without realizing there is an incredible and stunning island reserve out on the ocean, just within sight.

The Rachel Carson Reserve is an isolated expanse of five islands, fascinating wildlife, trails, activities, and pure escapism. It’s also one of the few places in the world where you can still wild horses, certainly one of the top reasons to visit, among many others.

If excitement of potentially seeing wild horses hasn’t won you over yet, read through the below for in-depth look at what makes the Rachel Carson Reserve such a must-visit treat for visitors.

The Habitats of the Rachel Carson Reserve

The habitats of the reserve are vast and varied, displaying a colorful number of local ecologies. You can find the salt marshes alongside the coastal beaches and dunes, as well as thicketed shrubs, aquatic vegetation filled with local bird species, and thickly-layered maritime forestry.

If you could get an aerial view, you would find what seems like a watercolor painting of several environments, gradually transitioning from forested spans to thickets to marshes pressed against the wide-open sand dunes and beaches.

Wonderful hiking path in Rachel Carson Reserve
Photo From: Shutterstock


The Rachel Carson Reserve is only accessible by ferry or private boat. Due to this lack of accessibility, the reserve is not always clearly marked, monitored, or intricately maintained. The reserve is a beautiful and natural landscape where leaders strive to maintain its natural identity and magic without excessive over-handling.

Some people kayak to the island from Beaufort, the nearby historic site and town. You have one main option for kayak rentals at the nearby Beaufort Paddle (424 Old Causeway Rd, Beaufort, NC 28516). They are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day and offer kayak and paddleboard delivery by calling 252.725.3065.

Island Ferry Adventures also offers a tour that lasts about 90 minutes both on and off the ferry. Tours are $20 for adults and $10 for children 11 and under and can be booked by calling 252.728.4129.

Reserve Activities and Adventures

Visitors have many things to do and adventures to partake in at the reserve. There are guided tours as well as self-guided trips along the hiking and walking trails.

The reserve is, in some ways, a free-for-all once you arrive. Guests come for fishing, relaxing, sightseeing the nature, and more. Below is a look at some of the best things to do while exploring the ins and outs of the nature reserve.

  • If you look hard enough in the reserve, you may find one of about 30 wild horses that call the land home.
  • Kayak over to Horse Island to catch photographs of the famous wild horses in the area, make sure to bring your camera for these animals and other amazing species.
  • Book a cruise around the island for a full day or a half-a-day. You can book a trip at Lookout Cruises (600 Front St, Beaufort, NC, 252.504.7245) or Port City Tour Company (108 Middle Ln, Beaufort, NC 252.772.9925).
  • You can fish from a boat rental while taking in the scenery. You can contact Crystal Coast Charters for details on available boats, prices, and more at 252.808.7067.
    The above only hints at the fun possibilities at this isolated island reserve.

Educational Programs

The leaders of the nature reserve facilitate a number of seasonal activities and programs. These programs are in collaboration with local groups and schools, encompassing field trips and summer camp initiatives.

The program leaders want to stress the significance of the local ecology, and how the habitats and creatures represent a respect for preservation. More details on these programs can be found by contacting 252.220.0779.

Boating Access and Other Details

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission boating access area from the mainland to the reserve is located at 2370 Lennoxville Road, Beaufort, NC, 28516, right across Taylor Creek north of the reserve. Beauport is located directly north of the reserve across Taylor Creek. The reserve is open year-round, with hours from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for all seasons.

The Rachel Carson Reserve is essential for the coastal wildlife of North Carolina and the surrounding regions, being an important migratory and permanent destination for many species and hosting many diverse habitats.

Explore the fascinating and famous Rachel Carson Reserve while staying at one of our finest Atlantic Beach vacation rentals. Give us a call today at 252.247.7610.