It wasn't a three-hour cruise, and we weren't marooned, but JJ and I were definitely the only humans on the (charted) desert isle. Carrot Island is one of several small islands off Beaufort that make up the Rachel Carson Reserve. (Rachel Carson spent time in Beaufort in the 1940s, and did studies on the islands.) We actually spent our time in the part of the Reserve called the Town Marsh.
View Carrot Island in a larger map
Our ferry landed on the beach on the north side of the island, and we walked inland from there. The island is mostly scrubby bushes and sand dunes, with little wild flowers and the occasional jasmine bush full of butterflies. When we got to the south side, we could see out to the Bird Shoal and the Beaufort Inlet Channel, with fishing trawlers heading out, beyond.
It probably would have been a good idea to bring binoculars, but not being a bird watcher I didn't even think to suggest that JJ bring theirs along. We mostly saw little shore birds hopping around in the shallow pools and on the sand bar. But what we really came to see were the feral horses. They were introduced to the island in the 1940s by a local physician; the herd now numbers about 35.
After 45 minutes of tromping along the trail and through the brush, we saw some horses way off in the distance on a sandbar. Then, we rounded a bend and saw two of them practically in front of us, and then another a little ways off. They were shy and the one in the photo kept a watchful eye on us, but they didn't seem spooked or run off immediately. Neither we nor the rather feeble zooms on our cameras could get very close, and my photos are mostly rubbish except for this one.
If they ever taught us anything about how to hike a marked trail in Girl Scouts, I must not have been paying attention. JJ and I were so interested in the horses that we lost track of where the trail markers were. I had a moment of panicky flashback to the time I got lost at Fitzgerald Lake, unable to find either the red or blue trail markers, as the sun was setting and the woods were getting dark. But here, fortunately, it was easy to go to higher ground and see exactly where we were. We blazed our way back to the beach with just minutes to spare before our ferry arrived to fetch us off the island. Timing couldn't have been better, as it started to get cloudy and windy just as we got to the dock in Beaufort.
On the way back to New Bern, we passed Martha's Favorite Things and saw that it was open, so we stopped in to look at the antiques and collectibles. She had two Elvis cookie jars that were pretty great but wouldn't have fit in my luggage or my budget.
I had a great time during my four-day stay in North Carolina. I saw fine art and supreme kitsch, photographed buildings ranging from palatial to derelict, soaked up a lot of history and a bit of nature. JJ and Tim might be northerners by birth, but their hospitality rivals that of any southerner you could shake a stick (or a dead possum) at. And there's lots to do in the 2-5-2!
10, 883 steps (4.29 miles)
$10 for ferry to Carrot Island, plus $2 tip