Our Pony Island Adventure
To cap off our anniversary trip in Beaufort we decided to take a ferry over to the island of Shackleford Banks for some adventuring. We have to live up to our hashtag right? (#adventuresofkyleandsara) Hah! So, Shackleford Banks is an island with absolutely no civilization on it except for a single bathroom and about 400 wild ponies. Why the heck would we want to go there? Well, since I’ve moved to NC, I’ve been absolutely obsessed with finding wild horses on the beach. Most of my research points me to the north end of the outer banks but I found out there was one more place I could find them and it just happened to be where we were headed for our weekend getaway. I was pumped to say the least! Plus – I had new hiking boots that I was just about dying to pair with some cozy socks and a beanie for a little adventure! So, anyways, we decided that there was no better way to spend our last day in beaufort than with a 20 minute ferry to an island where you can walk around and just stumble upon the wild ponies! So off to Shackleford Banks we went!
We were staying in Beaufort for our anniversary weekend so we were less than a mile from the ferry dock. Highly suggest a weekend in the adorable little town if you are going to make the trek over to Shackleford Banks Island. You hop on the ferry right off of the main downtown street. Tickets are only $5 (which is pretty darn good for this awesome adventure). Once you tell them what time you’re planning to come back, there’s plenty of seating right on the water to wait for the boat. Don’t worry if you miss that exact ferry back by the way… they just like to make sure they get everyone off the island that wants to get off by the end of the day.
You ride over on a little boat listening to a tour guide give you a little history lesson on all of the islands you pass. As we pulled up closer to the island, our captain even told us where he would expect to find the horses that day and where the shellers could find the biggest best shells on the island. I anxiously looked around for a dock, but nope. When I say this island is all nature, I mean it. The boat drove right up into the sand where we walked off of the ramp and onto the beach. And then the adventure really began!
All together, we spent about 4 1/2 hours hiking around the island. When you think of a beach island, hike isn’t normally the word that comes to mind but this is hiking people. The dunes are tough, there’s bushes to climb over and to be honest, you’re dodging a massive amount of horse shit. I’m not even going to talk about the horses yet because despite the sole goal of seeing horses, we spent the majority of the day hiking without a single one in sight. Let’s be honest – we were expecting to walk off that boat and feel like we were in a cage at the zoo. That’s not the case. As soon as we accepted that this was going to be way more of an adventure than we expected, we embraced the hell out of it and started walking.
We traveled something crazy like 6 miles and only walked the actual beach for maybe a quarter mile. We got off the ferry and hiked straight up the dunes. From there we went up and down, through trees, around cacti and up and down some more. One piece of advice for you – I would NOT recommend this trip in the summer. I can only imagine how hot it would get out there anytime between april and august and the thought makes me sweat. We were there in February and it was absolutely perfect. We were bundled up in beanies and gloves on the way over but perfectly comfortable in long sleeves as we hiked all day! Also, if you’re planning on really hiking around, bring water and maybe some snacks (more to come on the whole snack thing later). Plenty of people camp on the island too, so if you’re really looking for an adventure, that is totally an option. We had to make it back to work the next day so we stuck to the day trip!
The Horses of Shackleford Banks
We probably saw 10 horses throughout the day. The ferry captain described a couple places where he would expect the horses to be on the island that day. We took his advice and headed straight to the furthest place he described. Surprisingly, not many others from our ferry followed. We hiked for a solid hour with only sand and trees in sight.. We were just starting to question whether there were actually horses on the damn island when one sauntered out from between trees less than 50 yards away from us. Seeing that one gave us our energy back and we were really on the hunt at that point!
The next set we ran into was SO close yet so far! The were on the beach but we couldn’t make it to the beach thanks to a giant swamp separating us! There were at least 8 over there and we tried everything we could to get over there but ultimately had to watch from behind the brush. Seeing so many of them though gave us another boost to keep trucking! I’m not sure what it is about seeing animals in the wild (well, ones that aren’t likely to hurt you) that is so cool, but it really is! I’m not even an animal person and everytime we would get a glimpse of something that may be a horse, a goofy grim spread across my face. Sometimes it was a tree blowing in the wind and that was really freaking frustrating, but the few times we actually spotted horses were super cool.
We had pretty much given up on running into a horse close up and started to head back to the ferry pickup point when we stumbled right on one! This lone horse was literally on our path back. This guy was, by far, the coolest part of the day. Us being us, we named the guy Henry, and sat down to hang out with him for a bit. Henry could care less that we were there and just kept eating the entire time we sat and watched. Moral of the story on the horse search is to be patient and don’t give up! I promise they are on that island!
I hate having to write this part because I had SO much fun on the island that day but unfortunately, thanks to our adventure, the next few days were pretty rough. The smiles in these pictures was wiped off our face the morning after we got back. That Monday, after our getaway, Kyle got REALLY sick. After a trip to the E.R. and an entire week out of commission, he was fine, but that week was zero fun. We figured out that his misery was a horse scale GI bug likely thanks to munching on some goldfish after traipsing around the island, once again, in horse shit. We were both bummed that the stomach bug put such a damper on our love for the island, but we were still so thankful for the awesome day of exploring.
So would I do it again?
YES! Would Kyle? Probably not. I say, go for it! It’s a quick trip and adventure you can’t find many other places!
Also, I had no idea how how much fun I would have just searching for wild animals! Is there anywhere else like this? Let me know and I’m booking my trip!