North Carolina Sea Grant
Coastwatch Currents

Coastwatch Currents

July 1, 2016 | Emily White

Planning Your Trip to the Coast

By Emily White

Posted July 1, 2016

Rip current sign.

Rip current signs provide guidance for swimming safety. Click image for larger view.

Are you heading to the coast for some time in the sand or water? Or maybe you want to spend some time daydreaming about the beach? Check out what to monitor, see and do on your next trip to the ocean.

To Monitor

Safety is the most important factor when planning your trip to the shore. Rip currents are a big hazard when swimming. Powerful currents flowing away from shore can easily pull you out into the open ocean.

A swimming spot near a lifeguard can help to keep you out of harm’s way. If you do find yourself in a rip current, don’t panic! Alert someone on shore if you can, then swim parallel to shore to get out of the current before trying to swim ashore.

Sharks may get a bad rap but there are ways to minimize the threat of a chance encounter. Swim only from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. between May and September, and again, be sure to stay within sight of a lifeguard. Check out this article on shark biology to gain some knowledge of these underappreciated fish.

To See

Cypresses in lake

Scattered cypresses draped with Spanish moss loom in the still waters of Singletary Lake State Park, a bay lake six miles east of White Lake in Bladen County. Photo courtesy N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.

One of the most unusual sights around the coast are Carolina bays. They draw visitors from all over the country and house many endangered species. Researchers still aren’t quite sure how the bays were formed, so why not visit and come up with your own theory? The open lakes and cypress savannas are worth a trip.

For the history buff, the Outer Banks are peppered with forts from both the Revolutionary and Civil War that have stood the test of time. If you’re craving more historical sites, explore some of the coast’s rich African-American history as well.

To Do

A colorful sunset on the beach at Jockey's Ridge.

Visitors enjoy the colorful sunsets at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Photo courtesy N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.

Now that you have some safety tips and your sightseeing planned, it’s time to hit the beach for some well-deserved fun in the sun. Stop at a state park or two to visit boardwalks, look for loggerhead turtles or even fly a gargantuan kite.

Whether in a state park or at another beach, beachcombing is a popular activity for the treasure hunter. Picking up trash along the way is great for the environment, too!

Once you’re tired out from all of the fun you’ve had, why not pick up some light reading? North Carolina Sea Grant’s Amazing Coast is always available for purchase and is filled to the brim with fascinating facts about coastal creatures and plants, engaging children and adults alike. Get it from our bookstore.

Don’t have time to pick up a book? Grab an issue of Coastwatch or access the magazine online to catch up on any articles you may have missed.

Emily White, a senior at NC State University, is a communications intern with North Carolina Sea Grant.

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