Sitting on a Tar Heel beach and gazing out across the endless Atlantic doesn't necessarily mean looking due east. From Bird Island, on the S.C. line, over to the mouth of the Cape Fear River, you look south -- to Long Bay -- for great sunrises and sunsets. Glenn Morris is author of "North Carolina Beaches" (UNC Press; $19.95). We asked him for five top places to visit along or near this 40-or-so mile stretch.
|FORT FISHER STATE RECREATION AREA||"Six miles of beach, wide open, just over the New Hanover County line and south of Kure Beach. You can actually walk to Bald Head Island."|
|BALD HEAD WOODS RESERVE||"This is a 174-acre maritime forest preserve on Bald Head Island that has been set aside as an N.C. preserve. A neat chunk of unaltered, semi-tropical island."|
|BOILING SPRING LAKES NATURE PRESERVE||"This one's inland, a 5,000-acre preserve, north of Southport. It's an example of a coastal bay ecosystems. This is an amazing place that has Venus flytraps and other rare flora."|
|WEST END OF OAK ISLAND||"You'll find a parking turnout and a half-mile walk to Lockwood Folly Inlet that has a dune-system interpretive trail."|
|SUNSET BEACH AND BIRD ISLAND||"The Kindred Spirit Mailbox on Bird Island is literally a mailbox on a sand dune where people write inspirational messages and leave them for the next visitor to read and enjoy. It's glorious to read the notes. I was moved to tears by some of the tributes."|
|Area info: www.sbichamber.com, www.southport-oakisland.com.|