Sam Bland, coastal specialist, will talk about the wildlife, natural resources and history of the area.

The North Carolina Coastal Federation coastal cruises are an exciting way to explore the maze of salt marsh islands in the estuarine waters behind Bear Island, which is part of Hammocks Beach State Park.

This year’s cruises, which dive into the local wildlife and natural resources of the estuary, kicked off on June 14. Spots are still open for upcoming cruises on July 5, July 19 and Aug. 9.

Participants begin the cruise at the Hammocks Beach State Park visitor center in Swansboro and depart aboard a pontoon ferry boat called the Lady Swan. The boat will cruise down the interestingly named “Cow Channel” for amazing views of Bear Island while searching for shorebirds or a pod of dolphins.

During a short stop at the eastern point of Bear Island, participants will get the opportunity to use dip nets and seine nets in the water to search the swallows for fish, crabs and whatever else might show up.

Participants will look out for “flying rainbows,” or painted buntings.

Along the way, Sam Bland, coastal specialist for the federation, will talk about everything from whalers and soldiers to pirates and an important local doctor, all of which shaped the unique history of the park and its surrounding estuaries. There will also be a chance to listen for and try to spot “flying rainbows” during a cruise to Huggins Island.

Those who join us for the cruises will also learn about the work that the federation is doing to keep coastal waters pristine, clean and safe for us to enjoy the natural wonders of these coastal islands.

These cruises are a great way to get away from the busy beaches and relax on the beautiful estuaries of the Crystal Coast. Register for these events at, or contact Sam Bland at 252-393-8185 or for more information.