Hiking Lake Waccamaw On the Way to Surf City – Saturday, June 3rd

After hearing how much fun we had during our April trip to Surf City and Topsail Island, my husband decided that he now wanted to go in June to celebrate turning the big 4-0. So we packed up the children and started on the 5-hour drive down to the beach.

One of the activities that we like to do as a family is hiking – we are diligently working our way through the NC State Parks Passport book, checking off all the state parks we visit. The southeastern part of the state has been a dead zone for us – lots of parks but not a lot of opportunity to visit them – so we decided to take advantage of our trip to check some off.

As we headed down to Surf City, we decided to make our first stop at Lake Waccamaw State Park. Located not far off Highway 74, it is situated on the shores of the largest Carolina bay. It has been estimated to be between 15,000 and 30,000 years old and what’s awesome? In 2008,  a whale fossil was found in the lake that scientists say may date back 1 – 3 million years!

Driving in, we noticed that the Whiteville Garden Club was hosting a garden tour that same day. While we didn’t have tickets, I always love a good garden tour and will be looking into it for future years.

We weren’t quite sure how far away we were from the state park, so we pulled off at a small boat ramp with porta-potties. Staring into the creek, we soon started noticing something interesting. Bumpy, log-shaped creatures gliding through the water…

The more we started to look, the more we spotted them.


It’s ironic to me that even though I lived near both the Alligator River and the Dismal Swamp, I don’t believe I had ever seen an alligator in the wild before. We stared at them for a while before finishing the drive to the state park.

While the boys explored the visitor’s center, I stayed outside with my dog before we found where the right trailhead was located. I later heard that the aforementioned whale fossil – a skull – was on display inside the visitor’s center – something that I do regret not seeing.

Did you know about North Carolina’s Junior Ranger Program? It’s a great opportunity for children to learn about our beautiful state parks while earning badges. Though Caleb isn’t fully participating yet – he still enjoys learning all he can!

Walking down the boardwalk, it came out to the side of the lake. There was no one else around at that time, so we decided to go for a quick dip to cool off. Another cool fact about Lake Waccamaw? It contains several species of fish that are ONLY found in Lake Waccamaw, the federally threatened Waccamaw silverside being one of those.

Did you notice the color of the water? Interestingly enough, Big Creek with its large cypress and gum trees, drains into Lake Waccamaw, making the water tea-colored.

After splashing around for an hour, the pier suddenly became swamped with people looking to do the same, so we continued on our way. If you are looking to swim here – I highly suggest arriving before 11 a.m. on the weekends during the summer. The clearness of this freshwater lake makes Lake Waccamaw an ideal place for swimming.

The rest of the drive to the beach house was uneventful. Traffic going on to Topsail Island was a little more dense than when we went in April, but not bad. Our only mistake was not stopping for food/groceries beforehand as we arrived at the beach house starving.

One Stop Bait & Tackle

So after a quick break, we loaded back up and headed to Food Lion, getting enough eats for the week and picking up some bait for fishing.

Then we went to the beach, came back, ate, and settled in for our first night!

Lake Waccamaw State Park
1866 State Park Drive
Lake Waccamaw, NC 28450

One Stop Bait & Tackle
805 Roland Ave,
Surf City, NC 28445


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