WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - More than 19 million people visited North Carolina state parks in 2017, marking the fourth consecutive year a there was a record number of visitors.
Of the 39 state parks, the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area was named the most visited coastal state park facility last year.
Established in 1986, the Fort Fisher facility spreads over 287 acres and its staff has management responsibilities for about eight miles of undeveloped beach within the park and in the adjoining Bald Head Island State Natural Area.
"We have a pedestrian beach out here. People love coming out to the beach sunbathing, we have a volleyball court out on the beach that they use," Fort Fisher Park Ranger Emily Abernathy said. "Just a great facility for picnicking (and to) come out and spend the day on the beach."
The recreation area is also popular for surf fishing, and four-wheel drive vehicles are allowed through purchased permits on a 3 1/2-mile beach access road.
If you want to hike along the beach, the recreation area has a hiking trail out to an observation tower.
Inside the visitors center, you'll find displays representing some of the birds, fish and reptiles that call the salt marsh home and there are numerous sea turtle nests along the beach. A replica of a sea turtle nest is in the center.
Abernathy says many factors are considered when selecting which park is named the top state park along the coast.
"It is a combination of programming that we do, visitation, just the overall facility and special events, so that is what is based on," Abernathy said.
For hours or more information, visit the North Carolina State Parks website.