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Date(s) - 03/23/2024


Badwater Cape Fear

The BADWATER® ultra running experience returns to the (B)east Coast when the tenth BADWATER CAPE FEAR race takes place on Bald Head Island, North Carolina on March 23, 2024.

With 50km and 51-mile race options, Badwater® Cape Fear features a twelve-mile warm-up on the car-free, one-lane-wide roads and maritime forest trails of Bald Head Island, followed by either 19 or 38 miles of running on the wild and secluded sandy beach between Cape Fear and Fort Fisher. The race is held along the Atlantic Seaboard with spectacular views of the Frying Pan Shoals to the east and wild and undeveloped Cape Fear River marshlands to the west. Running this remote coast is a dramatic, invigorating, and inspiring manner in which to experience the Cape Fear region in all its grandeur*!

This exquisite natural setting is the perfect antidote to the “real world” and a wonderful counterpart to the desert sands and mountains of Death Valley and Anza-Borrego Desert featured in the two West Coast BADWATER® races.

Bald Head Island and nearby Southport, NC (featured in the film “Safe Haven”) are ideal vacation get-away spots for the entire family, located less than one hour from Wilmington, NC and its major airport with American, United, and Delta service. (Flying into Myrtle Beach, SC is another convenient option.) Due to the remarkable beauty and quaint southern charm of this area, as well as this impeccable, authentic BADWATER race experience, many Badwater Cape Fear participants are now making this race an annual pilgrimage!

• Although we anticipate using the same route each year, the final, exact route is subject to approval from various government agencies and may not be fully confirmed until the week of the race. This event is held subject to special use permits from the Village of Bald Head Island, Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, and the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management.


All events and locations are on Bald Head Island, NC. 

(All times in 24-Hour / Military Time)

Friday, March 22:
0900: No Host Coffee / Breakfast Meet-Up at Maritime Market Café. Come meet, or reconnect, with fellow Badwater family members while enjoying good drinks and food! There’s no better way, or place, to start the day!
Suggestions for Today: Climb to the top of Old Baldy Lighthouse. (The race will start at its foot.) Attend a program hosted by or at the Bald Head Island Conservancy.
1500-1800: Racer Check-In and Social Mixer Held at the Bald Head Island Conservancy: Racer Mugshots, Bibs and Goodie Bags distributed, Badwater Gear Retail, and a fun social event! Location: 700 Federal Road (far eastern end of the island). Beer, non-alcoholic drinks, fruit, cheese, crackers, and other snacks will be served.
1922: Sunset
Evening: We recommend dinner at Jules Salty Grub on the Bald Head Island Marina. See all dining options here but note that not all are open in March.

Saturday, March 23:
0600 (recommended) or 0700 (risky): Runners staying on the mainland must depart via ferry from Deep Water Marina in Southport. (Ferries depart hourly from SPT to BHI on the hour from 0600am to 2300 on Saturdays- but they often run late!)
0620: Sandpiper Coffee at Bald Head Marina opens extra early just for the runners and race fans coming over on the 600am ferry! Stop in for java and treats!
0645: Morning Twilight (First light in sky)
0710: Sunrise
0715: Late Check-In at the start line for runners who did not come over on Friday to do so. (BUT PLEASE only check-in Saturday if absolutely necessary!)
0722: High Tide
0725: The 0700 ferry from Southport arrives (IF on schedule); it is a 5-minute (.3-mile) walk from the ferry to the race start line at the lighthouse. Hurry!
0745: Race starts at Old Baldy Lighthouse
0915 (app.): First runners pass the 12-mile mark at BHIC and head onto the beach.
1030 (app.): Last runners pass the 12-mile mark at BHIC and head onto the beach.
1200 Noon (app.): First runners return to BHIC at 50km mark
1320: Low Tide
1430 (app.): First 51.4-mile finishers
1545: Mandatory Cut-Off for 51.4-mile finishers to depart BHIC at mile 32 for their second beach trek (8-hour time limit)
1645: Mandatory Cut-Off for Officially Finishing the 50km Race (9-hour time limit)
1926: Sunset
1944: High Tide
1951: Evening Twilight (Last light in sky)
2145: 51.4-mile Race Course Closes at BHIC (14-hour time limit)
2330: Final ferry departure from Bald Head Island. (Ferries depart hourly from BHI to SPT on the half hour from 0630 to 2330 on Saturdays – but they often run late.)
0136 Sunday: Low Tide

Sunday, March 24:
0830-1000: Breakfast Buffet at Maritime Market: Breakfast is complimentary for all registered racers and all official volunteers, and is also available for $18 to all family and friends of runners. EVERYONE, PLEASE ATTEND!

Day Suggestions: Enjoy a program at the Bald Head Island Conservancy, climb to the top of Old Baldy Lighthouse, lay on the beach, go swimming, paddling, or kite surfing, cruise the island on a beach cruiser, shop at the Conservancy’s “Turtle Central” store, relax!


Bald Head Island is only reachable via passenger ferry or by private boat. It is not possible to drive to Bald Head Island; in fact, motorized vehicles are not allowed on the island. All rental properties include golf carts. Ferry tickets from Southport to Bald Head Island include free tram delivery of you and your gear to your destination on the island, then a return trip back via tram to the ferry terminal at the end of your stay. Also, the start line is within short walking distance of the ferry terminal, whereas the finish line is about three miles – across the island – from the ferry terminal.

Ferry Schedule between Southport and Bald Head Island ($23 per person, round-trip ($12 for children aged 3-12); includes free tram ride to and from your island destination)

Ferries depart Deep Water Marina in Southport TO Bald Head Island on the hour from 0600 2100 on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday; from 0600 to 1000 on Wednesday; from 0600 until 2300 on Thursday and Saturday; and from 0600 until midnight on Friday – BUT NEVER AT NOON except Sunday.) Ferry Schedule.

Ferries depart Bald Head Island TO Southport on the half hour from 0630 to 2130 on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday; from 0630 to 2230 on Wednesday; from 0630 to 2330 on Thursday and Saturday; and from 0630 to 0030am (30 minutes after midnight) on Friday – BUT NEVER AT 1230 except Sunday. Ferry Schedule.

Staying on the Island? Follow instructions given to you by your rental company; you will presumably take the free tram ride to your property, and then use the tram service to leave your property at the end of your stay. You will have a golf cart or two (depending on the size of the house you rented) to use during your stay. There will be golf cart parking available at the race start line for race day: follow directions given when you arrive by VBHI Public Safety officers as to where to park.

Not Staying on the Island? 

– On Friday, take the ferry over on Friday afternoon. WHEN YOU BUY YOUR TICKET, tell them that you will need a tram ride to the BHI Conservancy. When you arrive on the island, stop at the podium next to the driveway to ask which shuttle you should take. Then take your free shuttle ride to the Bald Head Island Conservancy for Racer Check-In and the Social Mixer from 300 to 600pm.

– After Racer Check-In and the Social Mixer, you can either walk about three miles west back to the marina, or trams will pick up runners at 1700 and 1730 in front of Bald Head Island Conservancy in order to catch the 1830 ferry back to Southport.

– On Saturday morning, take either the 0600 (recommended) or 0700 ferry (risky as it takes 25 minutes, and could also be delayed) from Southport to Bald Head Island. Upon arrival, walk about 5 minutes to the start line at Old Baldy, the lighthouse, which you can see easily as you walk east onto the island from the marina. NOTE: There will be portable toilets and a hand-washing station at the start line, but there will be no food or water. Come prepared. (However, Sandpiper Coffee at Bald Head Marina opens extra early just for the runners and race fans coming over on the 600am ferry! Stop in for java and treats before you walk over to Old Baldy Lighthouse!)

– From the finish line, we will have trams running from the Conservancy back to the marina hourly on the half-hour from 1330 to 2130.


Bald Head Island is an ideal vacation get-away spot for the entire family, located less than one hour from Wilmington, NC and its major airport with American and Delta service (flying into Myrtle Beach, SC is another convenient option.)

There are no hotels on Bald Head Island, however there are a few hundred vacation homes and cottages, some small enough for one or two couples and some large enough for groups of 20 or more. We encourage all entrants to STAY ON BALD HEAD ISLAND!

But how? It’s pretty simple, really, and it usually works out to be much cheaper than staying on the mainland. Just get together with family and friends, bring a bunch of members of your running club, or find housemates through Facebook: Rent a house together through VRBO or AirBnB or one of the local property management companies such as Wendy Wilmot Best of Bald HeadBald Head Island ServicesTiffany’s Beach RentalsBald Head Island Ltd., or others and you’ll have a blast!

Here is the “event” page for Badwater Cape Fear on Facebook. Use it to connect with fellow Badwater Cape Fear runners and perhaps carpool or share houses!

You can also visit this webpage for a listing of all accommodations available on the island.

Please mention “BADWATER” when contacting them and booking rentals.

Staying on the Mainland vs. Staying on Bald Head Island (BHI):

It is possible to stay in Southport on the mainland as an alternative. Featured in the film “Safe Haven,” Southport is a quaint and cozy little waterfront town and is home to the marina from which the Bald Head Island ferries depart and return. If you do stay on the mainland, just factor in the following:

1) Careful home rental selection on BHI for a group of friends or a family would likely be cheaper than staying in hotel rooms in Southport and making multiple trips to BHI on the ferry.

2) Racer Check-In on Friday is super fun and includes a Social Mixer hosted by Bald Head Island Conservancy and includes free beer, drinks, and snacks. (Plus you won’t get your infamous Badwater Mugshot if you don’t attend!)

3) Likewise for the Post-Race Breakfast which we host at Maritime Market on Sunday: It’s a great opportunity for a really delicious – and FREE – breakfast and a last chance to swap stories and pose for selfies with your fellow Badwater runners!

4) The whole concept of the event is a Spring Break Vacation and Badwater Family Reunion, but you have to be on the island to really partake in all that! (Badwater races are never just about the running…)

5) Rough water, wind, and/or weather can cancel ferry crossings, so there is a small chance that one or both of the morning ferries won’t run on race day.

6) The ferry to and from Bald Head Island costs $23 round-trip ($12 for kids), so making multiple trips to the island will drive up your costs.

All that said, Hampton Inn and the Fairfield Inn by Marriott in Southport (on the mainland) have excellent rates and rooms can be booked with Expedia or Kayak:

Hampton Inn 4820 Port Loop Road SE, Southport, NC 28461

Marriott Fairfield 5181 Southport Supply Road SE, Southport, NC 28461


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