Of the three marked water trails in Hammocks Beach State Park, Huggins Island is the longest and most difficult. If you paddle the full route you will circle all the way around Huggins Island in a 6-mile loop. While it is still relatively mellow in calm conditions, several factors combine to make this trail less beginner friendly than the others.
Unlike Bear Island Trail and Trout Channel Spur, which mostly stay in sheltered tidal creeks, much of this trail is closer to the main channel of the Bogue Inlet and its deeper, choppier water. It passes close to Swansboro and the Intracoastal Waterway, so motorized traffic is more frequent. Also, the nature of the loop makes it hard to time your paddling perfectly with the tides. It is generally easier to paddle to Huggins Island with a falling tide and back with a rising tide, but turns in the route and natural crosscurrents surrounding the island require paddling against the tide some of the time.
For those seeking a longer day on the water or who are looking for something different after paddling to Bear Island, Huggins Island is well worth it. You will find more varied scenery, wildlife, and fishing along this route where tidal creeks mix with more open water. In the air you are likely to see egrets, pelicans, cormorants, ospreys, and migratory birds, and in the water you may see dolphins. The shore of Huggins Island is thickly forested and mostly surrounded by marshy flats, but here and there you can find a spot to pull out and rest if needed. Rather than making the full loop, there is of course the option to go a shorter distance out and back to make an easier day. The trail begins from the canoe dock near the visitor center and follows posts with yellow over yellow coloration. In some places the posts are far apart and tough to see, so stay attentive to avoid losing the trail.