The Dive...

The rock jetty at Radio Island is located between Morehead City and Beaufort. It is a favorite dive site for locals, and the two dive shops in town often use it for their training site for new students in the PADI Open Water SCUBA course. You may occasionally encounter a pontoon dive boat there from one of the dive shops. If you do, and you come on your own boat, be mindful that there may be divers in the water.

The dive is a beach dive, or boat dive if you have a boat. Access to Radio Island is from 70 Highway after you cross the high rise bridge at the NC State Port (#1) in Morehead. Turn right (if coming from Morehead City) onto Radio Island Road, then left onto Marine Drive and follow the signs to the public beach access area. Parking is free at the public beach access parking lot (#3). The public beach access also has restrooms and outside showers. Once you park, walk down the plank boardwalk to the beach and look to your right. Way down at the end is the place you will enter the water for your dive. The walk (#4) is about a quarter of a mile. I have found that a beach cart is a great alternative to lugging all your gear down the beach.

First, a few tips about the dive at Radio Island. The rock jetty is only diveable at slack high tide. At low tide the visibility is literally nothing, and in between tides, the currents are strong through the ship channel between Radio Osland and Carrot Island (#5). I have dived the Radio Island rock jetty in between dives. It is manageable if you just have to dive, but if you do you want to enter the water at the tip of the island by the chain link fence and let the currents bring you back to the public beach area further up the island. All in all, the Radio Island rock jetty isn't a very practical dive except at slack high tide.

Visibility at the Radio Island rock jetty varies from one foot to maybe ten feet on a great day. You can expect about 6 feet on an average day. The bottom of the ship channel is a flat sandy bottom. A full wetsuit and gloves are recomended. You will encounter plenty of sea urchins and lots of barnacles and hard corals. Stabs and cuts and scrapes are pretty common ~ another reason you want to dive Radio Island rock jetty at slack tide when the currents aren't so bad.

You will likely begin your dive and enter the water down by the chain link fence. The chain link fence extends out into the water and is the boundary for the U.S. Navy dock area. Mind the "keep out" signs as the area past the chain link fense is federal property. As you enter the water from the beach at Radio Island, the rock jetty will be about 40 feet out from the beach in front of you at high tide. It runs from the island out into the sound (#6). The bottom will turn from sand to rocks underneath your feet. The beginning of the Radio Island rock jetty starts in about 15 feet of water, and the ledge will drop down to about 30 feet until it gets to the bottom of the ship channel. You might get forty feet of depth in some areas. If you swim to your right (if you're facing Carrot Island (#5)) you will go down to the tip of the island. If you swim to your left, you will go towards the public beach area and the rock jetty will eventually dwindle down to a sandy bottom. If you do decide to swim to the right, down past the tip of the island, you will see cooler stuff, but remember that you will have to swim back to where you entered the water on the other side of the chain link fence. If you swim right to the beach without going back past where the fence comes into the water, you will end up on the restricted military base and be trespassing.

Once on the rock jetty, you will see aa awesome variety of marine life. Banded Tulip Shells, Sea Spiders, whelk, Sea Whips, soft corals, Sea Squirts, Hard Corals, Assorted Tunicates, Blennies, Stone Crab, Oyster Toadfish, Sea Urchins, Sheepshead, Slippery Dicks, and the occasional Octopus.