Figure Eight Island

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Figure Eight Island
Native name: Figure Eight
Figure Eight Island.jpg
Figure Eight Island, North Carolina
Location Harnett Township,
New Hanover County,
North Carolina
Coordinates 34°16′12″N 77°45′0″W / 34.27000°N 77.75000°W / 34.27000; -77.75000
Total islands 1
Area 1,300 acres (530 ha).[1]
Population 441 households
Additional information
Official website [1]

Figure Eight Island is a barrier island off the coast of North Carolina, just north of Wrightsville Beach that has long been known for being an affluent summer colony. The island is 14 miles from Wilmington International Airport(ILM) and is part of the Wilmington Metropolitan Area. The island is surrounded by the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean. It is a private island that can only be reached via a guarded causeway bridge,[2] a swing bridge that is the only private bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway in the Southeast.[3] The island has been known as a popular destination for wealthy North Carolinians as well as celebrities and politicians including former Vice President Al Gore,[1] who has rented a house there, SportsChannel8 co-founder Ben Swain, and Senator John Edwards,[4] who owns a house on the island. The island is home to several titans of industry and finance, including Former CEO of Morgan Stanley, John J. Mack.[5][6]


Figure Eight Island was first acknowledged in 1762, during the reign of King George III, as a tract in a royal land grant to James Moore, the brother of Roger Moore of Orton Plantation, son of James Moore, Royal Governor of the Province of Carolina, and grandson of Sir Rory O'Moore. In 1775, the island passed from James Moore to Cornelius Harnett and became known as The Banks. In 1795, Harnett's property was purchased at an auction by James Foy and the island became part of Poplar Grove Plantation and was renamed Foy Island and also popularly called Woods Beach. Foy Island remained a part of the Plantation for the next 160 years.[7]

Early Development[edit]

In 1954 Hurricane Hazel hit the East Coast and destroyed much of the development from Myrtle Beach up to Topsail Beach, with more than 15,000 homes and structures completely destroyed and another 39,000 homes damaged. Beach properties were no longer in as high demand, and many landowners wanted to sell their properties. During this time the Mayor of Wilmington, Dan Cameron, and his brother Bruce Cameron began the process of acquiring the island from George Hutaff and the Foy family. The Camerons paid the Foys $50,000 for their portion of the land, and then purchased two areas of adjoining marshland for $25,000 apiece in 1955. For the next 10 years the property lay dormant. The Cameron brothers joined forces with their cousin, Raeford Trask, and with investor Richard Wetherill, forming the Island Development Company, to develop the real estate on the island. They named the island Figure Eight to indicate Rich's Inlet Creek's crooked paths in the marsh. To this point in time, the only way to access the island was by boat, so the Island Development Company approached Champion Davis, owner of the marshland off Porters Neck, on acquiring more land to build a bridge to the island from the mainland. Davis turned down an offer to partner with the company. The Island Development Company eventually purchased two small tracts and a small parcel of land from the members of Edgewater Club to build a roadway bridge that now leads to Figure Eight Island's bridge.[8]

The Camerons hired Richard Bell Associates to design Figure Eight's development concept. John Oxenfeld and Haywood Newkirk, Sr. were brought on to design the early houses. The first lots sold for as little as $5,000. On March 30, 1971 the Camerons sold Figure Eight Island to Young M. Smith, Jr., an attorney and developer from Hickory, North Carolina, for $4 million. Smith's company, The Litchfield Company, was already in the process of building a luxury condominium complex near Pawleys Island, South Carolina. When the change of ownership over Figure Eight took place, thirty houses and one hundred and twelve lots were sold. Smith brought architects Ligon Flynn and Henry Johnston in on the development project as well as landscape architect Dick Bell. Smith's wife was the grand niece of the late Julian Price, a wealthy insurance executive of Jefferson Standard Life Insurance Company. Price's son, Ralph Clay Price, who carried on the business, left his niece and her brothers as heirs to the Price estate. Much of their fortune was invested in the development of Figure Eight Island.

While Figure Eight enjoyed early success in home and lot sales in the early 1970s, the recession hit The Litchfield Company hard and its subsidiary, Figure Eight Development Company, went into bankruptcy in 1974. After two open auctions were held at the New Hanover County Courthouse in 1975, Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company emerged as the island's new mortgage holder. In 1980 a modern bridge from Port Royal, Virginia was brought to replace the old bridge connecting the island to the mainland for $1.5 million.


The Figure Eight Homeowners’ Association now owns the island. The first full-time administrator of the Association was hired in 1982, and after several short-term managers, Art Poineau served as administrator for 20 years. David Kellam, the son of earlier residents on the island, has held the position since 2001. There are approximately 475 homes developed on Figure Eight.[9] The island has been known as a popular vacation destination for celebrities, politicians, and wealthy North Carolinians. When Dino De Laurentiis opened his studio in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1983, Hollywood stars were drawn to the privacy of the island. Prominent homeowners and guests on the island over the years include: George C. Scott, Robert Wagner, Gary Lynch, Jill St. John, Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman, Debra Winger, Nick Nolte, Terry Holland, Kim Basinger, Alec Baldwin, Robert Downey, Jr., Jennifer Aniston, George Steinbrenner III, Ben Stiller, Frank Genovese, Andy Griffith, John J. Mack, Nido Qubein, Henry McKinnell, Harvey Pitt, Kathy Bates, Dean Smith, and John Edwards.[10][11][12] Vice President Al Gore and Second Lady of the United States Tipper Gore vacationed on the island with their children in 1997. Besides private homes, the island also features tennis courts, a boat ramp, and a marina. Though the island has no golf course, nearby Eagle Point Golf Club has close ties to the Figure Eight community, with the club having been built by several Island residents and counting a large number of the Figure Eight community among its members.[13] Figure Eight Yacht Club is a private island club for dining and formal events and offers a pool and tennis courts for its members. Figure Eight is not accessible to the public by car, but like all North Carolina beaches "the public can use the wet sand area, the beaches and tidal areas, of the island if it can get to it." [14] The majority of the residence of Figure Eight are seasonal. An estimated 90 percent of the homes on Figure Eight Islands are second homes and fewer than one hundred of the homes are on the rental market.[15] Homes on Figure Eight average above $2 million in property value.[16]


Figure Eight Island is located just north of Wrightsville Beach and Wilmington. The island has an area of 1,300 acres (526 ha),[1] most of the area is marshland (see below image). The island is home to a historic boathouse, one of the first structures constructed in the 1960s.

Image of Figure Eight's marshland from the beach side of the island


Due to the island's proximity to the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, the ocean temperatures off of Figure 8 are comparable to destinations much further south (i.e. Daytona Beach) and considerably warmer than the ocean off the NC Outer Banks.[17]

Location JAN FEB MAR APR 1-15 APR 16-30 MAY 1-15 MAY 16-31 JUN 1-15 JUN 16-30 JUL 1-15 JUL 16-31 AUG 1-15 AUG 16-31 SEP 1-15 SEP 16-30 OCT 1-15 OCT 16-31 NOV DEC
Duck NC 45 44 46 58 60 66 68 73 74 71 71 73 75 76 74 71 66 59 52
Wilmington NC (Fig 8) 58 58 62 69 72 75 78 80 81 82 83 82 83 83 82 79 75 69 62
Daytona Beach FL 61 59 65 70 73 75 78 79 80 80 80 80 81 83 82 79 76 71 65

The waters off the coast of Figure 8 are also exceptionally clean and clear, and Figure 8 beach has not been subject to water quality advisories as have been issued for nearby beaches.[18]


The uncrowded beach on Figure Eight island is one of the island's prime attractions. The beach is almost flat, with only a very gradual slope into the ocean. At low tide the beach is up to 125 yards wide. Tide pools along the beach allow small children to enjoy the ocean away from the waves.

The sand is very fine and almost white. A wide variety of shells, from conch shells to sand dollars, are found along the beach.

At mid- to low-tide the sand is hard, allowing easy cruising on beach bikes. Bocce ball, horseshoes and paddle ball are prevalent beach activities.

Surf fishing, surfing and kite surfing are popular water activities and can be enjoyed anywhere along the beach. The yacht club arranges surf camps and private surfing lessons are available.

Dogs are allowed on the beach year-round, as long as they are under the control (leash or verbal command) of the owner. Visitors renting homes on the island are not permitted to have dogs.


Because of its private nature, Figure Eight Island is an ideal place for wild life conservation.[citation needed] The homeowners' association takes advantage of this and is active in conservation. Sea turtles are monitored on a daily basis and nests are marked off for their protection. In 2001 and 2002, the homeowners' association commissioned a survey of endangered plants and animals on the island, some of the animals of special interest were piping plovers, sea turtles, sea beach amaranth, and marine mammals.[19]


See also[edit]

External links[edit]


Coordinates: 34°16′12″N 77°45′0″W / 34.27000°N 77.75000°W / 34.27000; -77.75000