Bald Head is a barrier island situated at the mouth of the Cape Fear River and home to one of North Carolina's three capes: Cape Fear. Sir Richard Grenville likely named the cape on his expedition through the area in 1585 before establishing the famous colony at Roanoke Island. Gravel feared a submerged sandbar, known due to its shape as Frying Pan Shoals. The shoals extend nearly thirty miles from Cape Fear into the Atlantic Ocean.
In 1662, William Hilton led a party up the Cape Fear River. The party first mapped Bald Head Island and left livestock onshore. Permanent settlement on the lower Cape Fear followed with the establishment of Brunswick Town in 1726.