For decades, thousands of visitors have made the pilgrimage to the Kindred Spirit mailbox on uninhabited Bird Island. All kinds of people, young and old, joyous and in pain have written down their innermost thoughts and feelings in the mailbox’s journals.
It is estimated that over 100,000 people may have visited the Kindred Spirit over the years, which is amazing considering it’s location on the undeveloped, quiet beach of Bird Island but it still surprises Sunset Beach native Frank Nesmith.
Mr. Nesmith has tended the mailbox since its beginning, some 34 years ago. It was an old flame who had the idea for The Kindred Spirit mailbox in the first place.
“I’m sure it was her idea,” says Nesmith, referring to a woman named Claudia who he briefly dated in the late 1970s. “You know, when you go with a girl, you want to do what they want you to do because you might want to get a kiss.”
It’s a bit of a hike from Sunset Beach over to the mailbox on Bird Island, but it is worth the effort if you’re the kind of person who appreciates this sort of thing.
But just keep walking until you see an American flag flapping on a sand dune in the distance.
There by the flag, next to an old weathered bench is the Kindred Spirit community mailbox. Inside you’ll find several journals, some pens and the hopes and dreams and grief and pain of the people who have left their innermost thoughts on the pages within.
“The fact that they do write in there, it’s something within them that makes them do it,” Nesmith says.
Jaqueline DeGroot, a local romance author, will confirm that the mailbox was Claudia’s idea. She and Claudia exchanged emails on a regular basis until Claudia’s death in 2013.
“She had this mirage in her head for many years of a mailbox in the sand, and she never knew why,” DeGroot has said. “Over the years, it would just pop into her head. When she came to Sunset Beach, it all started to make more sense.”
Claudia’s first attempt was to put the mailbox on a small bit of sand in nearby Tubbs Inlet in between Sunset Beach and Ocean Isle Beach. But over time the changing tides washed the little island away so she moved the mailbox to Bird Island in 1983.
It started to attract lots of visitors at the new location,. Back then there was still an inlet between Bird Island and Sunset Beach and visitors had to swim across the rapidly moving waters or wait until the tide receded in order to walk across. It was difficult going, however they still came.
While Claudia was still alive she kept her identity as the Kindred Spirit’s creator a secret, even to DeGroot. In one email, she wrote, “The Kindred Spirit is a way of being — not a person,” and she signed it, “Your Friend, K.S.”
A large part of the mailbox’s allure is that the folks who write in its journals are able to be as anonymous as they wish to be.
The remote, pristine location on an inhibited island with the sea air and sounds of sea birds and the gentle surf lends itself to people’s baring of their innermost soulful thoughts.
Anyone who feels drawn to the islands of North Carolina should put a trip to the Kindred Spirit Mailbox high on their “Bucket List”!
The best way to get to Bird Island is to start at the Public Beach Access located at West 40th Street on Sunset Beach NC. Take the access to the beach, and head Southwest (away from the pier). You can either walk or ride a bike, it is about 1.5 miles from the 40th Street access to The Kindred Spirit Mailbox.
The Mailbox is a little hidden but look for the flag pole with the American flag, it’s visible from the beach. If you reach the jetty you’ve gone a little too far.