The Perfect Getaway — Off Season Carolina Beach


This year for our anniversary my husband and I packed our bags and headed just 20 minutes from our Wilmington home to Carolina Beach, where we got married six years earlier. I love Carolina Beach in the fall: warm days, cool nights, and the beach belongs once again to the locals, the fishermen, and a few vacationers. Days are still warm enough to sip a cocktail at the Ocean Grill and Tiki Bar, and if you’re lucky (like we were) you just might see a pod of dolphins jumping in the waves.

On Saturday we woke up early, watched the waves from our balcony at the Sea Ranch Motel (one of our favorite Carolina Beach motels) and then walked down the beach to the boardwalk, talking to fishermen along the way. We ate breakfast at the Gulfstream, a local favorite, and then headed back to the beach.

Time slows down in Carolina Beach. We spent our weekend walking, talking, and eating at some of the beach restaurants on the island. (Hint: Havana’s Sunday brunch is one of the best in the area, and Fort Fisher is a great place to find a bit of solitude by the water.) I can’t wait to go back.

A Mama’s Guide to Wrightsville Beach

Yesterday morning when my four year old woke up he asked, “Is it a school day?” When I said no, he smiled, “It’s a beach day!” It’s so good to live at the beach. Thomas and I load of the car with beach toys and escape to the beach once a week. Here are some tips I’ve learned over four years of sandy swimming trunks, bags of beach toys, and many, many sand castles.

Image1. Coffee is a must. We like to stop at Cafe del Mar where Thomas can get a bagel and I can get a cup of joe. Everyone is happy. The folks at Cafe del Mar are so nice, they make a great latte, and they love little ones.

2. Get there early. There’s nothing worse than hot sand on tiny toes or fighting to get a parking spot with a screaming child in the backseat. We aim to get to the beach between 8:30 and 9:00.

3. Access number four rocks. If you’re looking for other mommies to talk to, children to play with, and gorgeous tidal pools, locals know that access four at Wrightsville Beach is the place to be. Did I mention this access has bathrooms, showers, and changing rooms? Sweet luxury. 

4. Apply sunscreen before you leave the house so you don’t get distracted once you get to the beach and forget. Re-apply often.

5. Pack lots of water and snacks. Bring a sheet to sit on in the sand, if you think your little ones will let you sit.

6. Pay for an hour more of parking than you think you need. I learned this the hard way after getting many parking tickets and turning into a grouchy mama trying to drag my little explorer and beach toys to the car in time to beat the ticket. Beach time always goes faster than you think it should.

7. Relax and enjoy – these summer days go by faster than you can believe.



Eleven Years and Counting


I moved to Wilmington in 2002 to study writing and to take, what I thought would be, a short sojourn at the beach. The first few weeks I woke up early and took a walk on Wrightsville Beach every morning and every time it felt like I was on vacation. The ocean has a way of doing that, of taking away what you no longer need. My friend calls its “smoothing” and her walks in the sand at the end of the day “smooth” away the stress of work.

Weeks stretched into months. I didn’t walk on the beach every day, but I tried to make it to the ocean once a week, no matter the season. I saw dolphins at Thanksgiving and caught a sunrise on the first day of the new year. I thought that eventually the magic would wear off, that the lift I felt deep in my being when I caught the first glimpse of the sparkling water and the sandy beach would dissolve with time and familiarity.

It didn’t.

Eleven years later, I take my four-year-old son to the beach once a week. We bring a bag of sand toys, snacks, and towels. He runs ahead of me on the boardwalk, and I trail behind, ready for that moment, the instant I glimpse the sea and everything I hold onto melts away.