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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Summertime at the Beach

Growing up in North Carolina meant that a summer trip to the beach was just part of life.  While some summers we took a trip to the mountains and searched for a motel with a pool, the beach was most often our vacation destination.

My mother was fond of telling me that I was still wearing diapers on my first visit to the beach.  I can remember the long trips across the two-lane roads to the coast from Lewisville, NC. We rode in my mother's blue 1952 Ford.  Often it was packed with a couple of her nieces who are ten years older than me.

The cottages we stayed in were most often not even air conditioned and certainly not waterfront. It didn't matter to us that the beach was a block or two away.  We just enjoyed being at the beach. It was not uncommon to bring our own water in jugs, and we always brought a good supply of homegrown tomatoes for sandwiches.

One of the treats of the whole trip would the "picnic" that would take place on the trip down to the beach.  We would pull off the road at picnic table along the road and drag out the cooler and baskets.  The fare was varied but always contained at least fried chicken and country ham biscuits.  There were no McDonald's on the way to the beaches in the fifties, and I know they were not missed.

Not only has today's trip to the beach changed, but what you find in services once you get there is not very different from what you might at home.

Five years ago we moved to the Crystal Coast portion of the Southern Outer Banks.  While we don't live on the beach, we live within just a few miles of the beaches of Emerald Isle.  We can usually be parked and walking on the beaches in ten to fifteen minutes depending of course on which beach we choose.

During the busier times of the year, I will often opt for one of the more remote beaches such as Third Street or even my favorite beaches down Coast Guard Road by the Point.  It requires a little hike to get to the Coast Guard Road beaches so you loose the impatient crowd pretty quickly.  It is not unusual for me to go for a noontime walk on the beach at the Point.

On the way back from the beach, I can easily run some daily errands, including stopping by Winberry's Produce Stand, Lowe's Home Improvement, Ace Hardware, or even the grocery store.

It is hard to believe that we used to haul most of our food to the beach.  We have four very nice supermarkets within a ten minute radius of our coastal home.  If we want a little more variety, we can drive twenty minutes to Morehead City and visit the local Harris Teeter.

Grocery stores aren't the only thing that have come to the beach.

Every store that I could possibly want with the exception of a Penzey's Spice Store is within thirty minutes of our home.  My wife is particularly happy about having a TJ Maxx, Bed, Bath, & Beyond and a Belk's within our normal circuit.  We also take the time to make it to the newly remodeled SAMs Club in Jacksonville a couple of times a month.  We have figured out that if we shop there around 6 PM on a weekday evening, we almost have the store to ourselves.  Of course we have no shortage of Walmarts.  There are two in Jacksonville, and one in Morehead City.

Accommodations at the beach have also changed.  Today there are plenty of options from a cozy waterfront motel like the Islander in Emerald Isle to hundreds of ocean front or near ocean front homes.  You might find an old beach cottage, but you would have to look for it.  I was impressed with the survival of some old style beach cottages on a recent day trip to Nag's Head

We are lucky to be in the Emerald Isle area since there is almost no high density housing.  There are also no high rise condos to blight the landscape.  The picture included in the post was taken just a few blocks from the heart of downtown Emerald Isle.  While the middle of June is not quite peak beach season, it is not far off of it, and there is still plenty of room on the beach for everyone. One of the reasons we live in the area is that quiet days are what we normally expect.

With the area not under the same pressure as the Northern Outer Banks, it isn't too much trouble to find some space for yourself on the beach or find even more elbow room by getting out on the water.

If you are interesting in visiting the Emerald Isle area, check out the 2011 version of my Emerald Isle Travel Guide.  For more information about the area, you can visit the welcome page of Crystal Coast Life Blog or read my Swansboro area guide.   You will also find a PDF Map of the area listing some things to do at the beach and a list of restaurant where you will find some very good food.

If you do visit us, don't be surprised to see an old guy wearing worn orange Crocs walking the beaches with a camera around his neck.  I often go out searching for that perfect wave or beach bird picture.  Sometimes I even carry a fishing rod for balance.  Since March I have hiked all the beaches within the town limits of Emerald Isle at least twice.

Here is a link to some pictures of the beaches near the Point at Emerald Isle. If after visiting, you decide you love the area and want a place here, I can help with that also.  Just check my real estate site and remember that having a REALTOR® who walks the beaches is actually an advantage.

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