Wednesday, November 19, 2008

North Carolina's family beach

Beach2 (1)

I know a beach is the right sort when I walk along the sand and feel that particular sense of peace flooding through my heart. At the same time, the right sort of beach is stimulating to the senses; it sharpens your ears and your eyes and your taste buds. You may feel small next to the sea, a speck on a great shoreline, but you also feel more alive.

I grew up spending half my summers on the Oregon coast with my grandparents, which means that I have my own set of standards when it comes to beach vacations. Since moving to the east coast, I�ve visited beaches in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. I�ve liked some. I�ve hated some. I�ve felt at home on only one so far.

And Triangle-dwellers, it�s only a few hours away.

Holden Beach is a small island off the North Carolina coast, a short way past Wilmington. It calls itself �the family beach.� I�ve never been there in the hot and humid height of tourist season, but it�s been relatively quiet and charming during the times I have gone, spring and fall. My husband�s aunt and uncle and their relatives have a small, delightfully kitschy beach house on the island, and we�ve used the place a number of times, thanks to their generosity. There are numerous other houses there to rent or buy, right on the beach or within a few minutes� walk.

The small coastal town bustle is somewhat removed from the beach, separated from the oceanside neighborhoods by a bridge that looks, when you drive up it, as though it might just disappear or drop into the sea (it doesn�t). Once you cross the bridge, you�re in what feels like a quaint little village, a peaceful communion of houses and sand and water and your friendly fellow vacationers, with a few tiny local establishments peppered across the island for convenience.

It�s not a fancy place. There�s no boardwalk with blaring music and a ferris wheel and trash cans every five feet. But if you are something of a beach minimalist - dare I say purist - like I am, then it�s got everything you need. A pretty, peaceful shore runs the full length of Holden Beach, facing the sparkling Atlantic. It�s just you and your family and the ocean, the way it�s supposed to be.


An original Triangle Mamas post. Nikki is a beachwalker and blogger who also writes at A Small Song.

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