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carolina-beach

I’ve written this before, but it’s worth saying again- our family tends to be creatures of habit when it comes to beach vacations. We select our favorite beaches, eating establishments, and activities and stick to them. Lately we’re working hard to break out of our comfort zone and try some new spots. Also, we recently did something completely unconventional for us- we went to the beach without kids!

A rare child-free vacation photo.

A rare child-free vacation photo.

Carolina Beach was our destination of choice for this trip. Having never been to the area, we did our best to research prior to the vacation. We found a wide variety of opinions on the area. For every 5 people who agreed on a positive opinion of a place, there were 5 others who strongly disliked it. We couldn’t find a consensus on anything. So naturally, we went semi-rogue and I am writing our own “best of” review post.

Although we barely scratched the surface of options in the area, I do have some thoughts based on our quick visit. I look forward to testing the area out more in the future so I can do a more comparative and comprehensive review!

I could have easily spent the entire vacation right here!

I could have easily spent the entire vacation right here!

So here goes…the best of Carolina Beach (so far):

  1. Courtyard Marriott Carolina Beach: Although this was the only place we stayed, I can’t imagine wanting to be anywhere else. This hotel is beachfront with awesome access to the boardwalk and many of the shops/restaurants. The hotel design allows each room an oceanfront balcony. Yes, you read that right. Every room. Meaning, you don’t pay extra for that luxury. The hotel also features 2 pools (indoor and outdoor), a shell washing station, and a nice fitness center.
  2. The Island Ice Factory: This is the 1 item I never knew that I always missed. Refreshing, sugary Italian ice delivered to your beach chair. Umm, yes please! Not only is the Italian Ice delicious, but it’s also affordable. Be sure to have cash, and purchase the Koozie. The initial cost is a bit more expensive ($6), but then you can refill it throughout your vacation for $1 per scoop. I will not publicly admit how many additional scoops I purchased, but I assure you that I got my money’s worth.

    The greatest thing to ever happen to the beach.

    The greatest thing to ever happen to the beach.

  3. Bridge Tender: There are absolutely no adequate words to describe this meal. Not only was the food ridiculous, but the setting and service rounded out our incredible experience. This restaurant is located in Wilmington which is just a short drive from Carolina Beach.

    Best Restaurant in the area!

    Best Restaurant in the area!

  4. Starbucks: Any diehard Starbucks coffee fan struggles in a small town. Unfortunately, they aren’t on every corner and not every local coffee shop cuts it. Rest easy because hidden inside the Courtyard Marriott is the most Starbucks-like non-Starbucks ever. It’s pretty much Starbucks- they have the same cups (although you just order small, medium or large), the same beans, and the same drink choices. Really, the only thing I found missing was the option to use the App.

    Starbucks + Beach=My happy place!

    Starbucks + Beach = My happy place!

  5. Fish Bites Fish Market and Restaurant: If this place hadn’t been our final hurrah on our get-away I never would have agreed to go. We pulled up and it was in a strip center next to an Urgent Care. I could almost see the germs seeping through the wall and into my food. But my husband really, really wanted to go (thanks, Yelp!) I say all of this to make it clear- I had no intention of liking this restaurant. I don’t even like clam chowder (Brent made me try his), and now all I can think about is driving back for another bowl. Similarly, I will remember their shrimp and grits dish forever as the best ever. So, for the record, I’m thankful my initial judgement did not stop us from eating at Fish Bites. I will crave this food until we return to the area for more.
    Clam Chowder (left), Shrimp and Grits (right)

    Clam Chowder (left), Shrimp and Grits (right)

    We plan to return to Carolina Beach sometime this winter (with the kids!) Please help us with our next “Best of Carolina Beach” list.

    Where should we go? What should we do?

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