Category Archives: Beach

‘Hat Training Day’ And Why It Saves A Vacation

A few years ago I helped my husband prepare for an upcoming interview. We ran through a series of typical questions and together we brainstormed about some situational answers he could use. I remember one question touched on his greatest career accomplishment. I rolled my eyes as he scratched his head- stumped about what to say. And not because he couldn’t think of anything. But because he couldn’t narrow it down.

While he debated, I let my mind wander. At that point I’d been a stay-at-home mom for roughly 7 years. The idea of me Continue reading ‘Hat Training Day’ And Why It Saves A Vacation

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A Visit To Lawton Stables- Hilton Head Island, SC

Last week on Hilton Head Island we visited Lawton Stables. The Island is one of our top vacation destinations and I’m always looking for new activities to try. My daughter- in particular- has a love for horses and has always wanted to go on a trail ride. I can say, without a doubt, Continue reading A Visit To Lawton Stables- Hilton Head Island, SC

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Best Coastal Beach Towns In America

Today is May 1st and that means my head is already at the beach. I am a total, beach-loving girl! With so much giddiness and joy I marked off the whole week on our master kitchen chalkboard calendar last night. We’ve had our trip booked for months, but to see it up there for THIS MONTH is so exciting! I cannot wait to have my toes in the sand.

Naturally, I’m going to gravitate to anything beachy this month (so brace yourself!) I pretty much consider myself an expert, but still I love Continue reading Best Coastal Beach Towns In America

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21 Free (or Inexpensive) Things To Do At The Beach

As spring break and summer approach, one of the most fun and affordable vacations is a trip to the beach. Although you will still incur the cost of travel, lodging and food- entertainment is virtually free!

Personally, I need no prompting on how to enjoy myself on a beach for days on end. Likewise, my children play easily without much encouragement. I think it’s safe to say that we’re beach-people! However, that’s not the case for everyone. For that reason, many touristy beaches have all sorts of activities to draw you away from the sand. These attractions also come with a cost! What could have been a relatively inexpensive trip will add up fast if you start paying for activities.

In order to avoid the temptation Continue reading 21 Free (or Inexpensive) Things To Do At The Beach

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Favorite Month To Go To The Beach

grayton-beach

It’s official. The last week of my life *might* have ruined all future beach trips for me. We hit the jackpot weather-wise for our family beach trip. While unexpected, October is absolutely my new favorite month to go to the beach! (Although, I’m going to keep testing all the other months just to make sure my research is accurate- ha!)

Our October beach weather started out a little rocky. Actually, more than a little rocky. Our beach house on Hilton Head Island was in the direct path of Hurricane Matthew. There wasn’t much for us to do except watch the weather channel and pray the storm took a turn. When it became obvious that wasn’t going to happen, we did the next logical thing. We scrambled to find a new location for our trip.

After what felt like hundreds of phone calls and emails later, we secured a house on Grayton Beach on the Gulf. With such a chaotic start to our vacation, I had no idea it would turn into one of our best weather trips ever!

Thankfully the lack of preparation led to what can only be described as irratic packing. I ended up bringing a little of everything. And that was a good thing because that’s exactly what we needed! Our early mornings at the beach were chilly, our days warm, and the evenings perfect. I honestly couldn’t script better weather for the beach!

Chilly sunrise on the beach...giving way to amazing daytime temperatures
Chilly sunrise on the beach…giving way to amazing daytime temperatures

Unlike beach trips we’ve taken during summer months, the sand stayed cool all day. We were able to walk through the deep sand without fear of burning our feet. We also walked along the shore anytime of day without overheating.

Miles of cool sand, even mid-day
Miles of cool sand, even mid-day

The only downside to our beautiful weather (if I HAD to pick a downside) is that we struggled to stay out of it. Each of us came home with a tad more sun than we typically do.  Going to the beach and not getting hot was a true treat!

While I know every beach, every week, every month, every year might be a little different. I’m doubtful that we’ll ever have another beach trip with as perfect a weather as we just experienced. However, I do think certain months can be more favorable. The locals I talked to at Grayton Beach all agreed that October is hands down the best month to be there.

What is your favorite month to go to the beach?

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The Best of Carolina Beach

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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Best Family Beach Hotel

Every summer, around mid-July, I start to panic about how quickly summer will come to an end. I LOVE everything about summer. The hot weather, the clothes, the pool, and extra quality time with my kids are just a few of the things I enjoy.

So it’s around this time that I need to remind myself that the “summer” feeling is available year round. You just need to find a great family beach hotel, and book a trip!

One thing we’ve learned over the years- not every beach hotel is created with children in mind. It’s incredibly important to choose wisely to get the maximum enjoyment out of your vacation.

We love staying at beach hotels with “extra” entertainment for the kids. My children enjoy water slides, and outdoor games, in addition to the beach.

I also like to know what the beach access is going to be like and what beach amenities are available. A mile long downhill hike to the beach is not always ideal for toddlers (or adults, for that matter.) Additionally, hotels that provide/rent beach toys and chairs make our experience much easier.

Travel + Leisure has a great list of the top family beach hotels. We have stayed at a few of the hotels on their list. I will definitely consult this list before booking our next family beach trip…the #2- Beaches Turks and Caicos sounds pretty perfect!

View their complete list here.

What is your favorite family beach hotel?

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