Summer’s Winding Down, But the Beach Is Still Calling08-03-11-beach-baby.jpg

If you’ve been to a store lately that sells swimwear, you’ve probably noticed that they’re already on sale for more than half off. That’s usually the case sometime after the passing of Independence Day. What’s really cool is that there’s still plenty of time to have fun in the sun, so why not buy a new suit and head east!

Ask locals about their favorite local strip of coastline and you’ll probably hear a wide variety of answers. No matter what your favorite beach activity may be, you’re sure to fi nd a setting that will suit (pun intended) your individual tastes.

Take Ocean Isle Beach, for instance. It’s located south, just minutes from the South Carolina border. Wilmington resident, Gina Locklear, owner of Gypsy Gina’s Art, Antiques & Jazzy Junk grew up spending summers at Ocean Isle Beach. When asked about her fondness for OIB (now you know what those oval bumper stickers stand for) she says it’s a “family beach that’s quiet and one of N.C.’s best kept secrets because it’s clean and affordable. There aren’t all the distractions that you fi nd in Myrtle Beach.”

Locklear, who now spends most of her time in her shop located on Castle Street in Wilmington’s art & antiques district, says these days she often ventures to Carolina Beach.

“Carolina Beach,” explains Locklear, “offers a bit more. There’s the boardwalk, summer carnival, and it’s close to Wilmington which provides even more entertainment, as well as shopping and dining options.”

The Fort Fisher Aquarium is also a great stop neat Carolina Beach.

If you’re on a budget and perhaps have kids in tow, Topsail Island is just a couple of hours from Fayetteville. If you’re into scenic routes, take Hwy 210 and stop to picnic at Moore’s Creek National Battleground in Currie along the way. You won’t find roller coasters or boardwalks, but, according to Sandie Blanton, Property Manager at Topsail Sound RV Park, what you will fi nd is a “family-friendly atmosphere, and pristine beaches without the over-crowding often found at some of the other beaches.”

Travel northward and you’ll find Emerald Isle and Atlantic Beaches, both near Morehead City. While Emerald Isle is the tamer of the two, Atlantic Beach offers a boardwalk reminiscent of a by-gone era. You’ll fi nd amusement rides, miniature golf, and of course, those mega-gift shops that sell everything from sand crabs to shell necklaces.

A trip to this part of the Bogue Banks Barrier Islands isn’t complete without stopping for a quick bite at the Sanitary Restaurant & Fish Market which has been a local staple of Morehead City since 1938.

Probably the most famous stretch of beach in our state is the Outer Banks, part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. This is where you can visit the Wright Brothers Memorial where aviation history was made. The Outer Banks is also home to five lighthouses, the oldest of which is Ocracoke Lighthouse, first erected in 1798. Another popular attraction is the outdoor drama, The Lost Colony, which is performed six nights a week during the summer on Roanoke Island.

So, what are you waiting for? Pack up the kids, the dogs and the cooler, fi ll the tank up with gas and find a beach that suits your style. The waves are crashing, the salt-air is blowing and it just won’t be summer without at least one trip to the North Carolina coast!

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