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.