Not so long ago in the dead of winter, we hired a small place right at the very edge of the beach with an unobstructed view right down to the waves. There was hardly anyone else down there and we felt as if we had the beach, and island, to ourselves. With the outside temperature a fresh 40*F and a brisk wind blowing it was hardly surprising! But that did not stop us from enjoying crisp cold walks on the deserted sands along with the ever-present pelicans skimming the tops of the waves.
There is a different quality of light down at the beach at that time of the year. Its all water-colours and pastels. Pearly pinks and soft mauves blend easily with the cool aqua shades of water and warm frothy white of foam over pale blonde sand. I love the way that the sea changes from day to day. Every day a different personality! Ever changing, ever the same, and always fascinating. We watched as the sky and reflected sea changed moods from day to day. From calm and silky-smooth building up through a coastal storm with lowering dark skies and exceptionally high tides to a scattered and tossed turbulence and back to a quietly heavy calm.
I always forget how loud the surf sounds until I’m back there. And going to bed the first night, I wonder how I’ll be able to sleep until soon it becomes more of a question of how will I ever be able to sleep without its ceaseless lulling rhythm.
A special treat while we were there was a daily dolphin visit. Almost every morning at 10am or thereabouts, we would suddenly spot a gleaming curve, a splash and there they were. Cavorting and playing in the waves and beyond the breakers, a whole school of them! Even one happy morning the joy of watching an especially adventurous dolphin surfing toward the beach on the particularly big breakers, a remnant of the overnight storm. Honestly, we felt as if they had arrived and put on a show especially for us!
The Atlantic Ocean bordering the many islands and banks of North Carolina is a wonderful place to spend time. There are many fascinating towns and villages to visit and a number of delightful places to stay. It’s not a place for high rise hotels and active night life (unless you count the ponderous busyness of the turtle during the season as she lumbers ashore to lay her eggs!) preferring to be a shore line mainly of beach homes, bed and breakfasts and occasional condo blocks. To hire a beach house for a week during the summer is almost mandatory once you live down here and can be highly recommended. However to get a real bargain come in the winter – like us – you won’t be disappointed!
Hiring homes on the NC shore is best done through a local realty company of which there are a number. A quick search on the internet will cause these to pop up. The quaint names of the different islands and sea-side towns hide quite different characters and it really depends on what you and your family are looking for in a vacation spot. Some of the beaches are very family orientated, while others tend to be more geared toward teens and young adults and yet others are wind-swept and lonely appealing mainly to the fisherman and shell-seeker.
Houses can be rented right on the beach, while others will have a partial ocean view, some will be listed as second row with beach access meaning that they effectively sit in the middle of the narrow off-shore island with a short walk to the ocean. Don’t ignore those listed as having a ‘sound view’, as these houses look inland across the body of water toward mainland and often enjoy the most spectacular sunsets reflected in both water and sky.
Our favourite isles, so far, are Emerald Isle and the Crystal Coast, Topsail Island, Surf City and Wrightsville Beach. Depends on our mood – and that of the sea. What’s available and when. But no matter what season, I’ll see you on the beach!