(This is purely my opinion and true feelings about this glorious place. I was not compensated for anything I say in this post.)
If you’ve been following me on Instagram over the last couple of weeks, you know that we just got home from our annual beach vacation to Bogue Banks Island on the Crystal Coast of North Carolina. The island is our home away from home. We go to this same place every year and know it just as well as we know where we do actually live. Every year it gets harder and harder to leave. We are truly investigating how we can purchase a place to call our own there sooner than later. If J had it his way, we’d sell our house, pack up everything, open a Sweet Frog franchise, and go for it. I must admit that he’s much less daunted by the thought of uprooting our boys and starting fresh somewhere with no family than I am.
The trip to get there was not without it’s own adventure. I got a migraine about three hours into our first day of driving. Then we had to drive through HEAVY rain in the mountains of West Virginia, and J hates to drive in the rain. We just missed a tractor trailer that jack-knifed and got wrapped in a guardrail. By the time we got to our first hotel we were all ready for the break. Thankfully, my head was good to go for day two, and since we drive about 2/3 on the first day, we managed to make pretty good time for the remainder of the trip. In fact, we managed to get to the condo slightly before 4 p.m., which meant we actually got to enjoy our first evening there.
It’s about an 11 hour drive without stopping. There are nine of us altogether that go (our family, my parents, and my grandma), so it goes without saying that there are frequent stops. Of course right when we got into a desolate stretch, one of the boys started to complain they had to go to the bathroom. Or at least that’s what I was told; they ride with mama and papa in their car. 😉 One of these years I may just give my kids those things truckers use to be able to pee without us needing to stop. Okay, no I won’t because those are nasty, but when you’ve added over two hours to your travel time just with bathroom stops, it makes you seriously contemplate such things. And honestly, it would probably be more sanitary than some of the restrooms we have to use along the way. I mean, I’d rather use my boys’ bathroom than some of the women’s bathrooms I’ve had to use while roadtripping; that says A LOT about the condition of them! Bathroom breaks and the time they add are one of the big reasons that we started splitting the trip and making the drive over two days…makes the first day at the beach MUCH more enjoyable for all involved.
This year marks our eleventh that we’ve gone to the beach, and our eighth on Bogue Banks. We’ve tried Myrtle Beach a couple times, and we did Kitty Hawk one year, but nothing compares to the slow pace and laid back feel on Bogue Banks. We’ve stayed in Emerald Isle and Pine Knoll Shores, and have never had a bad experience. It was J’s and my dream to have an annual vacation that we took with our kids. To give them something to look forward to, and hopefully continue even after they’re married and start their own families. I’ll never forget my mom declaring that she wasn’t a “beach person” (she had never been before) when we first asked them to go with us. A little persuasion went a long way, and after the first day or two on that first trip she was looking for places to stay the following year! We were blessed that because we plan so far in advance we were still able to go despite J being out of work. That and the fact that we know the island and it’s surrounding area so well, we knew we’d be able to have plenty of things to fill our time without needing to spend much money.
Dare I say that this year was by far our most fun. I think it’s in large part because the boys are getting to the ages where we don’t need to take a bazillion things down to the beach with us, the weather was perfect, and we were ready for it because we went so late in the summer. There were several days where the boys didn’t even “get dressed,” and just spent them in their swim gear as they went between the beach and pool the majority of the day. They love looking for shells, boogie boarding, splashing in the waves, and just exploring what they can see in the water. Thankfully, no one saw any sharks or jellyfish. 😉 We had to be sure to hang onto L at all times because he had no fear when it came to ocean and would have gladly run right into if we had let him (I swear if he had been my first I wouldn’t have had any more!).
If you’re looking for a place that has a ton of amusement type attractions, then this is not the island for you. That’s not to say there aren’t a ton of things to do there, but you won’t find a huge amount of commercial attractions to draw you in. Instead, the island offers a large variety of water sports, numerous beaches, one of the NC Aquarium locations, a couple small movie theaters, and the perfect amount of little shops. You can get pretty near everything you might need at Food Lion or Dollar Tree, which both have locations on the island. We don’t venture out much to eat at restaurants as we prefer to cook for ourselves (having food allergies and intolerances makes this the best option), but there are numerous local restaurants just a short drive away in either Beaufort (which is an adorable little seaside town with it’s own rich history, and is always worth a visit) or Morehead City. Fresh local seafood is a staple while there, so we always pickup some fresh caught crab for homemade crab cakes. In addition to the fact that we can make them gluten and dairy free, I challenge you have one anywhere that tastes better than the homemade ones my mom makes with fresh crab.
The Maritime Museum in Beaufort is free, and is a nice little museum to visit on a rainy afternoon or for a break from the sun and sand. The boys requested to go there this year, so we took an afternoon to visit it again.
New to the actual island this year was a little splash pad and an inexpensive miniature golf course in Atlantic Beach, which was also part of the community park there. It was a fantastic way to provide an outing that wasn’t too far from our condo, and that we could surprise the kids with. They had a blast, and L was not happy when it was time to leave.
On the other end of the island is The Point in Emerald Isle, where Bogue Inlet and the White Oak River meet the Atlantic Ocean. This is a truly spectacular beach as it is expansive, but depending on the season and time of day, there can be numerous tide pools, and because of it’s natural sprawling landscape, there aren’t any dunes to have to climb over. It’s also on the western most end of the island, which runs east and west, so you get to see magnificent sunsets there. In Pine Knoll Shores, where we typically stay, the beach can be almost nonexistent when it’s high tide, and the waves can be rough when they come in as a result. But at The Point, the waves seem to gently fade as they come in and provide a natural wading pool right at the Atlantic’s edge. It’s great for the kids because they can plop down and not worry about getting hit in the face by a wave. They were begging to go there more than time allowed this year. We’re looking at staying on that end of the island next year.
Each year we go it seems to fly by, but this year seemed to go exceptionally fast. This year I find myself longing to go back more than usual. I am actually sad this year. My mom even mentioned that she felt homesick, even though we are home.
School starts for the boys in just over a week, I am back at work full-time, and the everyday routine is right around the corner. I’m sure the sadness will fade as life enters this next chapter of 2017 and fall activities get going, but I would be lying if I said that I don’t leave a little piece of my heart on that island every time I leave.
It will be my home one day. Mark my words.
Live in the eastern United States and looking for a fabulous place to take your family on a vacation? Check out all that the Crystal Coast has to offer here.