Previously published articles about coastal Carolina
SOUTHEASTERN NORTH CAROLINA:
From Swansboro to Chocowinity and Beyond in Nicholas Sparks Country
It's easy to see why Nicholas Sparks loves living in--and writing about--southeastern North Carolina. It's hard to beat the settings in reality or in his best-selling novels, thanks to charming historic towns, quiet beaches, tidal rivers, and pretty marshes as far as the eye can see. That's certainly the case with the drive between historic Swansboro and the community of Chocowinity (and nearby Washington just across the Pamlico River). Time spent driving, stopping, and exploring can include history, small towns, beaches, rivers, marshes, and more.
The United States' East Coast features an array of varied beach destinations easily reached by car or plane. Along the Atlantic Ocean from Virginia to Georgia, the options range from big-time beach cities such as Virginia Beach, Va., and Myrtle Beach, S.C., to smaller towns with nearby beaches such as Wilmington, N.C.; Charleston, S.C.; and Savannah, Ga. Of course, there also classic and quiet island getaways like those found in the Outer Banks and Crystal Coast of North Carolina and Hilton Head Island off South Carolina.
From the bustling Myrtle Beach area in the north and down through historic Charleston to Hilton Head Island in the south, the meandering coastline of South Carolina beckons with a wide variety of alluring options for visitors. Historic US 17 connects the coastal dots of the pretty state, making it easy to explore many of the state's waterlogged treasures--as well as many inland options on the way to or from the coast.
From the North Carolina state line down to historic riverfront Georgetown, the popular Myrtle Beach area features an array of pursuits for those looking to go with the flow--or get a bit off the beaten track.
Famed Ocean Boulevard in North Myrtle Beach is the "Birthplace of the Shag." Dancers and those who just like to listen to beach music and watch the action head to Fat Harold's Beach Club, Duck's ("The Place Where the Dancers Meet"), and Ocean Drive Beach & Golf Resort--including the OD Beach Club and the Shagger's Hall of Fame.
Planning the perfect vacation to Hilton Head Island is easy for insiders. And it can be easy for you, too. Why? It’s the kind of island where locals, and even Mother Nature herself, welcome visitors with open palms.
Whether it’s finding the best place for a bike ride or a beach stroll, world-class golf, a tasty meal, or one-of-a-kind shopping, the Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center, located on the island just after crossing the bridge, will help you start exploring. Get insider tips from the helpful local staff, who’ll likely send you about a mile down William Hilton Parkway to the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn. The island’s last working farm plantation has become a center for environmental and cultural tours and hands-on experiences, with a special emphasis on the island’s native Gullah heritage.
Quite simply, Pat Conroy--author of bestselling novels such as South of Broad and The Water is Wide--loves everything about Beaufort and the Low Country. He says it was the first place he could really call “home”--and it still is. He and his wife, novelist Cassandra King, own a house in Beaufort.
As the son of a Marine Corps pilot (who he depicts in The Great Santini), Conroy had more than 20 addresses before moving to Beaufort in teh 1960s (another move for his father's job) as he began high school. He says the city embraced him into her history: “She was proud to have me call her my hometown.”
Conroy also pays tribute to locals who helped him along the way. While attending Beaufort High, he took a creative writing course taught by novelist Ann Morse (who wrote under the name of Ann Head). Conroy says she helped him develop his writing style, and every time he publishes a new book, Conroy takes a rose to her headstone in Beaufort's St. Helena Cemetery. He also credits his Beaufort High School teacher, Gene Norris, with giving him tours of the town that would go on to form the setting for several of his books.
Conroy now provides his own Beaufort tours to visiting friends. He shows them the two-story antebellum manse where Robert Duvall and Blythe Danner lived while making The Great Santini; the palm-surrounded historic home where Barbra Streisand stayed while filming The Prince of Tides; and the downtown Beaufort house on Hancock Street where he wrote The Boo, The Water is Wide, and the first chapters of The Great Santini. Conroy is always eager to share what he loves about Beaufort with all visitors:
Originally published in the Beaufort Visitors Guide
Few places on the Atlantic coastline are as influenced by water as North Carolina’s Crystal Coast. From the restaurants serving fresh seafood caught by local fisherman to the tourists caught up in the quietude of Cape Lookout National Seashore, Crystal Coast residents and visitors have been living by the tides for centuries. It’s a culture that’s steeped in saltwater.
The area includes about 80 miles of coastline, with more than 55 miles of it in the protected Cape Lookout National Seashore. In addition, many bays, rivers, creeks, and other bodies of water provide even more coastal environments for those who work or play on the water.
If you sit at the Yacht Basin Provision Company bar watching boat traffic for more than a half-hour, you’re sure to hear stories about cruisers who docked here and never left town--or how locals are known to lend visiting cruisers their trucks so they can go for supplies. Give it an hour and you’re also sure to see a captain misread the current, giving locals another story of docking gone awry to repeat over cold beers pulled from the self-serve fridge.
Boating is in the blood of both long-time locals and newcomers who have fallen in love with historic Southport, on the shores of North Carolina's Cape Fear River and Intracoastal Waterway. “Quite simply, it’s a great place for a boater to live or visit,” says Russ Ferris, a Southport resident for more than 18 years. After a day of working on one of his boats can be found at the Provision Company every afternoon. “There are an incredible amount of boating and fishing organizations and events here,” he continues, while watching the boats go by on the ICW.
The aquaculture of this coastal county is crystal clear.
Few places in North Carolina are as influenced by water as Carteret County. From the restaurants serving fresh seafood caught by local fisherman to the tourists caught up in the quietude of Cape Lookout National Seashore, Carteret County residents and visitors have been living by the tides for centuries. It’s a culture that’s steeped in saltwater.
The county includes 80 miles of coastline, with more than 55 miles of it in the protected Cape Lookout National Seashore. In addition, many bays, rivers, creeks, and other bodies of water provide even more coastal environments for those who work or play on the water.
Get the Tar Heel lowdown with our insider's guide to cruising Southeastern North Carolina
With apologies to James Taylor, I’m going to Carolina in more than my mind. I’m going there in my boat, and my destination of choice is the grass-filled low counrty of the state's southeastern coast.
When I think of Tar Heel blue, I think of blue--and sometimes black--water. Stretching from Virginia to South Carolina, the coastline of North Carolina features thousands of miles of cruising, fishing, and watersports areas--and the southeastern section offers some of the best possibilities.
Starting in the Beaufort and Morehead City area and running in a generally southwestern direction about 140 standard miles down to the Cape Fear River and the state line, this stretch features practically any kind of trailer boating you could want. With an abundance of public and private ramps, plus lots of boater services, it’s easy to see why James Taylor plays more than mind games in this part of the Carolinas.
Since the mid-1920s, ferries have carried people and cars around eastern North Carolina. From Southport in the southeastern part of the state all the way up throughout Ocracoke, Hatteras, and Knotts Island, North Carolina’s ferries can be a convenient and enjoyable way to spend a weekend traveling along the coast.
Early ferries were privately operated and connected the region’s small coastal communities. Operations like that of Captain Toby Tillett served Oregon Inlet and other waterways. They were basically created to provide transportation for people, food, medicine, and other goods and services.
Bald Head Island invites you to be at one with nature
John Donne may have said, “No man is an island,” but cruising yachtsmen know that every man and woman can be one with an island when they arrive by water. That’s certainly true of North Carolina’s Bald Head Island--which is reachable only by boat.
Quite simply, there’s not another boating destination like it.
What makes Bald Head Island different? In some ways, it’s what’s missing: No bridge connects it to the mainland; no cars are allowed; and there are no big buildings--10,000 of the island’s 12,000 total acres are beach, marsh, and maritime preserves.
A passion for preserving the past makes Morehead City's
Rodney Kemp a top North Carolina
historian, educator, and storyteller
When Rodney Kemp was named North Carolina Historian of the Year in 2003, he was really rewarded for decades of telling lies! Kemp is what old-timers in the Morehead City area call a “fish house liar,” delivering dozens of time-worn history-based stories that actually contain many truths.
The Historian of the Year award is presented annually by the North Carolina Society of Historians. The society’s main activities are the promotion of works by historians, genealogists, archaeologists, and preservationists. Rodney Kemp couldn’t have been a better recipient. Although his stories may be embellished, they capture the voices and experiences that characterize generations of coastal Tar Heels.
If the word "kayak" brings to mind gliding along the coast or a joyous ride through the estuary of your favorite river, then you're John and Angela Pagenstecher's kind of person. On the other hand, if you're a little intimidated by the whole idea of plugging yourself into the hole of a slender plastic boat, but you're still willing to look into it, John and Angela want to put your mind at ease and your body into a sea kayak.
For the Pagenstechers, owners of Kayak Carolina and Carolina Coastal Adventures, piloting boats that trace their lineage back to ancient Eskimos ranks high as both adventure and business venture.
A weekend on the waterfront doesn't necessarily have to include the waves of the Atlantic--Manteo's fall weather and scenery make this the perfect time of year to experience small town life at it's best in the land of the Lost Colony.
“For more than 30 years, October has been my favorite month on the Outer Banks,” says Horace Whitfield, executive director of Roanoke Island’s Elizabethan Gardens. “The water and days are still warm, the nights are cool, and the subtle hues of marsh, sound, and sky at sunset are beyond compare.”
South Carolina's Port Royal Sound stretches from quiet St. Phillips Island in the northeast to the resort island of Hilton Head in the southwest, offering a varied cruising to ground to satisfy any taste. Solitude can be found in the sound's expansive salt marshes and the tranquil islets of St. Helena and Parris Island, while those seeking full-service marinas, interesting eateries and shore side diversions will also get their fill.
The Broad, Chechesee, Beaufort, and Colleton rivers meet in Port Royal Sound and lead to various island ports. The Intracoastal Waterway also winds through the sound, passing the ports of Beaufort, Port Royal and Harbour Town on Hilton Head Island.
With the boater-friendly city of Wilmington and a wide range of boating possibilities, North Carolina’s Cape Fear River is an ideal destination from spring to fall. Running due north from the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean, the Cape Fear is a convenient Carolina treat.
As the state’s only river to feed directly into the open ocean, the Cape Fear is quite active commercially. Huge tankers, container ships, and more ply the river, but it’s wide and welcoming to power boats of all sizes. Add to this the charming city of Wilmington and a nice variety of marinas and facilities--you have an ideal boating destination.
Originally published in American Boating Association Beacon
One of the many beauties of the Crystal Coast area of North Carolina is the amount of unspoiled coastline awaiting exploration. More than 55 miles of quiet coastal islands, maritime forests, and beaches make up the Cape Lookout National Seashore--and exploring the vast area (including the famed Cape Lookout lighthouse) by day is a favorite memory for many visitors. Those in the know don’t have to come back to civilization as the sun sets, however. If you’ve rented a houseboat for the weekend, you’re already “home” for the night.
Outer Banks Houseboats, a unique company based on Beaufort’s waterfront, offers a great way to spend a weekend along the quietest stretch of coastline in North Carolina. Whether it’s a romantic weekend for two or a huge gathering of family and friends, these well-appointed houseboats will lead to memories that will last you a lifetime.