What's your summer happy place? The one that makes your heart feel alive and your soul feel at home, the spot that's a perfect fit in a laid back, July sort of way?
I'm on the heels of a jaunt to one of my summer sweet spots, a place that stays with me all year long, sustaining me the way only special summer places can. Coming home with a mind full of happy memories is like the exhale of a sweet, satisfied sigh.
My spot is a sliver of land nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Cape Fear River. Bald Head Island is a North Carolina staple that reminds me a simple life is a good life.
Venture here and you'll begin to feel a shift before you even set foot on the island. It starts when you board the ferry, the only way to make your arrival unless you have a boat of your own. There are no roads, no bridges, that connect this magical place to the rat race of the mainland. And as soon as the ferry sets off, it's like every care you have is left behind on the dock. The twenty minute ride from Southport is a transformative journey that ushers you into vacation mode. By the time you get close enough for a full view of Old Baldy, the 1800's era lighthouse I captured in the twilight photo above, everything suddenly seems better.
The pace on Bald Head is different. Slow. There are no cars here; golf carts provide the fastest mode of transport. A traffic jam consists of two or three that have stopped to watch a heron. With that, you quickly realize a little pause to commune with nature is no problem so you stop, too. There's no reason to rush here.
The island's leisurely pace is perfect and its beaches are wide and powdery soft. The sunsets are a spectacular melting of purples and reds and the sea cuts the heat of the day and washes my cares away. But these are not my favorite things about this special place. What I love most is that my family slows down and spends time together. With the island's few distractions, there is space for game nights and watching movies, for ice cream runs and conversations. Every time we park ourselves in this place, we become a captive audience reconnected.
I think that's what summer is. It's road trips to see friends and family. It's drive-in movies and picking berries. It's telling stories after a day on the lake. It's a bite of ice cold watermelon and the juice that dribbles down your chin. Summer is being together without distractions and pressures. It's making memories as you share your favorite places with your favorite people. And this summer my place was Bald Head. Where was yours?
Wishing you a summer filled with happy times in your special place. May you bask in the memories you make.
Bald Head Island nuts and bolts:
Arrival: The ferry departs from Deep Point Marina, Ferry Road, Southport, NC. Some people do day trips to Bald Head, but if you're staying, be sure to schedule tram service to take you and your luggage to your lodging on the island. It's the only mode of public transport so you'll need it unless someone is picking you up. In most cases, you'll get your golf cart(s) when you arrive at your rental home or hotel. You can check ferry schedules and get more information, by clicking here. The nearest commercial airport is in Wilmington, NC, forty minutes north of Southport. If you plan to arrive by boat, Bald Head Island has a marina.
Accommodations: There's only one hotel on the island, The Marsh Harbor Inn. Most people rent homes that are sprinkled on the minority of land that's developed. Summer rentals are a week or more and they go fast. There is a selection of realty companies that that handle vacation rentals or rent directly on websites like VRBO.
Dining: Bald Head Island has a handful of restaurants, including at The Shoals Club and Bald Head Island Club. Most house rentals come with a temporary membership to one or the other. The Shoals is a beach club and Bald Head is a golf club. Several other restaurants line the marina. Many who rent homes also cook or get prepared meals from the island's grocery story, Maritime Market, which also has a cafe. You can buy beer and wine on the island, but not liquor.
Things to do: The island boasts loads of outdoor activities including fishing, kayaking, surfing, paddle boarding, cycling and hiking. In the early summer, sea turtle mamas lay their eggs on the shores here. The nests are protected and later in the season, visitors can stand by and watch the newly hatched turtles make their way into the sea. It is a spectacle you won't soon forget and your kids will talk about for months. There are also a few shops on the island that selling clothing and other essentials. Be sure to look in the grocery story for Nye's Ice Cream Sandwiches, made in nearby Wilmington. With flavors like Key lime pie and coconut chocolate, they are like no ice cream sandwich you've had before. Yes, they are yummy enough to qualify as something to do.
*I receive no form of compensation for this. The opinions are unsolicited and as honest as a summer day is long.