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Beach Tour 2012

USA | Thursday, 21 June 2012 | Views [704]

Our road trip took us from Raleigh to Wilmington, Carolina Beach, Jacksonville, Atlantic Beach, Morehead City, Beaufort, Swansboro, and finally to Shackleford Banks and Cape Lookout. I'm also going to include a previous and lone trip to Wrightsville Beach... just cause I can. ;)

Wrightsville Beach 

     A beautiful beach that was actually not very crowded at all. I went by myself on a seriously low budget. Actually it was one of my spur of the moment trips and I drove there with nothing but the clothes on my back, a little over $50 in spare change that I had collected and cashed in at a Coinstar, and a full tank of gas. I had only planned on staying for one day and then drive home. The beach is only about two hours away so this is definitely doable. But then, thanks to MapQuest, I got a tad bit lost. I ended up getting off the highway too soon and so I stopped and asked for directions and let's just say the directions were unreliable. I ended up seeing a sign for the World's Largest Frying Pan in a little town called Rose Hill, NC. I had to see it, even though the guy at the gas station said I was going to be disappointed. Oh was he right, trust me, don't go see it.

     Anyway I finally made it to the beach and because I didn't get there until 7 p.m. I didn't have to pay for parking. But this also meant that I didn't get very much time at the beach. So I decided to spend the night. I stopped at a Waffle House for cheap food, used their outlet to charge my phone, and looked up a campground in the phone book. There was a KOA campground right down the street. When I got there it was closed and there were no prices listed so I thought it can't be too much and so I parked and slept in the back seat with my sleeping bag.

     The next morning I went to the check-in office and found that they wanted $55 for the spot I slept in. I told the lady that this was a spur of the moment trip and I only had $45. I also told her that I didn't use any electricity or amenities, and I just slept in my car. She charged me $39. Ha ha so I had twinkies and a coffee for breakfast and combos for lunch.

     The beach was beautiful in the morning and other than one lone fisherman, completely devoid of people. Before 9 a.m. you also don't have to pay for parking so I had one hour of free time and then I was going to have to figure something else out. There were lots of washed up cannonball jellyfish from a storm the night before and I found a pretty cool crab who was more than happy to pose for the camera. I found a sand dollar on my way back to the car. $12 for parking for the whole day or $2 an hour isn't bad but now I'm broke so I drive around looking for other options. I find the town hall has free parking but only for 3 hours so I park there and it takes me about 20 minutes to walk back to the beach. After my 3 hours are up I walk back, drive around a bit, park there again and now I have another 3 hours!

Carolina Beach   

     My friend Berenice and I met up with some other friends right on the edge of Carolina and Kure Beach. After swimming and catching some sand crabs we went to find a place to eat. First I chose a restaurant called Havanas and I was quite embarrassed when we decided we couldn't afford to eat there. It was really expensive and everyone laughed that I probably picked the most expensive restaurant in town. We went across the street to my next choice, Pop's Diner. They have really awesome sandwiches, deep fried oreos and twinkies, and frozen cheesecake on a stick dipped in your choice of chocolate or cherry. After eating til we could pop we took a midnight stroll on the beach under the stars.


     Berenice and I decided we could drive through the night and at about 5 a.m. we checked into the Days Inn in Jacksonville. It was $80 and included a continental breakfast. We had already stopped at 3 different hotels with no vacancies so we had to take the room. When we first walked in it looked nice and smelled good but then we found a cockroach in the tub. I called the front desk and she could only offer to move us. We were so tired at this point we said the heck with it and slept there anyway. The next morning breakfast was a little weird. They had waffles that could be heated up in the toaster but no syrup, the coffee was cold until the front desk attendant made a fresh pot, and even then it was pretty weak. I love my coffee to be black and extra strong! It was not worth the money we spent. When we went back to the room to shower it took almost 30 minutes for the water to heat up and even then it barely dripped out of the shower head. We started the coffee maker before we took our showers and it still wasn't done by the time we finished. It is the world's slowest coffee maker! I don't think I have to say it but I will never return.

     Also that morning we found out that there was a wildfire in the national park that had been blazing for a few days and our van was covered in ash. The air was thick with smoke for quite some time but thankfully we were headed away from the fire. It was sad to see the sky so black.

Atlantic Beach and Pine Knolls Aquarium 

     It was only $8 each to get into the aquarium. They have a really awesome display of otters and they now have penguins too. The penguins weren't as playful as the otters though. Apparently they are molting right now and therefore they don't like to do anything except lay around during that time. They also have a tank with skates and rays that you can pet, which is pretty awesome. They have sea turtles one of which is named Nimbus. He is partially albino with some health problems. He will not be able to be released back into the wild like the others but instead will have a specially built display just for him and a campaign: "Dare to be Different!" It's a cool idea I think. They also have snakes, jellyfish, sharks, alligators, and various other creatures.

Harker's Island

     So the whole reason for this trip was: 1.) I've never seen a lighthouse in person. Only on the internet and movies and such. 2.) I wanted to see the wild horses aka banker ponies. I've wanted to see them ever since I saw the movie Nights in Rodanthe. Yeah yeah I'm a total girl and a sucker for romance especially when it comes to Richard Gere ;) But I also have always loved horses. My favorite book growing up was Black Beauty and I collected Breyer Horses which I still have.

     When we got to Harker's island we immediately looked for a ferry. The first one we came to was called El's local yokel ferry. No joke. It did not look promising and the lady was not very informed. She also said because there were only two of us that it might cost more and we'd have to call them later that night to talk about prices and everything with the captain. We kept looking. The next one we found was called Cape Pointe Marina and boy did we hit the jackpot with this place! The young man inside the office was very smart; he knew the area and a lot of the history. Captain Chuck showed up shortly after with very happy customers getting off of the ferry. We talked about me wanting to see the wild horses and he promised that he would get me very close to them and we wouldn't have to get off the ferry, and then take us to see the lighthouse, all for $10 each. He also told us about a guy who drives people out to the point of the island so they can collect conch shells. The last ferry pickup runs at 5 p.m. so we'd have to come back the next day. He recommended places for us to stay in Beaufort. We googled some places and called around and hotels around there are very expensive, $120 being the lowest price we could find.

     So we drove all the way to Swansboro and camped in the van at Cedar Point Campground, in Croatan National Forest. It only cost $17 total to stay there. This is the same forest that had the wildfire though and although the fire was a safe distance away from us, ashes were still floating in the air. At one point we actually saw the sun turn completely red and disappear. Jokingly I told Berenice it was the end of the world and we were going to wake up with zombies surrounding the van, she didn't sleep well. I slept like a champ for 11 hours! Then again I can sleep anywhere. :) *Side note* Bring bug spray! Not the cheap stuff either, the heavy duty deep woods stuff. These mosquitoes are a special breed they actually hurt when they bite. It's like being stung by bees... seriously. 

           The next morning we drove back to Harker's Island and met up with the captain. He delivered on his promise to get us close to the ponies and we saw several. He was very patient as the group took pictures. He then dropped us off right next to the lighthouse. Wanting to save money Berenice and I decided we could walk to the point to get these giant conch shells that we had heard about instead of taking the truck. The plan was to have lunch on the point and then walk back. It took us 2 hours to get to the point and right before we got there we stopped a park ranger, who was zipping by on a 4-wheeler, if it was better to keep walking around the island or to go back the way we came. He said to keep going and there would be a cut through that would lead straight to the lighthouse. He also couldn't believe that we had walked all that way. We found a bucket full of conchs plus some! We were starting to get tired now and worried about getting back on time. We talked to some fishermen about this cut through that we couldn't seem to find and they pointed it out and said, "sure, sure just go down that path and then it will turn into concrete and when you come out of the clearing the lighthouse shouldn't be that far away."

     We kept walking and found the cut through. After a short while hundreds of mosquitoes were covering the both of us. Our cheap bug spray was not working at all! We sprayed ourselves from head to toe three times. I even sprayed the mosquitoes directly and they would fall to the ground and get right back up again unfazed! We had even bought a bug-blocking anklet. Nothing worked on these demon mosquitoes. We finally came out of the clearing only to find ourselves at a dead end. We were staring at a fence blocking our path to a dock, with a sign that read: "Caution may collapse." On the other side of that fence and dock was the lighthouse... separated by the ocean...and there was no way to get there except by boat. This is where words like #!#@* and *&**^%$#$#@@! started coming out of my mouth.

     I'm not proud of it. But by this time we had walked approximately 5 miles, we'd been out in the sun for 4 hours, lugging around our beach bag and a bucket of shells, we were almost out of water, we'd been attacked by crazy demon mosquitoes, I was sunburned really bad, and to top it all off we had one hour to get back to the dock to get on the ferry. There were some boaters on the other side of this dock and so we asked one family if we could pay them to drive us to the lighthouse and we told them our story. It literally would have taken 5 minutes. They refused and even made their kids give us back the shells we had given them. Wow! All I could think is what if we were one of your kids. Put them in our shoes. I might have said a few more choice words under my breath. While we were waiting for the family to make their decision about driving us I had called the captain of the ferry and left a message on his voicemail. And thank God he called as back just as we were receiving our No from the family.

     "Rochelle, how do you get lost on an island?" was the first thing Capt. Chuck said to me with a laugh. "Let me explain, we aren't exactly lost, we know where we are we just can't get to the lighthouse from where we are. We're at the Coastguard dock."

    Apparently while we were getting chased by the demon mosquitoes we missed the road we were supposed to take back to the lighthouse. So Captain Chuck sent someone to rescue us so that we could be back in time to catch the ferry. I will be forever grateful! So let me sum up what to do and what NOT to do when going to Cape Lookout Lighthouse.


1. Do go Wed-Sat to climb the lighthouse. We went on a tuesday and didn't get to climb the lighthouse. Poor planning on our part!

2. Do go see Captain Chuck of Cape Pointe Marina! It was more than worth it! Tell him Rochelle sent you!

Cape Pointe Marina
1390 Island Road
Harkers Island, NC 28531 Phone: (252) 728-6181

Email: [email protected]

Web Site: CapePointeMarina.com-->


1. Don't get lost! Definitely spend the extra money on the truck tour of the island. Go straight to the "Sound Side" for the best shells.

Cape Lookout Conch Tours (252-732-4578) Runs from the Cape Lookout Light Station Transportation Shelter to the area of Cape Village and the point of Cape Lookout.

2. Don't skimp on the bug spray! I was still itching 5 days later.

I had a hard time getting my pictures uploaded and edited. There are a few on Facebook and Google+ right now and more to come. I will upload them here as soon as I can! Questions and comments are welcome! And stay tuned for my next blog post about trying to get my Passport.

Tags: beaches, horses, lighthouses, north carolina, on the road, ponies, road trip, seashells, wild horses, wild ponies


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