Published Sunday, June 6, 1999 – Charlotte Observer
`Family beaches’ offer seaside peace and quiet
By GLENN MORRIS
Special to The Charlotte Observer
The islands of Holden Beach, Ocean Isle and Sunset Beach are picket-fence peaceful, and a week at the beach at any of them tends to be exactly that. Bart Simpson would have a cow if he stayed here, which explains their appeal and gives an idea of what not to expect. If you want Vegas-by-the-Sea, drive instead to the Grand Strand. Each of these “family beaches” has family story behind it.
In 1756 Benjamin Holden claimed the largest island, and his family name stuck to it. After decades as a commercial fishing center, the Holden family developed the island as a vacation resort in 1934, an event delayed by the construction of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. A simple ferry made the crossing until the high-rise bridge linked the island to the mainland about 20 years ago.
Odell Williamson bought Ocean Isle in the 1950s and has been steadily building ever since. There is a central business district and the bridge causeway dead-ends into a full-service fishing pier that’s a natural gathering spot. Island attractions include a public park with tennis courts, a miniature golf course and the Museum of Coastal Carolina. Far and away, the most popular pastime is beach walking.
Sunset Beach is the smallest of the trio — a scant 3 miles long — and the island with the fewest trappings of contemporary resort development. In fact, access to the island is via the last remaining pontoon bridge in North Carolina. Replacing the bridge is hotly debated topic; it has become symbol of the island’s pride in being anachronistic. Sunset Beach also has the enviable status of being an island that is steadily gaining sand.
At Sunset you can see the full range of dune features that might be found on an uninhabited island. One of the favorite pastimes of residents is to make a low-tide crossing to neighboring Bird Island, the southernmost barrier island in North Carolina. Bird is still undeveloped.
The mainland of Brunswick County has boomed with golf and retirement development. There are 32 first-rate golf courses; summer tee-times are fairly easy to come by. Some real estate agents can easily arrange a golf package. Self-starters should pick up course listings from the South Brunswick Island Chamber of Commerce.
Visit nearby Southport and enjoy the self-guided walking tour through the historic riverside town where North Carolina officially celebrates the Fourth of July. See N.C. Coastal Calendar/page 6G. Dining The little town of Calabash has set the standard for lightly breaded and quickly fried seafood. Service is fast; seafood is as plentiful as the crowds. Advice: Arrive early to avoid the wait for a seat at restaurants by the Calabash River docks. (Personal recommendation: Beck’s hush puppies.) Other Calabash eateries worth visiting: Seafood Hut, Captain Nance’s and The Docksider. Try Sharky’s when in Ocean Isle (it’s at the Causeway). All these places are casual.
For details about visiting Holden Beach, Ocean Isle Beach and Sunset Beach, contact the South Brunswick Island Chamber of Commerce, 4948 Main St., Shallotte, NC 28459; 1-800-426-6644, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays. Information via Internet: www.sbichamber.com
For details about visiting Southport, Caswell Beach, Yaupon Beach and Long Beach, contact the Southport-Oak Island Chamber of Commerce, 4841 Long Beach Road SE, Southport, NC 28461; 1-800-457-6964, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays. Information via Internet: www.southport.net and www.oak-island.com/chamber.