4.23.2015

Wild Horses, A lighthouse, and Emerald Isle: A Quick Look at NC's Crystal Coast

In late March, my family took a whirlwind press trip to North Carolina's Crystal Coast. I happen to love this area of North Carolina, and know it fairly well because my father-in-law lives in Beaufort, which is NC's third oldest town. Despite knowing the area, this was a trip of firsts for us, and I really got to experience the area as a tourist rather than visiting as a "daughter-in-law." I have lots to share about the Crystal Coast, but I'm going to start with some basics.

A quick look at NC's Crystal Coast as a vacation destination: Wild Horses, A Lighthouse and the Beach



Where: North Carolina's Crystal Coast is considered part of North Carolina's Southern Outer Banks. The area consists of Emerald Isle, Indian Beach, Salter Path, Pine Knoll Shores, Atlantic Beach, Morehead City, Historic Beaufort, (pronounced Bo-fort), Harker's Island, and Cape Lookout.

How to Get There: The Crystal Coast area is about a 3-hour drive from my hometown of Raleigh, N.C.  The Coastal Carolina Regional Airport is located in New Bern, N.C. and it's about 45 minutes away from this coastal area. This airport has about ten incoming flights a day originating from Raleigh, Charlotte, Atlanta, and Greensboro. This is an area where you will need a car.

A quick look at NC's Crystal Coast as a vacation destination: Wild Horses, A Lighthouse and the Beach (Emerald Isle Realty Beach House)


Where to Check-In: The Crystal Coast is filled with vacation rentals, Bed and Breakfast Inns, and several chain hotels from the limited-service market (think Hampton Inn) to full-service (think Doubletree) with a restaurant on-site. There are accommodations for every budget. We stayed with Emerald Isle Realty in Emerald Isle, N.C, which has an impressive portfolio of 700 rentals from condos, duplexes,  and huge homes. They apparently know my taste well, and decided that our base for this long weekend should be Bahama Breeze West. This is a Sandcastle rental, which gives you some hotel-like amenities. With the Sandcastle rental service, linens and towels are furnished. The beds are already made when you arrive which is so nice, especially if you arrive late like we did ( 9 p.m.). This duplex has five beautiful, spacious bedrooms, four bathrooms, two living areas, and a full-kitchen. It would fit two families very comfortably. Summer rates are (sitdown, please) $4,225 weekly, but when you think in terms of luxury hotel costs and the space you get in this home, it's much more cost-effective for this type of luxury vacation.


A beach view with Emerald Isle Realty in Emerald Isle, NC.


The great thing about a beach vacation rental is that you can make breakfast in your own kitchen, and have your coffee with an oceanfront view listening to the sound of the ocean. Go ahead,  turn up the volume.




Emerald Isle is not a bustling beach town. It's very residential which makes it a desirable vacation spot, in my opinion. There's a movie theatre, one grocery store on the island (another one over the bridge on the mainland), a waterslide park, miniature golf, retail shops, a great coffee shop, and some good restaurants.  However, most of the historic attractions are located about 20 to 35 minutes away, which is fine when you're on a week-long beach vacation. You stay close to home most of the time, and then take a day or two to go sightseeing. However, for us, we hardly stayed in Emerald Isle at all due to the demands of our press schedule.  I switched an entire morning around just so we could lounge in the beach house and enjoy our beautiful surroundings. The kids loved it.

Eating in on a beach morning.

We spent every day of our trip near Beaufort and Morehead City. If you want to be closer to the "action", you may want to consider Atlantic Beach (Home to Ft. Macon) and Pine Knoll Shores (Home to the North Carolina Aquarium-Pine Knoll Shores) as your base for beach rentals.

Harkers Island and Cape Lookout


Cape Lookout off the Crystal Coast, A U.S. National Park area


Despite my visiting the Crystal Coast often, I had never been to Harker's Island and Cape Lookout. On our first full-day in Carteret County, we drove to Harker's Island, which is about 50 minutes from Emerald Isle to catch a ferry to take us to Cape Lookout, which is one 14 U.S. National Parks in N.C.  During the season, you can primitive camp on this island, enjoy its beach, visit the Cape Lookout lighthouse, and the Keeper's Quarters Museum.

Keeper's Quarters Museum on Cape Lookout


This area of the Atlantic is called the "Graveyard of the Atlantic" and keeping that light on in the lighthouse was one of the most important jobs or else lives would be lost. It was quite a lonely job. Typically, the shift was split between the keeper and his assistant. It was also a very isolated job, and the keeper's family would only come for certain periods of time. The Park service has done an outstanding job showcasing how important this role was during its time in history.

From April 15-Oct. 1, you can also take a ferry to this area via Beaufort. We were there right before the Cape Lookout opened for the season so we left from Harkers Island.

On the way to Cape Lookout


Island Ferry Transportation provides transportation from both places. We took a small boat with our captain on what felt like the coldest day of the year.

But, that small boat took us right to the edge of Shackleford Banks. A wild horse was there for us to see.



More than 100 wild horses live on Shackleford Banks. The horses that are there now originated from Spanish Mustangs, who are believed to be the survivors of Spanish Galleon shipwrecks in this area. There also tours to Shackleford Banks where you can hike and learn more. The NC Maritime Museum in Beaufort organizes those tours.

Dining on Harker's Island

There are three restaurants on Harker's Island and a small grocery store that also serves as a bait and tackle shop. I ventured off the press agenda, and decided not to do lunch in Beaufort that day and instead, try my hand at one of the three restaurants. My original press agenda called for me to catch a ferry at 9 a.m.  If you remember, Emerald Isle is 45 minutes away by car. We decided to catch the 12:15 p.m. ferry and returned back to Harker's Island shortly after 2 p.m.  We were starving.

Our boat captain said he really likes to dine at the Seaside Stop N' Shop Cafe, which is part of a gas station.

Harker's Island Dining off the Crystal Coast


Beaufort has a lot more dining options with waterfront atmosphere, but this little place was cute and good.  It's also a lot cheaper than what you would find it Beaufort, too. They have good fried okra, fried shrimp, and will prepare a burger anyway you like. A cheeseburger with mustard and pickles, please.



We were too full for the homemade desserts, but something tells me that could have been the best thing about the place. They had coconut pie.

I'll have more on the Crystal Coast soon. I'll soon share some highlights of my favorite town, Beaufort, and share what we thought of some of the area restaurants. We certainly had a favorite. To plan your trip, visit Crystal Coast.com.


Disclosure: My family was hosted by The Crystal Coast, and my opinions about the area are my own. I think if you vacation here, you'll enjoy it a lot.  My thanks to our hosts who were always so gracious and eager to spread information about this North Carolina vacation destination. 

4.20.2015

Spring and Summer Sunscreen Routine for Kids without using harsh chemicals and toxins

For years, I've been the mom that didn't think. Sometimes I would forget to add sunscreen to our daily routine.  More often at the pool or beach, I would spray sunscreen very liberally, and not even think about all the chemicals I was spraying on my children. This year, I'm going to do a better job.




Good Housekeeping just released the best sunscreens to purchase  in 2015 that will provide you sunblock protection without harmful chemicals. I'm going to try to pick one from this list this year.


Spring and Summer Sunscreen Routine for Kids w/o harsh chemicals and toxins.


Good sunscreens can be costly. Average cost can be $18 and up for a small bottle. But, it's worth the expense and I so wish I had thought about chemicals and pollutants much earlier. But, I'm a child of the '70s. What sunscreen? And when sunscreen came on the market, we just bought it. We didn't think about what was in it.

Spring and Summer Sunscreen Routine for Kids w/o harsh chemicals and toxins.


Certain natural vegetable oils and essential oils have also been found to provide some protection against the sun. If you are whiz at whipping up things, you may want to consider a DIY Natural Sunscreen Blend like this recipe I found  on the Organic Authority.  For instance, Carrot Seed Essential Oil has many benefits for the the body and skin. It is also known to have a SPF of around 30, according to many articles and research.


Carrot Seed Oil from Young Living. EnjoyLifeOils.com


The truth is that Carrot Seed oil doesn't smell wonderful so it is recommended to mix it with a fragrant oil like Lavender, Cedarwood, or Geranium, all of which are essential oils safe for sunlight exposure, and are widely used in Young Living Kid's Product Line of lotion, shampoo, and conditioner.

It's also important to note that many essential oils are not safe for the sun and can cause issues. So choose your products wisely. Avoid these before going into the sun.




Of course, if you are like me, you are going to miss places on your child's body for sunscreen. It happens every time we are at the beach or anytime I apply sunscreen.  For those times, cool your child's skin with LavaDerm Cooling Mist. This will be with me on my trips to the beach this year.

LavaDerm Cooling Mist. EnjoyLifeOils.com; Referral # 2481355




This cooling mist contains Lavender essential oil and aloe to soothe and rejuvenate burned or stressed skin. It retails for $18.09, and is $13.75 for the member/wholesale price. Read more about retail vs. member prices on EnjoyLifeOils.com.

Why is sun protection on my mind right now? Well, my son came home on Friday with a very red neck because his school had a fundraiser outside for a few hours. Yes, he left the house without one drop of sunscreen on him. Plus, this blog is about to get beach ready. My next travel post will take you to North Carolina's Crystal Coast.


Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links




4.16.2015

#Outaboutnc Community Members Tell their Favorite NC Vacation Spots

The goal of my new #outaboutnc travel guide community was for me to be able to offer vacation tips for people wanting to visit North Carolina. For this post, I partnered with the staff of Triangle Pest Control, a North Carolina based company, to sponsor our first travel tip series. The responses that staff are giving in this post are their own opinions, and are not sponsored by any travel or tourism agency.  Let's see what Donnie, Jesse, Bernard, and Teryn have to say about traveling in North Carolina. We'll find out where they like to dine, stay, and play. 


#outaboutnc community members tell their favorite vacation spots.
Top and bottom photos are by Leigh Hines. Middle Photo is from #outaboutnc community instagrammer @WakeforArt. 

NORTH CAROLINA VACATION SPOT FAVORITES

Name: Donnie Shelton , CEO of Triangle Pest Control 

 
Topsail Beach, N.C. #outaboutnc community members name favorite NC places for vacations.
Topsail area of North Carolina. Photo by Leigh Hines 

Q: Wheres your favorite place to vacation in NC?
A: North Topsail Beach.

Q: Why do you like this place so much?
A: The beach is not crowded and you are located between Wilmington and Beaufort. Plus the seafood in Topsail is second to none. It is a great place to take a family, watch dolphins in the surf and just relax for a while.   (Note, Leigh agrees about seafood)

Topsail Beach, N.C. #outaboutnc community members name favorite NC places for vacations.
Photo by Leigh Hines 


Q: Where do you normally stay? Rent a house? Specific hotel?
A: We normally rent a house on the beach.

Q: Whats your favorite thing to do while on vacation? Boating? Surfing? Skiing?
A: My favorite thing to do is to just play games with the kids on the beach and read. It is nice to unplug for a while and just have fun. When the weather does not quite cooperate we normally head into Wilmington to check out downtown (E.g. train museum, boat tour, etc) or we go to the Aquarium at Kure Beach.

Q: Wheres your favorite place to eat? Are there a few restaurants you always look forward to going to, or is there a new place you want to try?
A: Our default is The Oceanic at Wrightsville Beach. The food is hit or miss but I asked my wife to marry me next to the pier so there is somewhat of a sentimental tie there for our family.

Q: Is there a hidden gem/business here?  A specific beach access? Ski lift? Hole in the wall?
A: If you go to Carolina Beach there is a place called Britts Donuts. While I am not a donut person... these things are to die for. I think theres even a fan club website devoted to these guys. There will always be a line and your kids will always thank you after a bag of Britts (after they are all sugared up of course).

Britt's donuts in Carolina Beach
Photos taken by Mom's Small Victories on Facebook for #outaboutnc

Q: Whats your favorite memory from this place? Have you brought back any souvenirs?
A: My family used to vacation at Topsail when I was a kid. Back then Topsail was a small town with only one store and a putt putt course. But as kids, we didnt care. We would stay in this dive called the Florida Apartments. We played in the Ocean so much it was difficult to walk around if you know what I mean. I still remember those times when I drive through that area. Those are great memories with my family.

Note to travelers: Donnie is talking about two different areas in this piece. The Wilmington area beaches that include Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach are about a 35 to 45 minute drive from the  Topsail area in Pender and Onslow Counties. Surf City and Topsail Island are located in Pender County. North Topsail where Donnie vacations includes Onslow County, too. 

Name: Jesse Rehm, COO

 
Asheville N.C. #outaboutnc community members name favorite NC places for vacations.
Photo by Leigh Hines 

Q: Wheres your favorite place to vacation in NC?
A: Asheville NC     

Q: Why do you like this place so much?
A: It has all the outdoor activities you could ask for without giving up the amenities a city has to offer.  There is just something about mountains that takes me to my happy place.

Q: Where do you normally stay? Rent a house? Specific hotel?
A: Typically Ill rent a cabin or a log home with a view.  

Q: Whats your favorite thing to do while on vacation? Boating? Surfing? Skiing?
A: White water rafting and hiking. I think my next adventure will be testing out French Broads zipline. Its in Marshall- which is just a half hour or so from Asheville. They have a mile worth of zipline and you have the option to zipline atnight.

Q: Wheres your favorite place to eat? Are there a few restaurants you always look forward to going to, or is there a new place you want to try?
A: I typically will prepare food while Im staying there and eat dinner on the deck while enjoying the view. If its the right season for it, Ill swing by the Farmers Market to get a few fresh groceries.  Next time, I would love to try the Omni Hotels Vue 1913 --  I hear the bison brisket is amazing.


Q: Is there a hidden gem/business here?  A specific beach access? Ski lift? Hole in the wall?
A:  I really enjoy the Linville Falls area, beautiful views and great hiking

Q: Whats your favorite memory from this place? Have you brought back any souvenirs?
A: Quality time with family pretty much covers it.

Name: Bernard Buttone, Branch Manager

 
Falls Lake in Wake Forest, NC. #outaboutnc community members tell their favorite vacation spots
Photo by WakeforArt on Instagram, an #outaboutnc social media community member

Q: Wheres your favorite place to vacation in NC?
A: Oddly enough, my favorite place to vacation is more of a staycation. Falls Lake is a state park located just outside of Raleigh. Since I havent traveled much around North Carolina, I love just going to the lake.

Q: Why do you like this place so much?
A: It feels like one of the most peaceful places on earth. I like the escape from the city, without having to pack up for the whole weekend. My family and I can pack a picnic of fresh foods from the State Farmers Market and The Butchers Market to grill out, then we take a walk on the trails or just watch the kids run free for a few hours.

Q: Whats your favorite thing to do here?
A: When I am on vacation my favorite thing to do is nothing. This is extremely difficult for both my wife and I! When were away for the day though, we really just want to give each other and our kids undivided attention. So whatever it is they want to do, we do -- with a few exceptions of course.

Q: Is there a hidden gem here?
A: There really is no hidden gem here. It is just about as straightforward as you can get. I think that is why I like it so much. When I am there I am just looking for serenity, and it never lets me down.

Q: Whats your favorite memory from this place?
My favorite memory was the first time that we went. My youngest son had yet to dig his toes into sand. He took 2 steps, turned around, and ran towards my wife. He hated it! He was high-stepping out of there like there were hot coals under him. Never before or never since have I seen a 9-month-old move like that!

Name: Teryn Means, Marketing Coordinator

 
Salter Path, NC.
Photo by Teryn Means 

Q: Wheres your favorite place to vacation in NC?
A: Salter Path, NC

(Leigh just got back from Salter Path and the Crystal Coast. We have so much to share with you soon.)

Q: Why do you like this place so much?
A: Its where I grew up going. Theres something about this stretch of Carteret County that feels like home. Fishermen still occupy the beaches during the off-season and families make their way over the dunes during the summertime. Salter Path is the perfect getaway from Raleigh.

Q: Where do you normally stay? Rent a house? Specific hotel?
A: We always rent a condo at Windward Dunes. If you have the fortune of booking a corner unit, the sunrises and sunsets are spectacular (depending on which side of the building you get). Kevin is the live-in property manager who is a die hard UNC fan and avid tennis player - if Im ever bored, Ill just pull up a rocking chair and listen to one of his stories.

Boating off the Crystal Coast
Photo by Teryn Means

Q: Whats your favorite thing to do while on vacation? Boating? Surfing? Skiing?
A: Several of my friends are from Morehead so I usually enjoy paddle boarding or boating with them. The Boathouse, where a lot of people dock, is a great place to grab a few snacks before heading out to Shackleford for the day.

Q: Wheres your favorite place to eat? Are there a few restaurants you always look forward to going to, or is there a new place you want to try?
A: If Im coming off the beach to grab lunch, The Big Oak is my go-to. The definition of a hole-in-the-wall, this place makes the best shrimp burger on the island. For a nice dinner with the family, we usually go to Front Street in Beaufort. Well worth the fifteen minute drive, the view is a toss up with the food; both are incredible. Parrott’s on11th is also a good one!

Q: Is there a hidden gem/business here?  A specific beach access? Ski lift? Hole in the wall?
A: I think the RooseveltPreserve is the gem. Its a two-mile stretch of oceanfront land that can never be developed. Its a wonderful contrast next to the often over-populated surrounding beaches.

Q: Whats your favorite memory from this place? Have you brought back any souvenirs?
A: My grandmother is an early riser - she would always pack bagels and sea salt soaked apples for a 7 AM beach picnic. We did this for years; those memories are really special.



I adored hearing about these #outaboutnc community members/business owners favorite places to vacation in North Carolina. This post is proudly sponsored by Triangle Pest Control. If you are business seeking sponsorship of this series, or a NC blogger who would like to talk about NC travel, you may email me at hinessightblog@gmail.com 


Triangle Pest Control is a Green Pro Certified pest control company located in North Carolina. This locally owned and operated company is pleased to offer same-day, eco-friendly services to residents in RaleighCharlotte, and the surrounding cities. They are thankful for community support and look forward to continuing to provide dependable service to North Carolinians.


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