Summer is almost here, which means sunshine, good times, and traveling! Recently, my girlfriend and I took a trip down to North Carolina to visit some of her friends from high school and enjoy some nicer weather (we live in NY). With it being May, we weren’t expecting any 90 degree days and the weather was supposed to be 75 and sunny (that’s perfect). We had a few destinations planned for the trip, but with our friends living there, they knew some places to go and some things to do.
Living in Rochester, New York leaves us with two methods of transportation, driving or flying. Sure we could take a train, but there aren’t any high-speed trains. Flying is more expensive but gives us more time in the area since we only had a few days planned in Carolina Beach. The only downside to flying, beside the cost of the ticket, is that we also would have had to rent a car as we weren’t staying in one location. So, we chose to drive down overnight and get there first thing in the morning.
The trip in total took about ten and a half hours to get there with one stop for gas halfway. The worst part the drive is Pennsylvania…hills, hills, windy turns, and more hills. There’s a lot do in Carolina Beach and walking far distances in the heat can be too much. Recommendations: travel by car if possible
We stayed at the Golden Sands Beach Resort, right on the water. They have plenty of rooms available, but make sure to book in advance. I’m not sure who has the motel coined as “the finest hotel in Carolina Beach”, but I can see why that would be said. When we stayed there, prior to busy season, the No Vacancy sign was lit up, that’s a good sign…!
We split a room and upgraded so we had a kitchen included. The kitchen came with pots, pans, tupperware, silverware, a stove, a fridge, and a sink. This was perfect to make breakfast and lunch to save a little bit of money on food. The hotel has two separate buildings, both only have rooms facing the ocean, and every room has its own separate balcony. There is an indoor pool and an outdoor pool, and a restaurant right in-between both buildings. The pièce de ré·sis·tance is that there is the Ocean Grill and Tiki Bar right on the pier RIGHT OUTSIDE THE HOTEL! Recommendation: stay at the Golden Sands Beach Resort. *There’s a reason it was sold out before the busy season even started.*
We ate breakfast in hotel each morning, lunch in the hotel a few days as well, but when we went out to eat, we ate! We attempted to eat at the Shuckin’ Shack the first night but it was packed due to the food and Carolina Hurricanes game. We opted for the Sea Witch instead, a great option, seafood was good and hopefully fresh. They have live music every Friday and Saturday night and that place gets bumping after 7:30. Lots of people, good music, good drinks, and good times.
The next day we opted to return to the Shuckin’ Shack a little earlier to try to get a seat. Luckily we were able to get a spot at the bar and we got some awesome seafood. For the amount of food that you get for the price, it’s wellll worth it. Unfortunately, when I cracked my lobster it went all over the woman sitting next to me. Thankfully she didn’t freak out with seafood juice all over her, and if you somehow ever read this, I am truly sorry. However, the food was delicious here. I also had an oyster bomb here which is an oyster which you chase with a strong shot of Bloody Mary…delicious.
For some sweeter treats we visited Britts Donut Shop…WOW. They have two types of donuts, glazed, or un-glazed. That’s it. They’re a dollar each, homemade, made daily, hot, and oh so good. They literally melt in your mouth. The place is not very big and the line each time we walked by was out the door. A must stop at the boardwalk!
We also stopped at Krazy Konez another day for some ice cream which was tasty as well. While there are many ice cream shops at the boardwalk, we didn’t try them all because, well, I’m someone who believes ice cream is very similar and I’m not a big ice cream fan. However, still good to stop if you’re looking for some treats and candy. They do carry candy cigarettes which are in short supply! Recommendation: Britts Donut Shop and the Shuckin’ Shack.
Being the young and fun people we are, booze and food is what feeds the soul. So, naturally we got food, but now we needed the booze. We met some friends from college whom we haven’t seen in nearly 7 years so it was great to catch up over some drinks. We met up at the Fat Pelican, rated one of the top 25 dive bars in America, and it sure is. This definitely isn’t a traditional bar as the bartenders are more along the lines of cashiers. You walk into a huge freezer, select your drink of choice, and the bartender rings you out.
There is plenty of seating available inside, but outside there’s even more. This place is a hoarders paradise. There are things from the 1980’s in here that haven’t been dusted since…the 1980’s. Is it a dive bar, 100 percent, should you come here, 100000 percent. It’s a great place to also watch the locals and the other booze hounds in the area.
We returned to the Sea Witch for drinks and the fact that they have live music and a full bar makes this place well worth the stop. The best part about these two places is that they’re within walking distance. So you can easily stumble from one bar to the next.
The Tiki Bar outside of the hotel was also a great spot for drinks. They had a list of roughly 20 drinks that delicious, I tried about a quarter of them, but they are a bit on the expensive side. Te cups are made of 100% recycled material, including corn, but you aren’t able to bring the drinks off the pier and onto the beach. The fact that you can’t bring drinks from the bar to the beach is a bit of an annoyance since when it’s beautiful, what’s better than sitting on the beach drinking an ice cold pina colada? The main attraction to this bar is the view. You’re literally sitting on the ocean enjoying a drink soaking up sun and just relaxing. This is definitely worth the stop, but, not on a must-do. Recommendations: The Sea Witch and the Fat Pelican.
The boardwalk is a nice area during the day and night. It’s not a place where you would feel unsafe at night, unless you were to be walking alone. But that goes for the majority of areas that you aren’t familiar with. We went to the boardwalk twice and stopped at a few different shops which have your standard tourist shops, which nearly all of them have the same apparel, “swag” (stuff. we. all. get. -Michael Scott), but it’s nice to look around and see a little variety. The prices are good, probably because they all have the big $50% off signs everywhere. We were going to stop back the next day to make a purchase, so my girlfriend asked if the deal would still be good the next day. The guy said “yes”…and under his breath also said “and every day.” So, clearly their marketing tactic is to prey on tourists, which, I really can’t blame them, it’s the boardwalk.
There are a lot of other shops down here, some mini-golf, bars, some restaurants, and some nice places to take a photo. There are also some great swinging benches that look out onto the ocean and it’s perfect to sit after a big meal and listen to the waves crash against the sand and just swing freely. That was a great spot to relax and truly be at the beach. Recommendation: Britts donuts (again), the swinging benches.
Carolina Beach is a relatively inexpensive vacation spot and not a terrible distance to travel. Plus, being from New York and going to Carolina is perfect. There’s a ton of New Yorkers down there, we even ran into several from my hometown area. All-in-all, a great vacation and fun to spend time with friends in warmer weather, especially on the nice, sandy beach!