Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sunshine, Warm Sand & Water : Sunset Beach In November

Last weekend, we made a quick trip to Sunset Beach and brought along the cousins. The November weather was surprisingly warm, with temperatures hovering in the mid-70's. We spend every morning on the Island, enjoying the warm breezes, our toes relishing the sun-baked sand. The water was even warm, and I saw a few folks wearing bathings suits (we didn't even think to bring ours), and someone out surfing the waves. Of course, lack of bathing suits wasn't going to keep our girls out of the water.

When we first drove up to the public parking lot right behind the sand dunes (always plenty of parking on a November morning), we spotted a deer (a buck with a full rack!) running across the sand, but he disappeared into the maritime shrubs before I could get my camera to power on. So in addition to water birds, foxes and even bears, there are quite a few deer living on the island as well!

It took our empty stomachs to convince us to leave the beach and go off in search of lunch - otherwise, we might have stayed all day! Who would have thought that bare feet, sunglasses and that languid feeling you get from closing your eyes, and settling back in the sand to listen to the waves would be possible in November (Just one more reason Autumn is my favorite season in NC)? As we shook off the sand, packed our chairs and sand toys back into the car, I noticed that the public parking was pretty much full. Looks like more and more folks are discovering you don't have to wait till Summer to enjoy a lazy day at the beach in North Carolina!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Find Yer Sea Legs - A Short Sea Cruise on the Super Voyager II

Our last weekend at Sunset Beach Bliss was spent in the shadow of a couple of late-summer hurricanes in the Gulf Coast, which meant rip tides and rough seas. But the weather that weekend dodged the threat of all-day rain and turned out a beautiful few days for us, only interrupted occasionally with a quickly-passing shower. On one of our days there, we decided to catch a ride on the Super Voyager II to enjoy another view of the islands and perhaps catch a glimpse of some dolphins.

We had reserved our tickets by calling and talking to the gruff but friendly captain, who often is the one to answer the phone when you call. When we settled on a date, we were advised to call again the morning of our scheduled tour to make sure the weather would allow for the journey, as the gulf coast hurricanes had roughed up the seas quite a bit. On the morning of our trip, we headed over to where the Super Voyager II was docked (behind Coleman's Restaurant in nearby Calabash), paid for our tickets, and amused ourselves by watching a local lady checking her crab traps while we waited for our departure time on the dock.

We set off on schedule and enjoyed the fresh air and sense of adventure as we cruised out the Little River inlet and headed out to open sea. Unfortunately, the promise of an earlier calm and uneventful morning excursion that day did not hold out for us and our afternoon attempt; the waves got really rough the further out we got. Great fun for the teenagers on the boat - they all headed toward the bow of the boat to shriek as they were soaked by the sea spray - but I'm afraid neither my husband nor I (not to mention our 5-year-old) entirely found our sea legs. It was an exciting ride, to be sure, and we felt perfectly safe. Eventually, there was an announcement that the sea had gotten too rough and so we would be heading back before we could reach an area for any Dolphin sighting. A disappointment. But the company gave us tickets good for another Dolphin Cruise on any other date, and it was an especially good deal for us, because we had paid for 2 adults and one child, but had an interesting boat trip and 3 adult tickets for another trip to show for it.

We didn't take many photos once the ride got a little wild; but we did take a few as we headed out from the inlet. I'm afraid our little digital camera just cannot capture the sullen beauty of troubled weather at the N.C. coast.

Anyway, we'll definitely be trying again next time the seas are calmer. Perhaps I'll have some shots of dolphins to share next time!
Super Voyager II - Deep Sea Fishing & Adventure Dolphin Cruises
Calabash, NC
(910) 575-0111 (843) 626-9500

Monday, September 7, 2009

New Playground Neighbors Museum of Coastal Carolina

On our most recent visit to Sunset Beach, NC, we revisited the Museum of Coastal Carolina and discovered a brand-new playground right next to it.

We also took a moment to photograph the lovely murals on the outside of the museum before going in to reacquaint ourselves with the critters in their touch tank and the many informative displays.

This time there, we were able to solve a mystery involving some peculiar items that we had noticed had washed up on the beach that week. Something that we had guessed might be fragments of some exotic seaweed - or even sad evidence of pollution - turned out to be pieces of a protective covering used by a particular shellfish to cover their eggs. You always learn at least one remarkable new thing when you visit that place!

Anyway, here are some photos of the playground. Together with the museum. Together, they make a great way to while away an afternoon with the kids.
As you can see in one the shots, the playground is just a few yards from the entrance to the museum.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Say Goodbye to The Last of its Kind - Sunset Beach Swing Bridge Soon To Be Replaced

After this Summer, trundling over a single-lane, wooden-decked bridge on our way to the beach is an experience that we soon may not encounter ever again on our annual travels to the Atlantic Ocean. The Sunset Beach Swing Bridge, the last of its kind, will soon be replaced. Build in 1961, it is said to be the only large-capacity, steel, swing span bridge remaining on the East Coast. The center segment of the Sunset Beach Swing bridge floats on pontoons so that it can be opened to allow the passage of boats. Consequently, the bridge rises and falls with the tides, gently but firmly subjecting human plans to the dictates of nature on a regular basis, as extremes of high and low tides periodically force the bridge to close to traffic for short periods of time.

Some credit the bridge for the unspoiled, village-like atmosphere of the island beach at Sunset, reasoning this compromised access essentially kept it an island for longer by slowing the pace of development over the years, preserving the charm of a North Carolina coastal village. I remember my first visit to Sunset Beach, and the comparative lack of tall buildings crowded along its dunes was an unexpected delight.

I have read that the town of Sunset Beach was due for a new bridge over 20 years ago, but movement on this was slowed enough by the efforts of a group of residents who opposed it so that the funding for the bridge was lost, and Ocean Isle Beach was awarded the new bridge instead. Of course, I don't purport to be an expert on the whole affair, but speaking as a newcomer to Sunset Beach, if winning the new bridge back in the 80's made it possible for that ugly high-rise on Ocean Isle beach to be built, then I am happy that similar progress at Sunset was delayed for so long. Hopefully by now, existing zoning and prevailing good sense will prevent a repeat of the mistakes of the past and spare us the ugly over development that spoils other coastlines.

Anyway, construction began on the new bridge at Sunset Beach in 2008 and is nearing completion, reportedly due to open the summer of 2010. Each time my family slowly drives over the old bridge, we are treated to a good long look at the remarkable progress of the new one - which, like the others at Ocean Isle Beach and Holden Beach, will rise 65 feet above the water.

The summer is ending, and with it may be your last chance to say goodbye to that old wood and steel bridge.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Pelican Bookstore in Sunset Beach

Although we have a modest shelf of books for our guests at our condo (and usually add a few more volumes to it whenever we are there), it's just not possible to anticipate everyone's tastes when it comes to beach reading. So knowing where a good hole-in-the-wall neighborhood bookstore can be found wherever you are vacationing is a valuable piece of information. And, I don't know about you, but I have long preferred to buy used books whenever I can - and I kinda' like a smaller store, when I'm relying on Serendipity rather than a looking for a particular title. The Pelican Bookstore offers a good selection and at reasonable prices, plus . . . well . . . charm.

Another piece of useful information is that when we were there last, we noticed that they also have a computer (with Internet access, of course) and printer, on which you can rent some time. It's nice to know about, in case you have a need. I mean, who wants to drag along all your peripherals to the beach?

See the Pelican Bookstore site for hours and other information

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sunrise, Sunset: The Beauty of a South-Facing Beach

Well, when we first discovered Sunset Beach, NC, all we knew about it was what we saw: the prettiest, smoothest, broadest, most-peaceful beach we had experienced over a whole summer of exploring the coast of North Carolina. And this was right smack dab in the middle of high season (You see, we're not fond of crowds)! It wasn't until after we found our little peace of heaven nearby, took the plunge and signed the papers, that we found out how truly special this particular beach is.

Sunset Beach is a South-facing beach. Spend the whole long day hanging out on the broad expanse of fine sand that is Sunset Beach, and you'll notice that the sun rises over the east end of the beach and sets over the west end. And yes, when you look out to the ocean, you are facing due South!

In fact, our beach is the southern-most beach in North Carolina. Just north of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and about 45 minutes south of historic Wilmington, its unspoiled, serene beauty and its family-oriented atmosphere makes this my favorite Carolina beach of all.

Only three miles long, Sunset beach was the last of the South Brunswick Isles to be developed. Perfect for true beach lovers who don’t demand staying on the doorstep of amusement parks, multi-layer tourist shops or bright lights as part of their vacation experience. However, close enough to make excursions to all the hottest attractions, after which, you can retreat back to this peaceful and beautiful coastal haven. Ahhhhhhh . . .

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Walk Along Bird Island

My husband and I decided to kill a few hours prior to our dinner reservations with walk along Sunset Beach. The pleasure of this beautiful place inspired us to head towards the South Carolina border and cover as much as we could of Bird Island before we got tired. The broad and flat expanse of sand and the interesting creatures we kept spotting in the dunes beckoned us on and on for miles. We passed one or two lone cyclists spinning easily along, presumably returning from a quick trip to the border. It was quite a while before we got tired enough to turn back.

Bird Island is a perfect illustration of the dynamic nature of North Carolina barrier islands, by virtue of the fact that it actually is no longer a separate island. Only as far back as the 1990's, Bird Island was separated from Sunset Beach by a tidal creek so you could only walk onto it at low tide. However, hurricanes and other factors pushed along the constantly-moving sands, filling in the creek and merging the islands of Sunset Beach and Bird Island into one.

Some ways further down the beach, we spotted the famed Kindred Spirits mailbox that we had read about online. It is indeed filled with a large collection of notebooks and journals, and a good supply of writing instruments, and so we paid our respects by reading a few entries left by those who had gone before us. An inquisitive crab kept popping out of his little hold in the dunes under a nearby bench to check on our progress. While there, we turned to look back and were able to view the town of Sunset Beach in the distance. Seeing it so compact and low-lying, tucked in behind the dune line, made it easy to imagine it again as a quaint little fishing village, blissfully isolated from the frenetic and often cynical modern world from which we all come. Hard not to develop an affection for the place, even for us newcomers.

As we started our return, the setting sun warmed our backs (This beach does run in a South SouthWest direction, after all.) and we followed our shadows back to the pier.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Grilling at Sunset Village, Sunset Beach, NC

Well, I now have an opinion to add to the following debate: Which is better, charcoal or gas grilling? I vote charcoal! During our last stay at our condo in Sunset Village, we grilled out quite a few times; and I really can't remember the last time my steak tasted so good!! We have a gas grill at home, and it's been years since we cooked over charcoal briquettes. I'm seriously considering switching back to them at home.

At Sunset Village, there are shared charcoal grills available for residents and their guests to use. Several are available near the picnic tables and around the lagoons, near the tennis courts and one of the pools, and two of them are right near our building. You probably can't tell so well from the photograph attached to this posting, but you are right by the water so you can watch the wildlife (turtles, wading birds, fish - and the occasional alligator) while you cook! We also enjoyed watching the rather exciting spectacle of my father-in-law and daughter catching a fish (see earlier post).

The grills are each supplied with a bucket in which to scoop the ashes when you're done, and we keep a set of grilling implements and a lighter in our outdoor storage closet for our guests (one less thing to have to remember to throw in the luggage), as well as folding chairs. So, close your eyes and imagine the fragrance of food cooking on the hibachi - a memory awakened back from your childhood, perhaps! One more great way to while away the hours of your Sunset Beach Vacation!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ingram Planetarium

Ah, rain! Friend to everything green and lovely, but what a bummer when it happens all over your Beach Vacation! Fortunately, right in Sunset Beach there is an excellent way to entertain the family while you wait for the rainclouds to clear: Ingram Planetarium!

We visited the Planetarium right when they were putting the final touches in place for their grand re-opening in May. Even though they were still officially closed for renovations the day we stopped by, the staff invited us in to take a look around. Off the main entryway we found the Science Room, filled with interactive exhibits of the planets and stars, lots of hands-on puzzles and experimental exercises, which neither the children (nor the adults, for that matter) can stop themselves from playing with. We played with the Bernoulli's Lift Off exhibit, which allows the kids to explore forces that enable planes to fly; drew fantastic designs with the aid of a pendulum; and raced each other at the water pressure exhibit, where we used high-pressure squirt guns to send our little astronauts to the top first (this kept us busy for a long time).

After spending a few minutes more admiring the contents of the gift shop and chatting with the very friendly staff, we meandered to the cute little cluster of boutiques, just around the corner for a nice alfresco lunch at the Fibber McGees Pub.

Of course, since we were visiting Ingram Planetarium when the facility was officially still closed, we weren't able to try out the newly-renovated 85-seat theater facility, during that trip. But we have heard since that the newly-installed SciDome HD makes this Planetarium one of only three in the world with a system capable of projecting more than 3 million pixels on its skydome. It's called ImmersaVision, and it is going to provide a fantastic show. We can't wait till our next trip to experience it. And when we do, you can bet I'll write all about it on this blog.

To find out more about the Ingram Planetarium's show times and ticket information, you can visit them at

Friday, June 5, 2009

Ripley's Aquarium & Broadway at the Beach

We've been back from our vacation at our condo in lovely, peaceful Sunset Beach only a few weeks, but I am just itching to go back. There were so many different things to do, I'm afraid we only scratched the surface.

One of the places we did visit was Ripley's Aquarium, a "$40 million, state-of-the-art, 87,000 square-foot aquarium experience," located at Broadway at the Beach in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Once my daughter heard about their special Babies exhibit, she was all excited. So we made the 40-minute trip down US-17.

The aquarium is truly packed with fascinating sea creatures, educational videos, and hands-on experiences, which made it a great place for a family group, since no-one's going to be bored. The design of Ripley's aquarium is on a truly grand scale, huge tanks and many special exhibits and themes all surrounding a clever interior playground, with the slides cleverly disguised as giant sea creatures. The kids were having a blast sliding through the deep-sea fish, no doubt well-energized by the "space aged ice cream" for sale there!

My favorite part of the visit was our trip "through" Dangerous Reef, a 750,000 gallon tank, during which we were able to see sharks and manta-rays from underneath, and wave "hello" to a very large sea turtle. The Octopi (or is it Octopuses?) were a little shy while we were there, but the Weedy Sea Dragons seemed curious. And of couse, there was also a very well-done touch tank, complete with Horseshoe crabs (very strange creatures); but we really enjoyed "Ray Bay," where we got the opportunity to touch many, many different kinds of Rays (Atlantic Rays, Southern Rays, Cow-Nose Rays, and Spotted Eagle Rays, to name a few.) When we were all satisfied we had managed to cover it all, we left . . . a little soggy perhaps, but happy.

As I mentioned earlier, Ripley's aquarium is located right on Broadway at the Beach, which is an extravaganza of shopping, dining, attractions - about 350 acres' worth, to be exact. (In fact, large as it was, the aquarium is only one of dozen different attractions there.) This was good, because we left the aquarium very hungry, and to say that we had our choice of many different restaurants would be an understatement. I won't try to list them all here, as their website below does that. The prevailing craving was for some old-time burgers and fries at Johnny Rocket's (flawless "shiney-diner" decor); but we were truly spoiled for choice. Afterwards, there was shopping, shopping, and more shopping - and, much to the relief of a great many toddlers, a lovely little gated playground by the water, which were dotted with several families of baby ducks.

Broadway at the Beach is close enough so that your visit doesn't have to be a day trip; but there is so much there, you really need a whole day - or more.

Ripley's Aquarium:
Broadway at the Beach:

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Fishing Outside at Sunset Village, Sunset Beach, NC

With beautiful Sunset Beach only a few minutes' drive away, and so many different attractions, shopping, and great restaurants nearby, sometimes its easy to overlook the simple pleasures available right on our doorstep. The grounds of Sunset Village are beautifully landscaped, with several large water features, one of which is right by our building. Besides being nice to look at, the ponds in Sunset Village are also well-stocked with fish, of which the constant visits by local wading birds (mostly Egrets and Great Blue Herons) provide delightful evidence.

However, fishing is not limited to the wildlife. Sunset Village ponds are also open for fishing to residents and their guests. You can get an inexpensive fishing rod (a simple bamboo pole, complete with line and hook is less than $5 at the Walmart in nearby Shallotte), use a piece of bread or canned corn as bait, and you've got everything you need for an enjoyable afternoon. We have provided some folding chairs and a spare fishing pole and net in the outdoor storage closet for our guests to use.

Oh, and be prepared for a lot of turtles to take a great deal of interest - particularly if you happen to throw handfuls of bread into the water. Just one handful, and the surface of the water will come alive with little turtle faces. I'm told that the Home Owners Association stocks the ponds with Tilapia every year, and we've caught other types as well (not sure what kind, but be careful of the spines on top).

Happy fishing!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Have Fun Learning New Things Over Summer Vacation

One of the many things I love about visiting the Sunset Beach area is that there are two wonderful institutions just a few minutes' drive from our condo - The Museum of Coastal Carolina, and the Ingram Planetarium. Throughout the Summer, each offers a full calendar of hands-on Family activities, which can be an excellent opportunity to have some fun learning new things with the kids. And Summer 2010 is looking good!

Ingram Planetarium - Summer 2010

In addition to a fantastic range of great shows in their state-of-the-art theatre, you can take advantages of a number of free events held regularly throughout the week at the Planetarium: On Tuesdays, try your hand at tools used for Celestial Navigation; on Wednesdays, come learn about Meet with members of Turtle Watch to learn about the Loggerhead Sea Turtle, and make Thursday your "Sun Fun Day" as you take a peek through a solar telescope.

Family Activities at Ingram Planetarium

Museum of Coastal Carolina - Summer 2010

The Museum of Coastal Carolina offers a full week of special programs for the whole family, where you can learn a little extra about fish, or snakes, or prehistoric sharks, beach safety - or perhaps you'd like to learn about local ghost stories or brush up on your knot-tying skills.

Family Activities at Museum of Coastal Carolina

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Nearby Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle, South Carolina.

On one of our little outings while staying at the condo in Sunset Beach, we decided to do a short drive over the state border and visit some attractions in North Myrtle Beach. One of our intended destinations was Barefoot Landing, which I found out later is the only shopping/dining attraction located on the Intracoastal Waterway on the Grand Strand. Definitely not your run-of-the-mill shopping strip. No wonder I liked it!

Now, I should tell you I am not a big fan of large shopping centers and malls. I'd rather stay away from the crowds, the big echoing atriums, and the parking lots - particularly when I am on vacation in order to relax. But Barefoot Landing was a breath of fresh air. I'm not sure how, but they have managed to make a collection of more than 100 specialty and retail shops, over a dozen different restaurants, and several entertainment and large musical venues, seem quaint and village-like. Perhaps it's the pretty red-roofed cottage-like buildings, and the way they are arranged along-side the water (making for a wide selection of water-front dining in one place), which made it so appealing a place to be?

Floating boardwalks span the Waterway that splits the shopping center in two, and we enjoyed the cool breezes blowing off the water while lingering to feed the absolutely huge fish that crowded up along its sides. We watched a Cormorant as it repeatedly dove under water, hunting for fish; and made a game of re-spotting it each time it popped up again, always a surprisingly long distance from where it last ducked under.

Of course, no trip to the beach is complete without a visit to your local Christmas shop for a tree ornament to commemorate your vacation; and Barefoot Landing obliges with a very nice Christmas Mouse shop. My daughter was also extremely pleased to discover a generous number of toy stores (which, for a five-year-old in the company of grandparents, is total bliss). One useful tip: Before you go, remember to look through one of the local free coupon books for a Barefoot Landing discount card, as they are accepted in many of the shops located there.

Also, whenever any of us started to feel a little fatigued from the shopping, there was always a quiet little area in which to sit and relax awhile. My favorite was a little rock garden featuring water cascading down its center, surrounded by wooden benches. Definitely a nice place at which to while away a lazy afternoon. We will definitely make a point of returning during our next vacation in Sunset Beach, so we can take in a show, ride the carousel or maybe visit the tigers.

Barefoot Landing:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sea Ya' Later, Alligator! Visiting Alligator Adventure in Myrtle Beach

Fresh from our lovely week in Sunset Beach, I have been reflecting on the many fun things we got to do. Yes, there was plenty of rest and relaxation by the fountain, out on the beach, and poking around the boutiques in town; but we also took a little time for an easy drive over into busy and bustling Myrtle Beach, SC, for some excitement.

My daughter (now 5 years old) is currently fascinated with animals, so our family trips usually must include a visit to some sort of zoo. And there are several fine options to chose from nearby. After just a 30-minute drive straight down US-17 South, we arrived at Alligator Adventure in North Myrtle Beach. The entrance to the parking lot is right on the busy four-lane road, and I was afraid at first that we were wasting our time with a tacky roadside attraction. But once we passed through the buildings that form the gateway into the park itself, the noise of the traffic was muffled by the high walls and lush vegetation; and it suddenly felt like we were a long way from anything urban.

Alligator Adventure is home to more than 800 alligators, most all of which can be easily viewed by kids (no matter how short) and adults alike as you stroll over broad wooden decking throughout the park. We were pleased to catch the feeding time for the alligators, and learned many interesting facts about their habits from the well-informed caretakers in charge of the spectacle. In addition to their wide-ranging selection of both alligators and crocodiles (and let's not forget snakes, frogs & lizards) from all over the world, we were treated to close-up encounters with some fuzzier creatures as well. We watched a very energetic Beaver busily inspecting his dam, waved hello to a baby Zebra, and stood just feet away from two enormous tigers "huffing" (their version of purring) softly while rubbing their heads against the chain link fence like two friendly and enormous kittens. And then there were the exotic birds, albino alligators, ring-tailed lemurs, and brilliantly-colored frogs . . . but the high point of the entire visit for me was Gabby!

Gabby is a 52-year old, 450-pound, Galapagos Tortoise, and the sweetest-natured creature in the place. It is said that the caretaker in charge of the tortoises there describes them as "puppies with shells." Gabby was one of a group of about 5 tortoises hanging out together with nothing between them and us but a single low rope suspended a foot off the ground with a few stakes. Obviously your average tortoise isn't much of a flight risk, but I wasn't prepared for how close we were allowed to get. And Gabby, obviously the most gregarious of the bunch, wanted to be close! She had parked herself firmly against the straining rope, like a friendly boulder, waiting for a pat. As Emily and I cautiously patted her head, she stretched her neck out longer so we could continue stroking down it towards her shoulders, while she gazed at us impassively with her watery brown eyes. I have never felt more affectionate towards a reptile in my life!

I could have sat and petted Gabby the whole day long, but everyone else was getting hungry for lunch; so we said goodbye until our next vacation. We could have stayed for a hot meal in the park, but Alligator Adventure is right next to the famous Barefoot Landing, a shopping, dining and entertainment destination worth a blog post of its own. Keep your eyes on this spot. I'll have the next article written in a bit.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Silver Coast Winery & Vineyard

This particular installment on our Sunset Beach Bliss Blog is the result of "on the scene" reporting. In fact, I have just returned to our condo from an exploratory visit to nearby Silver Coast Winery (about a 15-min drive from our place). The Sunset Beach area seems such a sleepy little place at first glance, but we keep finding very pleasant surprises like this Winery very near to us. And a tasting at Silver Coast made it plain to us that it is run by folks who are masters at their craft.

Like many others comprising the newly borne wine industry of North Carolina, Silver Coast Winery has made the South their new frontier, using our treasure trove of unique soils and excellent grape growing weather with skilled craftsmanship to fashion some very excellent wines. We tried all 10 of the wines currently available for tasting today, and guided through our journey by Amanda, a certified sommelier whose enthusiasm for fine wines and world travel fueled some very enjoyable conversations as we sniffed, swirled and sipped our way through a sublime array of flavors.

In addition to the pleasures of wine, there is plenty at the Winery to enjoy with your eyes. The tasting room is decorated in a delightful fusion of rustic and whimsy, which is complemented by a small art gallery and gift shop, featuring the work of several local artists. Also, you're encouraged to visit the barrel room to enjoy its beautiful waterfall fountain. (If you have brought the kids, there is a table of lego in one corner of the gallery to entertain them while the adults take some time to educate their palates.)

So watch out, you may find yourself making an unplanned purchase of a case. Fortunately, their wines are very reasonably priced, particularly after the discounts offered with a purchase of tasting. An excellent afternoon out.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Toss Those Golf Clubs Into Your Cessna, And Fly To Sunset Beach!

Another great thing about the Sunset Beach area is that it is rich with options for those who'd rather fly than drive in. Not only is our condo only an hour from your choice of two International Airports (Myrtle Beach to our South and Wilmington to our North), plus the excellent facilities of the Brunswick County Airport, we have a fantastic municipal airport just 15 minutes down the road in nearby Ocean Isle: the Odell Williamson Municipal Airport. If you know a pilot - or if you ARE a pilot, then our area has all you need for a very satisfying journey to your beach & golf vacation destination.

Odell Williamson Municipal Airport (formerly Ocean Isle airport) is owned by the Town of Ocean Isle and boasts a new FBO (completed just last summer), with facilities that include a 24-hour pilot lounge area with free wireless internet service. Their hard surface runway extends 4,000 feet, has a night lighting system, and is suitable for light aircraft. Self-service fuel is available on-site at Ocean Isle Beach Aviation, and is very reasonably-priced. Overnight tie-down service, as well as hangar storage are available; and, as of this writing, you can get one night's free tie-down with your fuel purchase. The folks at this airport are very friendly and helpful. They make a point to keep useful items on hand (things like a ladder for high-wing craft, a jumper box, a courtesy van, etc.) for their customers' convenience.

If you are planning to fly in for a longer stay (Perhaps you have rented a lovely golf villa in nearby Sunset Beach?), Hertz rental cars are available on-site - and Ocean Isle Beach Aviation also keeps a selection of their own rental cars.

No plane of your own? Not to worry! You can also rent a plane at the airport - and learn how to fly it at their full flight school (see online for more details). Also charter flight services may be offered in the near future.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pets On the Beach, But Not At The Rental

So you are all ready for your Sunset Beach vacation: You've booked your vacation rental, pre-ordered your groceries, and packed! But just when you're ready to head down the road, you find out the arrangements you made for Fido to stay with friends have fallen through . . . And you cannot bring pets into your vacation rental! What's a responsible pet owner to do? Fortunately, there are many very good kennels near Sunset Beach, which can provide safe, comfortable and healthy accommodations for your dog (And some take cats as well.) during your stay.

Costs at most kennels in our area range from between $15 to $40 per day, depending on your dog's size and care requirements. Many kennels in the area provide for climate controlled indoor exercise environments, as well as safe outdoor play times several times each day for your pet's stay, depending on his/her socialization needs. Some even offer grooming services too. All work closely with our local vets and animal hospitals, and require current records to ensure all the animals in their care are up-to-date on their shots.

Sunset Beach rules prohibit dogs on the beach during the Summer season (from Memorial Day through Labor Day) between the hours of 8am through 6pm. However, during the cooler parts of the year, it is common to see folks out for a walk on the strand with their furry friends (Just don't forget the leash.). Kennel owners work hard to arrange their pick-up and drop-off hours to allow vacationing owners convenient access to their dogs for such pleasant excursions throughout the week.

Below are just a few of the many animal boarding facilities in the Sunset Beach area. If you think you might need their services during your next holiday, give them a call and ask for more information on what they have to offer.

Diamond A Kennels‎ (4.5 miles from Sunset Beach Bliss Condo)
Sunset Beach, NC‎ - (910) 579-7575‎

K-9 Country Club‎ (7.5 miles from Sunset Beach Bliss Condo)
Little River, SC‎ - (843) 280-4350‎

Wags & Whiskers Inn‎
(9 miles from Sunset Beach Bliss Condo)
South Brunswick, NC‎ - (910) 754-5207‎

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Museum of Coastal Carolina near Sunset Beach, NC

If you're looking for a fun place out of the sun (or rain) to go with small children during your visit to Sunset Beach, nearby Ocean Isle has a very nice natural history museum. Despite is smaller size, the Museum of Coastal Carolina has a lot to offer to its visitors - and most particularly to families with children. Amongst its plentiful displays of ocean-related artifacts and exhibits, there are lots of hands-on activities thoughtfully provided throughout the various display rooms, to keep the younger members of your party richly entertained during the course of your visit. Also the native American and Civil War artifacts on display add yet another dimension to your appreciation of the area.

When our family visited during latest beach trip, my 5 year old spent a very long time observing the many different creatures the museum's touch tank and peppering the very patient docent who was there at the time with question after question. Next, we passed through an rather elaborate walk-through display of a coastal habitat, while the kids pointed out the various life-sized creatures modeled there and ran around with their own newly-created jellyfish and seahorses made from the simple kits thoughtfully left out on low craft tables set up throughout the museum. A walk through the aviary to watch the birds, plus a viewing of their collection of non-venomous live snakes, rounded out our lesson on the region's natural features admirably. We ran out of time before we ran out of museum, and so we plan to re-visit it on our next trip.

Tucked away from the crowds and often exhausting size of other more well-known museums and aquariums, the Museum of Coastal Carolina is a reasonably-priced and reasonably-sized place to go for a few hours of quiet fun. It is also possible to save a little extra on admission to its sister facility, the Ingram Planetarium in neighboring Sunset Beach, when you buy a combination pass for both.

Learn more by visiting the Museum of Coastal Carolina website at

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Restaurants, Restaurants, & more Restaurants . . . Oooh! Ice Cream!

Being just ten minutes down the road from all the fine seafood that Calabash, NC, has to offer is just one of many advantages we discovered after finding our place in Sunset Beach. In the past few months, we have started on our task of trying out the local food with gusto; and the job has been a very pleasurable one.

Below is just a few of the very many choices in dining out that our area enjoys. There are tons more really nice places we've tried, and as time goes on, I hope to tell you all about them in this blog. But in the meantime, we've done our best to include menus for all in our guest book at the condo.

Ella's of Calabash (1148 River Rd, Calabash)
OK, this place has obviously been a fixture in the town of Calabash for quite awhile. It has pedigree. It also has THE BEST cocktail sauce we have ever tasted. Do yourself a favor and buy a bottle on your way out. Also, for those who love all kinds of seafood, order the steam pot and plan to share. You will need to, as your portion of shrimp, crab legs, and shellfish will be so generous and so perfectly cooked that you will suffer pangs of regret for every morsel you are forced to leave behind.

The Grapevine (9991 Beach Dr SW, Calabash)
In Calabash, they have got the gourmet going on at the Grapevine! If you try nothing else, get their Greek-style marinated chicken breast. (My mouth's watering, just thinking of it.) You can get Calabash-style seafood there, but where they really shine is their Italian pasta dishes and Greek-inspired creations.

Sarah's Kitchen (1649 Seaside Road in Pelican Square)
Cute little diner-style place where you can get an excellent breakfast, with hot southern-style biscuits, and generously proportioned pancakes. To grab a quick and tasty sandwich or burger for lunch, they are a good place to go. They are small, which means your food is hot and care is taken w/ your meal; but the number of tables is limited and they can fill up fast.

Boundary House (1045 River Rd, Calabash)
Of course, you cannot leave the area without treating yourself to a meal at the Boundary House (named after the original "boundary house" built on the state line in the early 1700's). Walking in, the building and decor alone is a feast for they eyes. But their food will keep you coming back. Anything on the menu is going to be fresh and fantastic and their desserts are made in-house. They handle seating and serving large groups with aplomb; and combine a casual atmosphere with upscale service.

Calabash Creamery (9910 Beach Dr SW, Calabash)
It just wouldn't be Summer without the joys of Ice Cream. Just 10 minutes down the road from us, their crisp white building with wrap-around porch and 2 cow statues out front ("Scoop" and "Dip"), is hard to miss. Be warned: Every kid in your car will suddenly explode into a frenzy of pointing and entreaties to stop for ice cream. This is one of those times when we must defer to the wisdom of children. With more than 24 gourmet flavors available throughout the year, multiple visits to the Creamery are . . . well, necessary for a happy and fulfilling life (Just my opinion.) They also have "no sugar added" flavors and pretty good coffee, so that no one in your group will be left out of the fun.

Bagels & Sandwedges 925-9 Seaside Rd., SW, Sunset Beach)
If you're after a quick breakfast or lunch, and you love your coffee and your bagels, this little place just down the road from our neighborhood is a good bet. The bagels are fresh and they are not stingy with the fillings either. Gourmet coffee is available, and while you munch on your delicious bagel creation, you can gaze at the amusing depictions of bagels golfing all over the walls. We love it there!

Anyway, there's more. I've still got to cover that nice little Irish Pub over towards the Beach, the excellent family Pancake House next to the gift shops, and . . . well, stay tuned.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Why Grocery Shop When You're On Vacation?

Perhaps your vacation this year will involve less eating out and more dining in? I know that is true for our family this year; but at the beach, surrounded by all that fresh seafood, you're not going to lack superior choices that make for quick and easy-to-prepare meals. When there's a large pot available for a shrimp boil (and there is in our condo's kitchen) and plenty of Old Bay Seasoning, my family's quite happy with skipping the expensive restaurant visits.

However, one thing I have always hated when on vacation with the family is having to waste precious vacation time wandering around an unfamiliar grocery store, trying to get all the food for the week crammed into my cart, while the kids whine "When are we going to get to the beach, Mom?"

Well, in this age of Internet and eager-to-please grocery chains, all that is a thing of the past for me now! I present to you . . . Lowes Foods To Go Service!

The nearest Lowes Foods location is about 5 miles from our condo*, and they offer (YAY!) a "Lowes Foods To Go" service, which means that you can order your groceries online at the beginning of your trip, and either have them delivered to the condo after you arrive - or just pick them up on the first day (which costs less than delivery). Just register yourself on their website, select the store you want (see below) and start shopping!

Lowes Foods - Store #230 of Sunset Beach - 6278 Beach Drive, Unit 5 Ocean Isle Beach, NC

What's not to love?

Just to make things a little easier for you, here's a short list of staples & supplies to get you started in planning for your Summer vacation at Sunset Beach Bliss.  On the other hand, previous guests sometimes leave these leftover supplies at the condo, so it's a good idea to take a look before deciding what you need to buy:
  • Bread
  • Butter
  • Milk
  • Coffee or Tea
  • Sugar or sweetener
  • Old Bay Seasoning (note: we do try to keep salt, pepper, & cinnamon in the condo's kitchen for our guests, so you shouldn't need to worry about those)
  • Dishwasher detergent & dish soap
  • Extra toilet paper (Of course, we provide an initial couple days' supply in the bathrooms)
  • Extra paper towels (You'll find one roll provided in the kitchen)
  • cooking oil
  • paper towels/napkins
  • plastic wrap
  • Laundry detergent
  • Briquettes for the Grille
Happy not-grocery shopping!

*  There's also a Food Lion, that's even closer.

About this Blog

Our family discovered Sunset Beach, NC, late in the Summer of 2008 and spent several months after that first encounter, searching for a little place nearby so we could enjoy it again and again . . . and perhaps make it our permanent home once we retire. So now we have a little place in Sunset Village at Sandpiper Bay, surrounded by lagoons and pristine golfing greens, with only 5 miles of easy driving between us and that lovely beach!

We have wanted a vacation condo on the North Carolina coast for many years, and with the addition of our lovely little daughter, a desire for a home away from home for our vacations grew stronger. And one year we decided to make the leap and started the process of choosing our beach. After months of visiting one NC beach after another, we eventually got to Sunset and fell in love.

Sunset Beach

Yes, the phrase "unspoiled beauty" may be overused; but it's such an appropriate way to describe Sunset Beach, I'll risk putting it here. The beach is broad and flat, and when the tide was out that afternoon, we saw it left behind shallow wading pools of warm water all along the surf line, which were perfect for Moms and Dads to sit with their little babies to play. With all the houses and other development tucked neatly and well back behind the sand dunes, the views up and down this coastline were innocent of all the big, blocky condominium buildings and other development that clutter the view at the busier, more well-known Southern beaches. And although it was hardly deserted on that fine Summer day and it did take a few minutes to find a free parking spot, it didn't feel crowded. Once we stepped out onto the warm sand, we saw that there was elbow room, there was quiet, there was peace and relaxation . . . during high season!

Sunset Village at Sandpiper Bay

Another happy discovery was the golfing community of Sunset Village at Sandpiper Bay, a lovely little collection of villas tucked away behind the manicured grounds and shady lagoons of the Sandpiper Bay Golf and Country Club. The 3BR/2BA condo that we chose is light and airy, with a peaceful view over the water, right by a decorative fountain. We discovered that our 3rd-floor balcony provides an excellent vantage point for observing White Egrets fishing at the edge of the water, and the neighborhood is well laid out for a leisurely walk to the Club or an easy bike ride down its quiet streets. With all this in the village-like atmosphere of Sunset Beach, with excellent dining, entertainment and shopping of Calabash and N. Myrtle Beach just a short drive away, we feel extremely lucky to have a vacation home here. We hope to use this blog to share all our discoveries about Sunset Beach and its nearby attractions.