Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Beck's Seafood of Calabash: Rising from the Ashes Like a Phoenix!

Rebuilt, bigger and better!
We thought we'd lost a community treasure when our beloved Beck's seafood restaurant went up in flames last year.  First started in the 1940's, Beck's is one of the leading lights in the delicious tradition of Calabash-style seafood.  It's one of our "must-do's" whenever my family comes to Sunset Beach.

Well, for the past six months, we've had to do without their steaming hot, delectably tender seafood, with its light and crispy cornmeal coating.  But we weren't left without the hope of having it again.  And the time has come at last:  Beck's is scheduled to open once again this coming weekend, in a brand-new building constructed right on top of the ruins of the old.  With increased seating and fresh new paint, but the same great people inside who have made it so special, one of Calabash's favorite places to eat will be back very soon!

Bon Appetit, y'all!

Friday, April 5, 2013

NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher: Where We Touched A Baby Shark!

During our last stay in Sunset Beach, we took a day to drive up to Southport and take the Ferry to Fort Fisher (see previous post), where we spent a fun (and educational) few hours at the North Carolina Aquarium.

As soon as we bought our tickets and entered the building, my daughter (as always) made a bee-line for the Touch Pool, rolling up her sleeves along the way.  That day, we had some fun watching how a horseshoe crab rights himself whenever he's flipped upside down.

Another not-to-be missed sensation, is to gently poke one's finger into the middle of a sea anemone.  Trust me, it's something everyone must try at least once.
Anemone: Velcro of the Sea

We also enjoyed an interesting talk with one of the museum's volunteers about their Sea Turtle Rehab program.  On that particular day, we were treated to an up-close look at this little girl, a baby Loggerhead Sea Turtle, only a few weeks old.  Eventually, once she grows big and strong enough, she'll be released back out into the Atlantic Ocean - from which, hopefully, she will return someday to dig a nest for her own eggs on the beaches of North Carolina.
Jellyfish at the NC Aquarium
A Baby Loggerhead Sea Turtle
At the time of our visit, the Aquarium also had a special little creche of baby sharks available for petting.  This was an opportunity not to be missed, but I noticed there were no impassioned requests to bring one home as a pet, for a change.
Stroke A Baby Shark!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Taking the Ferry from Southport to Fort Fisher, A Daytrip

One excellent way to spend some of your vacation time while staying in Sunset Beach, is to take a day to explore further Northward up the coastline to visit the lovely town of Southport - and from there, take the Ferry over to Fort Fisher, where you can enjoy some important civil war sites, as well as visit our wonderful North Carolina aquarium.
Here is how we did it:
Entrance to Southport Museum
We set off from Sunset Beach Bliss at about 9 a.m., and arrived in Southport after an easy highway drive of about 45 minutes.  Southport is a lovely little port town, with well-kept historic homes and shady lanes that make you yearn to hop on a bicycle and explore.  There is an excellent visitor center, with a playground and clean air-conditioned restrooms, plus several rooms just bursting with interesting local history inside the main building (which opens at 10 a.m.).  The front door opens to an wide expanse of open lawn, dotted with beautiful old live oaks and  a fantastic view of the water, a convenient distance from the public pier and another park area.  We lingered until it was time to catch our 10:45 a.m. Ferry ride (as you can see on the Ferry Schedule, which is available online, number of departures each day varies by season).   

One of the Southport Ferries

Looking back towards our Southport
departure point
We drove our car onto the Ferry, and enjoyed a 35-minute boat ride over to Fort Fisher, which cost us a mere $5 (less if you're just bringing yourselves, or bicycles). Of course, we marked ourselves as tourists right away, leaving our car to explore the deck and check out the views with the coin-operated telescope.  If you want to get out of the sun and wind, the ferries have nice indoor seating areas, with tables (and sometimes a snack bar is open, but best to check before you board).
Once we landed at Fort Fisher, before heading to the aquarium, we stopped at the State Recreation Area on Loggerhead Rd. (about a mile from the Ferry port) to have our picnic lunch.  The Recreation area comes complete with indoor bathrooms, outdoor showers, and public access to the beach - as well as 4WD access to the beach with appropriate permit.  And you can pass the time learning a bit more about the area at small museum there as well! 
Baby Sea Turtle
Hold the Peanut Butter!

The NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher is less than half a mile further down the road from the recreation area (And deserves its own blog post, so check back here later!).  We kept ourselves entertained there for a couple of hours before heading back to catch our return Ferry to the mainland.  We didn't rush ourselves, but stopped on our way to the Ferry port in order to check out Battery Buchanan, another Fort Fisher State Historic Site.

The Ferry got us and our car back to Southport at about 2.20 p.m., but we could have stayed longer.  We will definitely be making this excursion up the coastline again!