G and I took forever to decide where we were going on our summer vacation this year. We always go to Myrtle Beach. And by "Myrtle Beach" I don't literally mean the Myrtle Beach city limits. In my world "Myrtle Beach" or "The Beach" is a name applied to any beach location on the Grand Strand. We do North Myrtle a good bit, but mostly we go to Surfside Beach or Garden City Beach. I have a long and wonderful history with Myrtle and we even honeymooned there. It is our comfort place and we go as often as we can.
We've tried other beaches. I've been to beaches in Jamaica, Puerto Rico and all up the Gulf Coast, eastern US coast and even into Canada if you count the Great Lakes. My preference is Dirty Myrtle. People joke about it being the Redneck Riviera and how dirty the beaches are. I've said before that these people are beach elitists and apparently they are quick to overlook the exact same problems on their own favorite beaches. Uncultured and uncouth as we are, we love Myrtle Beach.
Still we get the urge to explore from time to time. And when the time came to book our vacation this year we had the exploration bug. G spent weeks on the internet looking up possibilities. We looked over the options and we decided to try Harbor Island. We had never been to Beaufort and never seen the Sea Islands so we made our plans to remedy that.
We loaded up early on Friday morning.
Our first day of vacation just happened to be National Doughnut Day so we charted a path to a Krispy Kreme on the way to the coast.
There was a long boardwalk from the condo to the beach stretching over a large dune and wildlife area. And there was a beach but this is where we learned that some humans have very different definitions of the word "beach".
The Johnson Creek Tavern was on Harbor Island and after our initial disappointment with the water situation it provided us with a nice little seafood dinner while we watched the tidal marsh and the nesting osprey outside the window.
Aided by our full bellies we marched back out to the "beach" again to get a better look. The tide had backed out a little by now and there was a good bit of sand, but this "truly ocean front" beach lacked any discernible surf. Every once in a while a ripple would get large enough to tilt over onto the sand. Apparently that was a wave. Blue and Violet live for jumping over and through waves and they were thoroughly disappointed.
The exploring was good and there was a lot of beauty to take in. The sand bars and wildlife dominated the landscape. The ground moved with snails, crabs and birds.
And anytime you have sand, water and sky, you have the makings of some great views.
The Harbor River empties into the Atlantic at the top of Harbor Island. The river is more like a tidal marsh to be accurate. It seems the location of the island's many sand bars keeps the one thing away that we needed...waves. Small waves would break far out on the horizon but only small ripples made it to where we stood.
The location of the "beach" on or near the tidal river also gave the kids a wonderful pluff mud bath every time they went out to dig. After wave jumping, digging is the thing for them. There was about 2 inches of sand and then black pluff mud filled the gap between us and China. The kids didn't mind so much until they realized they couldn't wash off the smell.
Still, it was vacation and we wanted to make the best of it. Violet kept a positive attitude.
We had planned to cool our heels most of this trip. This was the reason for the months of research and careful email exchanges with the owners. Balcony sits are great moments for our vacations. We sit and read, draw, sip drinks and watch people and animals and relish the fact that we have absolutely nothing else that we should be doing at that moment. Much to our dismay, the tiny ripples were not audible from the balcony and there was not enough of a breeze to keep the millions of biting bugs away.
Distant afternoon storms brought a little breeze and some shade. We soaked up those moments as they came.
While the kids played, I made sand things while G read her huge book. The kids love for me to make things just so they can destroy them as soon as I'm finished. And since we were looking out for the sea turtles, the fast re-leveling of the sand was not so bad.
Harbor Island is a Loggerhead sea turtle nesting area. This is prime time for the big mothers to come in from the ocean at night and deposit their eggs in a hole at the edge of the dunes. These ladies and their babies deal with enough obstacles already so we didn't want our sand things to give them any grief.
After day two on the marshy beach we decided to check out the Beaufort waterfront. We arrived right after a quick passing rain cloud so it was nice and cool out.
There was a toy store and some BBQ so everyone was happy. Beaufort was nice.
Deciding to make chicken salad from...something not so chicken like, we took off on day three in search of more exploring. We stopped by the Sheldon Church ruins on the way to Charleston for the day.
If you've never seen this or heard about it, you should Google it now and make plans to see it one day. It's free, easy to find and very cool. It seems the historic church was burned twice and there are lots of very old historic folks buried there.
In the morning light the whole place is very photogenic.
There were some mosquitoes and fire ants living there, but we managed to escape most of them.
Blue was more intrigued by the old well than the ruins. He was amazed that water came from this pump.
As we talked about places to day trip we realized that the kids had never been to Charleston. We always seem to go when they stay with grandparents so we thought they'd enjoy doing the touristy things. They loved the carriage tour even though it was hot and they didn't seem to care about the history. Blue apparently listens much more than he lets on because he repeated a lot of the historical information back to us later that night.
They also had their first trip to Hyman's Seafood. Of course they had chicken strips and fries so I'm not sure that even counts. And the middle plate at the top there is signed by Ric Flair. Wooooooooooooo!
They loved playing in the fountain. G was smart enough to bring extra clothes.
The clothes were not for the fountain. She brought them because we planned to hit one of the area beaches while we were there. We all desperately needed waves and a real beach. We drove out to Folly Beach and spent a good bit of time looking for shells and jumping waves. And getting sand and broken shells in our underwear.
When we were done beach happiness abounded. And for the beach elitists out there, Folly was great but there were just as many bottle caps and cigarette butts per square foot as at Dirty Myrtle. If you're headed that way this summer, there's also a beach renourishment project going on so be ready for the giant rusty pipes to be stretched across the entire beach front.
Sorry, this photo is slightly out of place. It should have been up there around day one. This post is already so photo heavy that I don't have the patience to move it.
The next Sea Island to the south is Hunting Island State Park. Our research said that this was a popular beach site for residents and visitors to Beaufort. The next day we made a day of it.
The north end of the island has suffered some pretty significant erosion and the tree carcasses have been left where they fell. It reminded me of Capers Island. Absolutely beautiful place.
There were a few people on this end of the island but it was not crowded by any means. We had plenty of space to spread out and play.
This beach was a real beach with waves and everything. These two were very happy. G and I were also pretty thrilled by it all. We found about 30 sharks teeth during the day.
Hunting Island lighthouse is right in the middle of the island. It's the only lighthouse in South Carolina that allows visitors to climb to the top. Blue and I couldn't pass up the opportunity. He loved every part of the lighthouse.
He won't go near a roller coaster but running up and down these old stairs was nothing for him. He didn't even act scared at the top.
He was pretty proud of his accomplishment.
He did freak out a little when we came down and looked back up to see how high we were off the ground. I think that just made him more proud.
Beach happiness abounded again. Skin darkened and smiles grew.
I'm not sure why, but these two love to be buried in the sand. Since babysitters are scarce at the beach, we took the opportunity to go have a quiet dinner. I'm kidding. They took turns breaking out of the sand like the Hulk.
I love the coast. The light, the horizontal lines, the sounds. I love it all.
We have a couple of friends who moved near Hilton Head a couple of years ago and we decided this was a great chance to get to see them. We drove about an hour to Bluffton and had breakfast for lunch at the Sipping Cow restaurant at Scott's Market. Really good food. Highly recommended.
We walked the outlet stores and checked out the riverfront at Bluffton.
We found this really cool church right on the water. Very photogenic place.
We had dinner with Mike and Brooke and their two kids and did some catching up and laughing. Then we drove out to Hilton Head and checked out the beach there. I hadn't been there since high school. It's changed a lot. Good waves and good beach.
The next day was Violet's birthday. She talked all week about how she was going to be queen for the day and we'd all have to do whatever she said. She got up and wanted to put on her pretty dress and then she wanted to have birthday pie for breakfast. When the queen speaks the peasants listen.
The queen then demanded that we go play in the sand. Blue obeyed like a good peasant.
As did I. I'll say this for Harbor Island: people leave you alone when you're building a sand thing. Perhaps it was because we were "renters" (to be pronounced like the guy in the old John Candy movie) or maybe people just keep to themselves, but I certainly appreciated it. I love making things but I work in the Hermit Fortress of Solitude. It was nice to not be bothered with humans while playing in the sand.
The queen then commanded that we go to Outback for her birthday dinner so they could sing to her. We obliged.
We topped off the birthday with a walk out on the "beach". The sky was phenomenal.
Our last day on the island started out with a very cool find. I got up each morning to run before the heat was unbearable. Most days I saw the turtle team out looking to see if any mothers had made their way up to lay eggs overnight. Friday I saw the team excitedly working to mark a new nest. These were the tracks where the turtle dragged herself up to the nest.
And this was the trail she left as she went back out to sea. The turtle didn't make the large Xs. I mention this because Blue couldn't understand why the turtle made big Xs as she left. The turtle team marked the tracks with an X so they'd know the nest had been marked.
After breakfast we decided to go back to Hunting Island for some real beach. Mike and Brooke were kind enough to give us a pass to get in for free.
This time we tried out the south end of the island.
The beach was clear of trees but there were fewer sharks teeth and more humans. The waves were perfect for jumping and for wake boarding. When we'd had all the sun we could stand we packed it in. After cleaning up and having a snack I packed the truck up and we made our way inland to Columbia for dinner at California Dreaming.
Now that we've thoroughly explored the Carolina coast from Currituck to Hilton Head we unanimously agree that we'll be going back to Myrtle as quickly as possible. You can have your Swiss chocolates and high class beach resorts. We'll be having Hershey bars on the Grand Strand.