I’m struggling to begin this post because I’m afraid to leave out a single detail. I’m also having trouble narrowing my hundreds of photos from the trip. Indulge me as I know I will fail to keep this short and sweet.
It took exactly four hours for us to drive to Carolina Beach State Park on Friday afternoon. Alex left work early. There was no traffic. We were sure to drive the speed limit the entire way to avoid any potential tickets. And just before 5pm we arrived to our campsite.
Check in was a breeze. We drove by our site first and then on to the marina. I love that this state park has a little store where you can purchase firewood, ice and many other camping and boating essentials. Carolina Beach State Park is situated right on the banks of the Cape Fear River and has so much to offer. We didn’t take advantage of this park to its fullest since we were so busy on the beach the entire weekend, but we are already looking forward to another trip in the future!
While the campsites were close to one another, they still offered a good deal of shade and my social toddlers didn’t seem to mind at all that there were other kids and people to meet nearby. We quickly set up camp and jumped back in the car. We were anxious to see the ocean before the day ended.
We only planned to walk out and take a look before finding dinner in town but Eleanor was anxious to get her toes in the water.
This is only Ruthie’s second time to the beach. She was just four months old when I took her to Florida to visit family. She was unsure of the waves and crashing sound when we first arrived but quickly warmed up to all the fun the sand and water offered.
While we could have stayed for hours, it was already 7pm and we still needed to find dinner. We rushed the girls off the beach promising hours of fun the next day.
Dinner was disappointing. We were hangry, and therefore in a hurry. We started to walk around a bit and then tried Yelp. We ended up in front of one of the top rated seafood restaurants in Carolina Beach, The Shuckin’ Shack, but it was so crowded and only offered high tops for seating and we had no idea if the girls would be happy with anything on the menu so in the heat of the moment we jumped next door and settled in at a booth at The Dive. The name should have given it away. Our expectations should have been lowered. This place wouldn’t have been so bad…if we were without kids and it was about 4 hours later. I’m sure it is a great place for night life. Somehow we ended up with a table full of fried foods and they were all disappointing. The one promising dish, fish and chips, were the worst of it all. I don’t want to just give this place a bad review, I’m sure it is a fine place for a different purpose, but we were really craving a quick but fun seafood meal on the coast and this did not deliver.
Back at the campsite we made up for it with s’mores.
Saturday was beach day. We woke up and ate a breakfast of overnight oats and iced coffee. By 9am the car was packed and we were headed for the beach. We found public parking less than a block away and paid $8 for the daily rate. We loaded our double stroller with all the beach necessities and found a great spot to play on the beach. It was quiet with only a handful of other families already out. The weather was incredibly warm for the early morning and we were happy to jump right into the refreshing waves.
We brought a small pool from home and Alex and I took turns blowing it up and filling with buckets of water. The girls had a blast splashing in the water in the pool until they grew comfortable enough to really splash in the waves.
This may go down as one of the best beach days in history. The girls absolutely loved the sand. They played happily for hours.
Every so often Alex and I would scoop up their sandy bodies and whisk them out into the water to rinse and cool off. It took both of them a few tries to enjoy being out in the ocean. Finally they were laughing and splashing as we jumped the waves together.
Back on the sand Eleanor focused on making “cakes” and we all took turns shaping mermaid tails for each other.
Probably the scariest/funniest moment was when Eleanor, laying on her belly in the water, began being pulled backwards by a wave. Alex was right behind her and so easily scooped her up but while that chaos was happening, another wave pulled the entire pool out into the water with Ruthie inside! I went clamoring to save her and the pool as Alex was saving Eleanor. In the end we all had a good laugh but I was so thankful we were watching the girls diligently and able to pull them right up!
We played right past lunchtime and into the afternoon. The girls hardly seemed to notice except when Alex bought an icee from a beach vendor and they ran to him excitedly. I didn’t expect to play so long. I thought we would all be bored after an hour or two which led to my worst decision of the day, I forgot to put sunscreen on myself. By 2pm my skin was crispy. When we finally left the beach we walked around the boardwalk and the town of Carolina Beach for about another hour which didn’t help!
We stopped and had ice cream before finally heading back to camp for lunch. I had packed leftovers from last week and we devoured burritos made from the skillet taco filling.
Ruthie had an amazing nap in the tent. Eleanor and I took a shower. And we all relaxed at the campsite for the afternoon.
Saturday night we headed back to the beach so I could capture a few photos of the girls in their Eleanor Rose Sailboats. Since I bought these outfits early this summer I have been dying to get the girls to the beach in them. I may or may not have planned the entire weekend around this one photograph:
I tried not annoy them with too many photos, instead I just let them run and have fun while I snapped a few fun pictures.
We talked an unsuspecting stranger into taking a family shot of us:
After our little photo shoot on the beach we walked around once again trying to find a place we could pop in and enjoy a quick seafood snack and a beer and we really didn’t see anything that appealed to us. I’d love to know if anyone has a great recommendation for Carolina Beach. I really should have done my homework and researched in advance. Instead we took just a few more photos and headed back to camp to build our fire and cook dinner.
We used our pie iron to make grilled peanut butter and jellies for dinner. Eleanor invited our neighbors over for s’mores and we all stayed up late into the night getting to know one another. Eleanor fell asleep in Alex’s arms and finally around 11pm we called it a night.
Sunday morning the girls decided to sleep-in. I snuck out of the tent around 7am and squeezed in a 4 mile run along the trails at Carolina Beach State Park. I took the Sugarloaf trail around and enjoyed beautiful views of the river, the dunes and the marsh. The girls and Alex woke up just before I arrived back at camp and we had another breakfast of overnight oats, cold coffee and cereal.
We originally planned another beach day but Alex and I were both sunburned. We discussed driving to the aquarium at Fort Fisher but ultimately decided to relax at camp and then pack up and head home.
It was a quick trip but full of family fun. It was a ton of work (packing, setting up camp, taking toddlers to the beach, clean up, etc) but Alex and I both agreed it was so incredibly relaxing too. The girls both napped on the way home, although Eleanor claims she didn’t. We arrived home, grabbed a pizza and settled in just in time to watch the second half of the Chicago Bears losing to Houston (boo!) and also in time for Eleanor to attend her first session of Awanas!
I was so unsure about camping at the beach before this trip. I didn’t know if all the sand and dirt would be just too much. After this trip I am convinced it is the way to go. We had such a blast and will hopefully be back again!