The proximity to the beaches is one of the reasons we ended up living in western Carteret County. I love to walk the area's beaches and I spend lots of time doing it.
For many visitors Memorial Day is the beginning of the beach season. For those of us who live here, it is the beginning of the few weeks of the year when we share our almost empty beaches with others.
The truth is that our beaches never get very crowded. With low density housing along our ocean shores and our slightly off the beaten path location, real crowds on the beaches are not one of things that summer brings to Emerald Isle.
Bogue Banks, our piece of the Southern Outer Banks, is over twenty miles long. If we run out of room on Bogue Banks, there are other places less accessible to casual beach visitors.
Even during the peak of the summer, you can escape our "crowds" by hiking a couple of miles. I will often head to the Point which is the far western end of Bogue Banks.
If that doesn't work the next barrier island down the shore is Bear Island home of Hammocks Beach. It is only accessible by boat. The North Carolina Park Service runs a pontoon boat ferry from the mainland to Bear Island several times a day. Then there is always the option of the 56 miles of the Cape Lookout National Seashore if you really want to avoid people.
One of my favorite pictures is the image at the beginning of the post, Life without Walls. It was taken on Bear Island which despite the name has no bears. You can find more photos of the beautiful beaches of Hammocks Beach at this Google+ album. Most people treat beaches like parking places, they fight over the close ones and ignore the ones which require some effort.
If crowds on the beach are not part of the season, what does summer bring to our area. Things can get more than a little cozy in the area grocery stores on the weekend. Our largest grocery stores go from being some of the quietest stores in North Carolina to being the busiest. Those of us who are locals tend to avoid the grocery stores from Friday afternoon until Monday morning during the summer.
Our two lane bridge from the mainland to the beach area clogs a little with traffic during peak check in hours on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. However, those of us used to traveling in the Washington, DC area or through Fredericksburg, Virginia, generally scoff at a ten to twenty minute delay in getting across the bridge. Once in a while it is worse, but it is never like a bad day on the Washington beltway.
We also have a little spurt of traffic on Friday evenings as the weekend folks who own places on the island arrive. Usually during most of the year it takes me four or five minutes to drive this stretch of highway which goes from the tourist bureau on the mainland to the heart of the town of Emerald Isle which I define as the stoplight by Jordan's Restaurant. It is where you turn for Bogue Inlet Pier.
On the Friday evening before Memorial Day 2013 weekend the drive took eleven minutes with there being just enough stop and go on the bridge for me to snap some nice pictures of Bogue Sound.
The return trip took just under six minutes and by then the bridge had already started to clear.
Summer also brings more boats to our waterways, but they are mostly a weekend thing so for a few weeks during the summer, I boat mostly during the weekdays. Even then with the exception of July 4 itself, perhaps Memorial Day if it is warm, and Labor Day, we can always hide in the White Oak River when the Intracoastal Waterway gets busy. There are days when the wind and weather make the White Oak a better choice anyway. Being stuck in a beautiful coastal river is not exactly punishment.
Most of the people I know are happy to see our summer visitors. Tourism drives our economy and helps many of us live in a place that others live to visit. It is not a bad deal. The influx of visitors also provides us with a number of services that would likely not be here without the boost they get from summer visitors.
If you have read our A Taste for the Wild, Canada's Maritimes, our $2.99 Kindle book about New Brunswick, you know that I am not a stranger to off the beaten path locales. Given my choice of living in one which has visitors and one which does not, I will choose the one with visitors.
It never hurts to have some new people come to town. Sometimes a few of the best ones figure out our secret and become residents.