It was so nice to wake up this morning and know that we didn’t have to pack up the hotel room and spend the day in the van. And so, I let me, Hannah and Becca all sleep in – we were woken up finally when Ron and Abbi got hungry for breakfast and came to get us.
One nice thing about this hotel is that we have a kitchenette which is pretty well stocked with dishes, plus a 2-burner stove and a full-size refrigerator/freezer. The plan is to get breakfast items to keep here, but we hadn’t had a chance to stock up at the store yet, so we headed out for breakfast at IHOP. Not a first this time – we have these at home. But still nice for brunch (which it was by this time).
And another useful thing about our current setup – the girls and I were able to get ready for the beach in ‘our’ room while letting Ron get work done in ‘his’ room with no disruption. The more I think about it, the more this actually makes sense right now since he’s still working this week. And then next week when we head out for Florida, Ron will be on vacation as well.
There are three beaches in Wilmington, and today we focused on Carolina Beach since it has a cool boardwalk area which sounded like a lot of fun, and they were having outdoor entertainment and fireworks tonight down there too. Our plans also included a one-hour surrey rental – if you don’t know what a surrey is, keep reading.
Carolina Beach is on the northern end of Pleasure Island, south of Wilmington proper. It’s a really cute little town with lots of beachy shops, restaurants, and even an amusement park. The girls were all over that – although it wasn’t open in the afternoon while we were at the beach. Parking was an interesting challenge since most of what’s available is specified for guests of the various rentals, hotels and resorts along the beach – but we found a 2-hour space that gave us a chance to walk past some of the shops on the way down to the beach.
This was another day of firsts for the girls – Abbi and Hannah’s first time seeing a palm tree in person (Becca had seen them on her trip to AZ with me last year), and all three girls’ first time at the ocean. It’s so much different from the Lake Michigan beaches that they’re used to – bigger, wavier, and at least today, windier. The wind was crazy, but it made for some very cool waves to splash in. Hannah and Becca had fun getting knocked down over and over, while Abbi let the waves chase her back up the beach and never really did get fully immersed. I say, give her a couple of days (and a 2-hour surf lesson tomorrow) and she’ll be Queen of the Waves in no time.
Once Hannah and Becca grew tired of the waves, they played in the sand and I splashed in the waves for a while. I’d forgotten just how strong the undertow is in the ocean and I’m glad I’d warned the girls ahead of time and made sure to watch them closely. I was glad that there was a lifeguard on the beach too, and that it was pretty well populated with other beachgoers – something that came in handy a few times when strangers very helpfully returned items that had washed away, like shovels or one of Abbi’s flip-flops.
Once we’d gotten our first fill of the sand and waves, we rinsed off and headed back to move the van. On the way, we stopped in a few of the stores – the girls especially loved one called The Beach Shop that had all kinds of shells you could buy. They’d tried to collect some on the beach, but the ones we found were mostly broken. These were all so cool – and the girls kept asking the salesperson, “are these really real shells (or sand dollars or starfish, etc.)”. They seemed to be amazed that these were all ‘real’, and I let them each pick out a couple to take home plus a few small ones for some of their friends.
Once we moved the van, it was time for… ice cream! We stopped in at The Italian Ice Factory and loved their uniquely mixed flavors. Right across the way was our next stop – Wheel Fun Rentals. We’d been invited to try a one-hour rental, and with four of us it seemed like a surrey would be the best fit.
What’s a surrey? It’s basically a multi-person bicycle with an awning. We were on a six-seater and since Becca couldn’t reach the pedals, that left Abbi, Hannah and me to do the hard work. Other than a sibling issue over who got to sit in front, we really enjoyed riding (driving?) the surrey. It was so strange to be on the road in such a vehicle, and Abbi and Hannah thought it was so cool to use hand signals to show when we were turning. The surrey was really very easy to pedal and ride, although downhill was definitely more fun than uphill, lol. I was definitely missing having Ron with us for this activity – it was quite the workout.
We rode the surrey over to a small park on a lake and the girls played for a little while before we rode back and said goodbye to the surrey. The original plan was just to hang out in Carolina Beach for the rest of the day and enjoy the entertainment and fireworks, but we ended up heading back to the hotel in part because a) Ron was free and we wanted to spend the evening with him and b) all of us had lots of sand in our suits, making us uncomfortable, so a round of showers was in order, lol.
We tried to make it back down for the fireworks, but it was late and we were all starving, so we ended up having another first, although this one really doesn’t count, since we do have a Golden Corral in Grand Rapids now. We’d never eaten there before though – and wow, was that a lot of food! I was hoping to get to one of the local spots for dinner but between the crowds down in Carolina Beach and the late hour, we just went with what was open and available. And where else could Becca eat pizza, corn on the cob, broccoli, rice pilaf and macaroni and cheese for dinner?
After a quick stop for breakfast supplies, we’re all set for tomorrow. Plans include Abbi’s first-ever surfing lesson (and a VERY jealous Hannah, who’s too young to join her), and a sunset cruise that we’re all really looking forward to. More from Wilmington to come!