What it is: With summer waning and school starting, our family wanted one last taste of summer. So, with my extended family visiting from the middle of the country, we took them out to the beach. Now, we thought about heading to Wrightsville Beach which is the absolute closest beach to Durham. However, we have experienced the difficulty and cost that is associated with parking in Wrightsville, so we kept looking. We decided to head about a half an hour further south to Fort Fisher State Recreation Area. While it was further away, parking was plentiful and free.
On the way down to Fort Fisher, we found a great stop to make the morning even better. We stopped about 5 miles north on the Carolina Beach boardwalk at Britt's Donuts. We had heard that it was rated the second best donut place in the country, so we couldn't pass it up. Parking was a bit tricky, so we dropped off my husband and let him stand in the long line while we drove on in the other car to the beach. If you only had one car, you could either all park and wait in line or drop someone off and circle while they pick up their donuts. However you do it, this place is definitely worth a stop. Our family picked up 2 dozen of their fresh donuts and they were polished off far too quickly. What a great start to the day! Oh, keep in mind that Britt's Donuts is cash only and open seasonally so plan accordingly.
Once at the beach, parking was easy, and it was a short walk from our car to the boardwalk where you could find restrooms and a seasonal refreshment stand (which we didn't check out so I can't tell you about that). Just past the restrooms is the beautiful beach. There is a section that is lifeguarded near the boardwalk and then 6 miles of pristine beach beyond that. You can even bring your truck and drive on the beach to get a little further away from the crowds if you so desire.
We chose to stay in the lifeguarded area just because we had four children under 5 with us. There were plenty of people there, but we never felt crowded. The waves were a bit rough in the morning but they calmed down in the afternoon and there were quite a few people swimming all day. The transition from beach to ocean was a little steep, but that didn't seem to bother anyone and our little ones could easily get up and down the slope.
After our great day at the beach, we packed up our stuff, rinsed off and changed in the restrooms, stopped my nearby Kure beach to get some dinner, and drove home. (Yes, I had expected the little ones to pass out and sleep the whole way home. Oh alas, that didn't happen for us, but it could happen for you.) Regardless of how hyper and jazzed our little ones were on the way home, it was a fabulous day and I definitely recommend that beach for a great and very doable day trip.
What we liked: We loved the ease of parking and it's proximity to Durham. It only took us about 3 hours to drive down there. The stop for donuts also added a little something special to the day, and if you really wanted to go all out, you could easily visit the actual Fort Fisher historic site or the fabulous aquarium also at the site.
What we would change: There's not much I would change about this stop. Of course, I wish it were closer. Plus, the restrooms and shower stations got a bit crowded as we (and everyone else) were leaving at about 4 pm, but it wasn't too bad.
Website and other important information:
Beach Website: http://www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/fofi/main.php
Britt's Donuts: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Britts-Donut-Shop/189424071099111
Beach Address: 1000 Loggerhead Road, Kure Beach, NC 28449
Britt's Donuts: 11 Boardwalk, Carolina Beach, NC 28428
(Yes, they were gone that fast. This was the only picture of the two dozen donuts that I could get.)
(A beautiful day at the beach)