Carolina Beach, NC, reviewed

I just spent a fabulous week in Carolina Beach, NC. This trip was totally spontaneous, originally a staycation, but by the second day at home I was going a little stir crazy. So, I hopped online, booked the first affordable oceanfront room I could find, did some laundry and left in the morning. Oh, how did we book vacations before the internet?

Carolina Beach is a small beach town with a quaint boardwalk and beautiful, uncrowded beaches. The town is compact and bike friendly; very much a long weekend commuter beach rather than a destination for vacations. But that is what made it so awesome in my book. There were times I had the whole beach to myself. Sweet. 

Beaches

Beach at Fort Fisher

Beach at Fort Fisher

I stayed at Carolina Beach but also visited Kure. Here's a little known and little advertised secret...the best beach of all was the one at Fort Fisher. It's a public beach on state protected land with free parking, a nice restroom/shower facility, a snack bar, no houses lining the shore and wicked uncrowded. Seriously, that was the most beautiful beach I've ever been to on the east coast. The locals have kept that secret well hidden. All beaches mentioned were surprisingly dog-friendly. 

Restaurants

I didn't eat out every meal. The vacation was so last minute that I went alone so eating out every meal wasn't on the agenda. 

Gibby's Restaurant had a beautiful view and central location. But they ignored me for 20 minutes while waiting on everyone around me so I left. I went across the street to Gulfstream diner. The diner was small with old school furnishings and had a friendly staff. Both the greek salad and crab cake sandwich were dandy. 

Within walking distance of the beach was Deck House restaurant. It looked to be in an old church, with rich wood paneling and ship decor. I had the black and bleu grouper that was recommended by the nice bar keep and it turned out to be a very good recommendation. 

Surfside Bar is a dive if I've ever seen one. Located on the Boardwalk, I actually walked in thinking it was a restaurant by the same name which turns out is farther up the street. Nothing on tap and no food. The bathroom sink was outside of the restrooms in the bar area. Call me a snob, but I was literally the only one in there and I totally get why.  I horked down a beer and got out of there.

Britt's Donuts has been a boardwalk staple since 1939. You can smell these delicious treats from a block away. They only serve hot, glazed donuts. They are soft in the middle like a Krispy Kreme but chewy on the outside like a funnel cake. You can watch them made through the window and each donut comes out imperfectly perfect. Yum. 

I drove to Michael's seafood for a taste of their shrimp and crab mac and cheese. Those of you who know me know that mac and cheese is my weakness. Staff were super nice, restaurant was clean but I only ate half my entrĂ©e. I can't believe I'm saying this but it was too rich?!? Cream and cheese and crab and shrimp and ham and buttered crumbs...I couldn't do it. I felt icky the rest of the evening. And that is coming from someone with a stomach made of steel. 

One of the best meals I had was actually at the hotel restaurant. The shrimp and grits were delicious. I also heard they make a mean crab cake but I didn't want to eat two meals at the hotel. 

Lodging

Courtyard Marriott is a nice hotel. Any beach side hotel is going to be a little more disheveled than non beach side. One really nice feature is that every room in the hotel is ocean front balcony so you don't have to worry about the difference between ocean front and ocean view. The pools were clean. They also had multiple outdoor showers, hoses and feet washers. And the location anchored at the boardwalk can't be beat. Parking is free in the lot, but if the lot fills up you have to pay to park in a public lot (this didn't happen while I was there but one day I think I got the last spot). Great fireworks show in front of the hotel on Thursdays. It wasn't a total paradise as my hotel card needed rekeyed a couple of times and they kept forgetting to refill my coffee pods. All in all, I'd totally recommend staying at Courtyard Marriott. 

Attractions

Ok, I admit, I spent most of the week laying or walking on the beach. I walked to the Carolina Beach pier one day and was too scared to get on it. I don't know if it was through a hurricane or what but there were entirely too many snapped posts and missing boards for me to trust it (so if you want to go to a pier, walk south to Kure pier instead). But I did leave the beach to visit the Civil War memorial museum at Fort Fisher and Carolina Beach State Park. Both great options for exploring the outdoors and taking pictures.