My family seems to have an aversion to flying unless absolutely necessary, so we drive everywhere. Fifteen hours to Texas to visit friends. Ten hours to Kansas to visit grandparents. And most importantly to me, nine hours to North Carolina to visit the beach. It has become a yearly tradition, but nothing quite beats the memory of seeing the ocean for the first time.
We had already rolled the windows down and slid the sunroof back to catch the sea breeze (something I thought smelled disgusting and fishy at first, but have grown to love) when we crested the highest point of the causeway connecting Holden Beach to the rest of the state. The ocean stretched out in front of us, wild gray as far as the eye could see. I didn’t know it then, but that may have been the moment I decided I wanted to study marine biology in college, to explore what was below the surface of that vast expanse.
Upon arrival, the possibilities of Holden Beach are endless. Well, endless if your main goal is the beach. There are no condos to speak of, definitely not the highrises just down the coast in Myrtle Beach. Holden Beach feels like a family beach house community, with renters like my family coming and going throughout the season. There are a handful of restaurants on the island, as well as a kind of general store for any basics you forget. My favorite on-island shop growing up was Sandman’s for the candy by the pound.
If there aren’t enough choices on Holden Beach to fulfill your needs, there is more to offer on the mainland in Supply. There is a Food Lion grocery store, as well as many restaurants (most famous is Provision Co, where you can sit outside and enjoy the view of the Intercoastal Waterway between the mainland and Holden Beach), and of course, tourist shops with all the typical beach items. When I was younger, we took advantage of some of the more touristy activities like miniature golf and water slides. These days, we usually only head into town for groceries and maybe ice cream at The Scoop.
My family’s favorite activities are all about the water. We spend most of our time at the beach, which is far from crowded. A few years ago, we found cabana rentals with Beach Butlers, so we now have them set up with chairs and snacks in the shade for us every day. Sometimes we rent jet skis at Holden Beach Watersports and splash around in the waterway. Most of all, I like to fish–there is surf-fishing while at the beach in the day, and in the evenings we go to the waterway. We’ve also been fishing from the pier, where there is a small fee. And, of course, off-shore fishing! We’ve been out with several companies, and we’ve found we like the Intimidator’s captain the best. He picks us up at Captain Pete’s dock early in the morning, and we always come back with dinner for the next few days.
We have been through a lot of Holden Beach vacations since my first awe-inspiring view across the causeway. Trips riddled with hurricane-force winds, incidents with spilled buckets and broken shells, and a few ill-planned attempts to smuggle home live crabs. I bet if I went out and cleaned the car now, I would still find sand embedded in the carpet and cracks. Holden Beach has been ingrained in the car, just like it has been ingrained in me.
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