Family Reunion at Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina

It is about 850 miles from Michigan to Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. We left in the afternoon on Friday and split it over two days. Our drive was made even longer when we stopped for gas in North Carolina and the truck wouldn’t start back up! We had been having problems with the starter while we were in Michigan, so we took it to a mechanic, but the truck decided it wanted to start that day, and the mechanic wouldn’t do anything without being able to replicate the problem. Previously when the truck wouldn’t start, we were patient and kept trying, and it would eventually start. No such luck this time! It was Saturday afternoon and we couldn’t reach a mechanic. We were planning to call AAA, but before we did Brian got under the truck and checked out the starter. Both wires that attach to it were loose, and barely attached! Brian thinks that when one of our many repairs was done, it wasn’t reattached correctly. The starter is in a tight spot, and he didn’t have a small enough wrachet, so he was under the car for two hours tightening the wires. But, he fixed it! We made it to Ocean Isle Beach on Saturday night.

Ocean Isle Beach is on the North Carolina coast, at the southern end. It is a barrier island, connected to the mainland by a large bridge over the Intercoastal Waterway. 

My mom’s family has been visiting every year for a long time. I’m not sure how long, but I remember visiting as a child. My cousin Don brought a video of all of us there from 1991. Not much has changed except 26 years of aging and 90s fashion. I hadn’t attended for awhile until four years ago, and then again this year. My aunt’s 3 kids (plus spouses), 9 grandkids (plus most spouses), and 15 great-grandkids were all there for part or all of the week, plus my mom, sister, brother-in-law, their 3 kids, and Brian and I. So, it was a big group! All 18 kids are 8 and under. It was so good to see everyone!

My aunt and cousins stay at a rental house on the beach, and her grandkids stay across the street. My sister’s family rented a condo on the beach half a mile away, and we stayed in a campground on the wrong side of the bridge. Wishing Well Campground is about 15 minutes from the beach, and was a great deal for full hookups. The only downside was about a million mosquitos!

Since this family reunion happens every year, it’s a well-oiled machine with a daily routine. Every morning from 9 am to about noon is beach time. Then when it gets too hot and sunny at the beach, we go in for lunch. The afternoon is usually pool time for the kiddos, and dinner is at 7 pm. 

The beach at Ocean Isle is beautiful. Soft white sand, some shells, and warm salty water. The first few days were cloudy. Even though rain threatened, it was the best weather we had, because it was cooler at the beach. The last few days were sunny and hot, and we had to be even more careful about sun protection! At least I got to start to even out the farmers tan I have going. It was great to spend time at the beach. Good conversations were had while ankle-deep in water.

The kids loved to go boogie boarding in the waves. My nephew had never been to the ocean before, but by the end of the week he had the hang of it. Nearly everyone spent some time on the boogie boards, and it was fun to catch them in action with my waterproof camera. 

Riding waves was fun, but getting up after wasn’t easy! I thought my sister had taken this photo of me beached, post-wave. I was scolding her for it when my mom confessed (in a devious voice) “It was me!!”

The kids also enjoyed playing in the sand when they weren’t in the water.

On Sunday night we went out for a drink to celebrate my cousin Megan’s birthday. It was tough to find a place open past 10 pm! We went to Ocean Isle Fish Company for about an hour before they closed. It was fun, but we were surprised there wasn’t more night life in Ocean Isle.

The next night we learned where everyone is when the sun goes down. They are on the beach with flashlights, catching crabs! Megan’s husband David is a master crab catcher, and took 11 kids out on the beach to catch crabs! It was great to see how much they loved it, but they all started screaming when they saw a crab!

By Thursday night, many of the crab hunters in our group had gone home, so Brian, my sister, my mom, and I took the remaining 5 crab hunters out. We caught several crabs, and then my nephew noticed a large crab on the sand! We didn’t want to touch it and risk getting a finger pinched off, so I chased it and trapped it in a bucket! All the kids got a good look before we released it back to the sand.

One night Brian and I skipped crab hunting to camp out by a Loggerhead sea turtle nest hoping to see baby turtles. We stayed for awhile, and right as turtles were being seen near the nest, we told our crab hunting group not to bring their flashlights near. So the kids turned off the lights and came over to see six baby turtles! Volunteers led the baby turtles down a trench they had dug towards the ocean with red lights. The turtles naturally go towards the lights, because there is a reddish glow at the horizon and the turtles instinctively follow it into the water. Now because people have lights on at their houses, without the volunteers, the turtles would probably go towards the houses instead of the ocean and die. The volunteers coaxed the turtles into a cooler, and carried them closer to the ocean since it was low tide. Just after the turtles were released at the water and everyone left, my mom arrived. I was bummed she missed the turtles, so we waited to see if anymore would hatch. Eventually we saw six more hatch and walk down the beach into the cooler! They are so adorable. They are only about the length of my finger and 2.5 ounces.

My cousin Jill found a live starfish, and we also saw a ray and a couple of dolphins playing in the water!

Amazingly, my cousins pull off feeding that many people dinner every day for a week. It’s practically running a restaurant! 

For dinners we had ribs, taco night, burgers, pulled pork, and the final meal was the shrimp boil. After we visited four years ago and Brian learned the ways of the shrimp boil from my cousin Don, he bought his own shrimp boil pot and propane burner. So, he was excited to help out this year. Brian and Don went to get the shrimp at a shrimp stand, and I gave Don the shrimp necklace I got for him in New Orleans, that we’ve been carrying around for 5 months. Shrimp boil was delicious!!

There was so much more fun, too. Kite flying, kids dance party and fort building, matching shirts for all 18 kids made by my cousin Diane, and family photos taken by Don. It was a great week of family time.

After a week, everyone went home. Since we were at a campground instead of a rental house, we were able to add an extra day to our visit. Brian hadn’t quite gotten enough seafood yet, so we went out for lunch and had grouper sandwiches, and visited a seafood stand for flounder that Brian cooked for dinner. 

We also went to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, which is about 45 minutes south of Ocean Isle. I didn’t appreciate how calm and classy Ocean Isle is until we went to Myrtle Beach! It was fun to see, but Myrtle Beach is busy and touristy. It was pretty hot when we were there, so we didn’t stay long. We visited the big souvenir store, the Gay Dolphin, checked out the beach, and played a little skee-ball at an arcade. It was a fun end to our coastal Carolina visit!

Day 297 | Mile 29,582

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