The summer before my senior year in high school, my family went on a vacation to Carolina Beach, North Carolina.
Six months earlier, my three-year-old brother had died, and this was going to be an opportunity for my family to continue to heal and to start what would become a yearly tradition.
For the past thirty years, my parents have gone to Carolina Beach every year. There have only been a handful of years I didn’t join them in the last three decades.
When I got married and had a family of my own, I continued this tradition, and we’d go down at the same time as my parents and stay in a place close by.
The past couple years have been challenging for my family financially, and we’ve missed a couple years in NC.
This past June, my husband unexpectedly lost his job, so we weren’t able to make the trip down.
Carolina Beach has become like a second home to me. I love it down there. I was especially sad not to go this year, and the kids were bummed, too.
The only thing they didn’t miss was the drive down there which has taken us anywhere from thirteen to sixteen hours, depending on traffic and how many times the kids had to pee.
Since we couldn’t get to North Carolina, I told the kids I’d take them on some day trips to the beach in the last two weeks of summer.
There are beaches here in Connecticut, but they are on Long Island Sound, and not the actual Atlantic Ocean. The water is very calm, there are no waves for boogie boarding, and the sand tends to be rocky.
But the kids don’t really care.
So we went to a CT beach one day last week. Compo Beach in Westport. It’s one that we’ve been to many times. The weather was great, and we stayed there all day. I had to drag the kids out of the water because it was starting to get dark.
Last weekend, we took the kids to Robert Moses State Park in Long Island. It’s about an hour and forty-five minute drive from our house in Connecticut. We had never been there, and we went on the recommendation of some friends.
It’s on the Atlantic, and the waves were pretty big, especially by Connecticut standards. The sand was super soft, and there are indoor showers with hot water so you can take a shower and change before you leave.
We were at that beach for about eight hours. The kids had an amazing time there, and so did I. We will definitely go back.
So we had gone on two day trips. We had two more to go.
I was going to take the kids back to Compo Beach for one of them, and then maybe a New Jersey beach. But the Jersey Shore is more of a hike for us. It’s about a two and a half hour drive.
As I was trying to decide what to do, a friend of mine posted pictures of her mini, two-day trip to the Jersey Shore. Her daughter is one of Number 4’s good friends, and it looked like the kids had a great time. So I messaged my friend. And after hearing about her trip, it was decided.
Our last two days at the beach would be to the Jersey Shore. I booked the cheapest hotel I could find about 15 minutes from the beach, and we headed down on Thursday morning.
When I was in college, I had a serious boyfriend who was a lifeguard at Ortley Beach in Toms River, New Jersey. The summer after my junior year, I spent the first half of the summer with him at the beach. (I spent the second 6 weeks of that summer studying in Lyon, France).
It was the best summer of my life.
New Jersey beaches are really nice.
But they weren’t Carolina Beach. My heart has always belonged to North Carolina.
Plus I’m a wimp, and the water temperature in North Carolina is usually at least 12 degrees warmer than it is in New Jersey.
Anyway, I’m not a stranger to the Jersey Shore. But it’s been a while.
So we got to Long Branch Beach around noon on Thursday.
It was beautiful.
The kids could not wait to boogie board, They went directly into the ocean. The waves were perfect. Not too crazy, but excellent for riding.
There were mini playgrounds every quarter mile or so on the beach and the kids made immediate friends and played with them for hours. No exaggeration. I didn’t take pictures of those, because I took advantage of that opportunity for myself.
For the first time in years, I was able to take five kids to the beach by myself and actually sit and relax. It was incredible.
The kids did some relaxing, too.
There were a several meltdowns, there was a bunch of fighting, there was some sand throwing and there was plenty of whining, but for the most part, the kids were awesome.
They were super appreciative of this opportunity.
They spent a ton of time in the water. The cooler water temperature (72°) didn’t bother them one bit.
They did the obligatory wave jumping.
Number 4 was so good helping Number 7 in the water, and Number 3 was amazing helping Number 6 boogie board and catch the waves at just the right time.
It was very fun to watch that, because that level of cooperation does not happen as often as I’d like.
There was lots of playing and digging in the sand.
There was lots of smiling.
The kids had such a great first day, that they happily posed for pictures. Seriously. Happily.
That hardly ever happens.
Okay. It never happens.
There was a nice boardwalk with a gaze bo, and a band was playing on Thursday night. We walked down and listened to some music.
The kids did some dancing.
That was just our first day!
The second day we did more of the same.
Nobody wanted to leave.
We got ice cream.
We took one last walk on the boardwalk that night.
And one last group shot.
As we were leaving, Number 3 said to me, “Mom, today was the most fun I have ever had on a vacation.”\
Number 4 thanked me repeatedly.
As we were walking to the car, Number 5 waved her hands and said, “Goodbye new place that I LOVE.’
We crammed a whole vacation into 36 hours. It was awesome.
We were all super sad to leave, and we all fell in love with the Jersey Shore.
The kids begged to come back next year.
I tried to explain to them that there are lots and lots of beaches on the Jersey Shore and maybe we should try a different one.
The didn’t want a different one. They want that one.
We’ll find some place that makes us all happy.
Plans are underway.
But here is what they really loved.
- the waves
- the playground on the beach
- the boardwalk and the shops close to the beach
- the bike path (we didn’t bring bikes, but hope to next time)
- the band, the music, and the activity
What they would really love is to find a place with all that, plus a place to stay where we can walk to the beach, and where the streets are quiet enough that they can walk there on their own.
If you are a Jersey Shore enthusiast or expert, we’d love any feedback, information, and tips you have.
Until then, we’ll be making our own plans and counting down the days until next summer.
We can’t wait.