When July rolls around, I usually do a post about beach traffic. While most people think of beach traffic as the vehicles on the road trying to get to a beach, I am just as concerned about the number of people on the beach hoping to enjoy the water.
The first weeks of July are our peak time for summer visitors here on the Southern Outer Banks. The annual influx of visitors usually brings out a few complaints from local residents about how bad the traffic is here.
I try to take the complaints about road traffic about as seriously as I do a few grains of sand in our car after a walk on the beach. In 2011 when the bridge clogged up for a few hours during check-in hours on the 4th of July weekend, I wrote a post about it.
No traffic that I have ever seen here on the beach holds a candle to Washington, DC traffic so I am happy to report our number of annual traffic tie-ups still is still just a handful.
My 2011 tour of the island at around 2PM on Saturday, July 1 indicated that we had a very good crowd. In 2012 on Saturday, June 30, the bridge so clogged, I decided to wait a little before doing my beach check. I suspect that means we have a great crowd this year.
Around 5 PM I left for a quick trip to Swansboro where I was dropping off an award for the area’s best restaurant as listed in my new book, “A Week at the Beach, An Emerald Isle Travel Guide.” By the time I drove by the bridge it had already cleared.
By the time I returned to the bridge it was 5:30 PM. I decided to time my trip just to provide some concrete numbers. It took me about two minutes to cross the bridge, and another six minutes to get to Sweet Spot, the ice cream shop in the block before the stoplight to the Bogue Inlet Pier.
The whole trip to what most of us consider the center of town was about eight minutes which is perhaps a minute or two longer than normal. I can think is very bad by any standards. Certainly things were much slower earlier in the day, but we will survive another traffic event on Sunday, July 1. Possibly we will have seen the worst for another year.
There was a slight traffic backup between the CVS and Sweet Spot because of an accident, but it only added a few seconds to my trip. After visiting with the folks at Sweet Spot, I headed on up the island to the Third Street Beach.
Vehicular traffic appeared to have mostly dissipated from the mess earlier in the day. From what I could tell, most people seem to have headed for their vacation homes and disappeared inside to recover from their road trips.
When I arrived at the Third Street Beach parking lot, I was not surprised that there were only two other cars in the lot. I was a little surprised when I walked out to the beach, and my quick survey indicated very few people on the beach. The picture at the top of the post will confirm my beach visitor estimate.
By then it was almost 6 PM and the worst heat of the day was almost gone especially with the nice ocean breeze. I suspect people were inside having dinner or planning their next moves on their vacation. However, I think folks were missing the best time of the day to enjoy the beach.
As I headed back to the mainland, I was a little shocked to see a parking place or two in front of Jordan’s Seafood which is usually packed on summer Saturday nights. Perhaps people were worried about having to wait outside in the hot air. When I drove by Food Lion at Emerald Plantation, I could tell that parking places were a scarce commodity.
My trip from the Third Street Beach to the stoplight at the intersection of Highway 24 and Highway 58 took eighteen minutes which might be a minute or two more than normal. Certainly my quick visit showed that people traffic on the beach was minimal and vehicle traffic on the roads was nothing to get excited about considering this is our busiest week of the year.
Those of us that live here often get spoiled by having almost no traffic to deal with in our daily lives. Ninety-nine percent of the area residents are happy to have our summer visitors. We would have a bleak economy without the annual migration to the beach that is tradition on much of the east coast.
We are blessed here on the Crystal Coast to have such low density housing along our beaches. Even at the peak of the season, it is not hard to find privacy on our beaches if you are willing to walk a little. We have more beach than most people need.
I spend a lot of time walking the beaches of Emerald Isle. My walks are sometimes serious ones at the Point. It is not unusual for me to cover three to five miles in one of my beach hikes. I rarely see more than a handful of people once I get into the serious sand that extends over 1,800 feet from the vehicle ramp at the Point. I might skip any lunch hour visits to the Point this week, but it will be more because of the heat during the day than crowds that I might find.
Human traffic is minimal here when you get into the more remote areas of our beaches. It seems most people walk to the beach and head straight for the water. They spread out like the delta of a river but they rarely go very far from where they first find sand and water.
It is perhaps human nature to enjoy the closest water, but it gives those of us willing to walk a little a lot more beach to enjoy. I know from experience there are lots of crowded beaches in the world, I am happy to live in an area where it is easy to enjoy life without walls.
For tips about the best places for walking and evening some suggestions for avoiding traffic on the roads and grocery stores, check out my book at Amazon. It is available currently in Kindle format, but with free Kindle reader software, you can read it on practically anything including a Mac, a PC, or an iPad. I am working on a native version for the iPad.