We have all headed off to our favorite vacation destination and gotten caught in traffic on the way or found more people than we expected when we arrived at our spot. Most of us vacation to get away from crowds and finding a crowd in paradise is not a good way to start. Yet it easy to end up right in the middle of a mass of humanity especially on a popular beach.
I started seriously escaping the crowds well before I graduated from college and headed off to live along the Nova Scotia shore of the Bay of Fundy. Life in Cambridge, Massachusetts was enough to send me searching for a different world, but that is another story.
However those sixteen years we lived in Canada’s Maritimes might be responsible for my love of open space and spectacular scenery. The beauty and relative solitude you can find on the coast certainly kept us coming to North Carolina’s Outer Banks after we moved back to the states and lived on the side of a mountain overlooking Roanoke, Virginia.
Over the twenty years that we lived in Roanoke, we had a number of great beach vacations. One of the elements of a great beach vacation listed in the linked article is getting enough distance between you and civilization. Both children and adults need to disconnect in order to renew themselves. Sometimes it is hard to do. We found a world away from lots of people and technology in several spots, but as is often the case, the world kept discovering our spots not very long after we began enjoying them.
Children eventually do not want to go to the beach with their parents anyway. They also grow up and move out. So in 2006 long after the children were gone and after three years of looking for the right spot, I convinced my wife that we should try living at the beach for a few years. We are still here on the North Carolina coast just a few miles away from the beautiful beaches of Emerald Isle.
Carteret County where we live is often called the Crystal Coast. If you are not familiar with the area, this is a link to a map. Our area actually wrote the book on escaping crowds. With the 158,000 acres of the Croatan National Forest at our back, the 56 miles of Cape Lookout National Seashore on one flank, and Camp Lejeune protecting the other flank, there is little to worry about except wind and waves on our south facing beaches along the Atlantic Ocean. We are just enough off the beaten path and the Interstates to keep from getting overcrowded even during the tourist season.
Still the whole concept of feeling crowded is an individual one. What is crowded to me might seem a little desolate to some folks. But with the many miles I hike along the beaches each year, I feel comfortable in offering some advice as to how to find a beach where you will feel uncrowded even during a holiday weekend.
Any beach even a popular one like Nags Head can be uncrowded if you hit it at the right time like we did when I snapped this picture from Jennette’s Pier in early June. I will not be making the day trip to Nag’s Head on the Fourth of July to prove my point, but I suspect there will be a lot more people on the beach than there was in my picture.
Surprisingly it is very easy to find plenty of space on the beach. All you have to do is use your legs and walk a little. This picture was taken near the westernmost part of the Point at Emerald Isle. It is looking east up the beach towards the town of Emerald Isle.
I consider the area crowded even when I see a few people like those in this picture. Both pictures of the Point area were taken just after 4 PM on July 2, 2013 which would have to classed as pretty near the peak of our season.
So why is such a spectacular beach so uncrowded? Actually there is a section that is fairly crowded for our beaches. Still the number of people is not even close to what you see on most beaches. It has a few people on it just because it happens to be closer to the public access points and there are a handful of oceanfront homes just north of the beach.
The easiest way to enjoy these uncrowded beaches is to rent one of those handful of homes along the beach. If your budget like mine cannot handle that, you can still get to the beaches if you put some effort into it. I rarely have to give up on my regular hikes there and it is all in the timing. There is only one public parking lot in the area. It is at the intersection of Station Street and Coast Guard Road.
Unfortunately it only has 16 spaces so you either need to get there early in the day or come later in the afternoon when people are starting to leave. I prefer to walk late in the day so I usually can find a spot if the tides are cooperating. I prefer to walk on a falling tide.
Once you get a parking spot, you still have a hike to the beach as you can see from the map of my most recent hike. The most direct hike to the least crowded part of the Point is straight out Inlet Drive through the vehicle access at the end of the street. It is still a hike of eight tenths of mile just to the southern edge of that part of the beach.
The least crowded portion of the beach is great if you want to enjoy privacy and just relax in the sun. It is not so great for playing in the waves. The water in that section is fairly deep with strong currents close to shore so if enjoying the waves is important, you are better off heading for the section marked in light blue on my map. A hike of about seven tenths of a mile will put you in that section of the beach. I like to call the whole area where people are scarce The Point Beyond The Yellow House.
Actually there is not a lot of mystery to the name. It just signifies that you are on the part of the Point without any houses directly at your back. The last house is also a yellow house. That is the simple explanation for why there are fewer people on the beach there. People tend to walk straight out from their houses to the beach. If there are no houses, there are fewer people. The only exception to the rule is from September 15 to April 30 when people are allowed to drived on the beach if they have a proper permit.
No matter where you play along the beaches, you need to remember the ocean is not a swimming pool. That is especially true at a place like the Point where the ocean currents meet the currents from Bogue Sound. You always need to be especially careful when playing in the ocean. I don’t recommend swimming in the ocean because of rip currents, but it is even important to play close attention when jumping waves. Rip currents are very dangerous.
One other bit of caution is worth mentioning. You will notice my hike which is marked in dark blue looks like I am walking on water. That is actually not the case. Google just has a hard time keeping up with Mother Nature’s movement of the sand. You can read about mapping places like the Point at my RWW web article, How To Walk On Water With Google Maps or if you want to read about sand movement on the Point, try this article, Sand Keeps Moving.
It you want the full details of enjoying the beach, try our Kindle book, “A Week At The Beach – The 2013 Emerald Isle Travel Guide.” It is only $4.99. With printable maps, lots of pictures, recipes, and a list of good restaurants, it is a deal.