Monday, September 14, 2009

Back Home: Vacation Report, Day 3

Sunday morning we awoke with the intention of visiting Bald Head Island, which is across from Southport, NC:

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Most of the island (Actually known as Smith Island on maps) is wilderness, but the bottom portion of it has been developed as an exclusive resort for the wealthy, with access only by a passenger/cargo ferry and by boat; no bridge goes to the island, and no cars can be found there; residents move around the developed part of the island via golf carts; there are paved golf cart paths instead of actual roads.

The passenger ferry is at Southport, and costs $15 for a round trip, running from just after sunrise to 10:30 at night.

Here's a shot from the ferry outbound toward the island:

Here's a view of some of the passengers on the upper deck with us:

After we arrived at the island, we rented a golf cart and took off on a trip around the island, with the first stop being the lighthouse:

It's possible to climb the lighthouse and view the world from the top, but neither Sara nor myself were inclined to do so. I should point out that the weather on the island was close to ideal: breezy, dry, and mild, as nice an early autumn day as you might find.

Next to the lighthouse is a chapel, which has some nice views:

After leaving the lighthouse and chapel area, we proceeded on an excursion around the island:

The beaches are remarkably clean and free from people. The houses are pretty much all built of the same materials, probably due to some sort of housing code, and have no lawns, gates or fences, from what I could see of them, they are all plopped down on what is little different than the rest of the undeveloped parts of the island, probably to comply with some sort of environmental diktat.

There are not too many public stores or other facilities on the island. One grocery store with attached cafe, two restaurant/bars, two private clubs, and gift shops at the cart rental and at the marina dockmaster's. At one of the clubs there was a croquet pitch laid out, and on the ferry ride back to Southport several men carried what appeared to be professional croquet mallets, and they talked of a tournament that had just finished up.

After perambulating the island we returned our golf cart, got some snacks at the dockmaster's, and waited for the return ferry. It was a good trip, made perfect by the wonderful weather.

After retrieving our vehicle we went looking for lunch, and decided to eat at the pizza restaurant which was part of Bella Cucina, where we had eaten Saturday night. The informal pizzeria and the more formal Bella Cucina appear to share the same kitchen, so you can get some of the same foods cheaper by ordering them on the pizzeria side of the business. Our pizza was crunchy and flavorful. I should point out that we managed to avoid eating in any fast food or chain restaurants during the entire three days on the coast, and didn't really suffer for the lack.

After a nap at the hotel for me and some computer time for Sara, we headed out toward Sunset Beach, the only beach we had yet to check out on our trip. We discovered that a new bridge was being built, and a temporary bridge had been erected to serve until the new one was completed:

I had, as has become my custom, prepared a Message In A Bottle to throw off of the fishing pier, and I did so, although I'm not really confident that this one would travel far. I may find out that it was found on Sunset Beach only a day or two after I tossed it off of the pier.

Here's Sunset Beach, as seen from the pier:

After tossing the bottle and exploring the island, we headed back toward the bridge. We discovered that traffic to or from the island can only flow in one direction at a time, and that the road traffic halts for fifteen minutes every hour to allow boats to pass through the Intracoastal Waterway. So, a bit of a delay before we went on our way.

We headed south along the coast to Calabash, where Sara showed me some of her favorite seafood restaurants. Neither of us was in the mood for seafood, though, so we gave Calabash a bye and went looking for steaks. We found them back in Shallotte at Jerome's, where we both had ribeyes, Sara a puny 9-ounce one, and me a jumbo 18-ounce slab. Full of beef, we headed back to the hotel.

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