I grew up going to Wrightsville Beach, mainly. I remember one summer we went to Virginia Beach, and I also remember liking it, but I think, at that time (the 80s), VA Beach had a lot of, shall we say, rejuvenating to be done, and was just not as wholesome and fun as it now truly is for families. My father had spent a summer in Wrightsville when he was a younger man, and remembered it fondly, so we went there for our next beach vacation—and nearly every one afterwards, with a few exceptions along the way.
Wrightsville is also the most accessible beach from our area, being literally at the end of the line for I40. So, it was only a matter of time until we packed the kids in for a day trip. Saturday the weather was forecast to be in the low 80s and sunny, so it was time!
I’d mentioned Wrightsville Beach a few times over the years, but truly without expecting my family to be on it anytime. The day before we went, everyone asked me what I remembered about it. I said I remembered the drawbridge, King Neptune seafood restaurant (incredibly, a search just now confirms the place still exists), being fascinated by the Geechee Shine Parlor (long since gone, not even searchable—I think Geechee is a Gullah word?), that the sand was mainly crushed shell, the USS North Carolina (and my father aiming the cannons at buildings in Wilmington for kicks), and that we liked to pretend there were unicorns in the water in the moonlight (we watched The Last Unicorn a LOT).
The sand is still the same!
The water was 82 degrees that day, warmer than average for September according to some locals we asked. The waves were also uncommonly strong, and the kids enjoyed being knocked around in some real waves. I think I spent more time in the water that afternoon than I probably did in the past decade going to Santa Cruz, where 60 is more the norm. Bunny and I went out to where the waves were cresting and enjoyed a nice long game of “Duck, Dolphin, Jump,” wherein one, uh… ducks, dolphin dives through, or jumps waves, depending on what makes sense. Paul and I also nearly dislocated our shoulders helping Cole stay up in the surf. After a while he was tired and floppy, but he wanted more, more, more. Whaddaya gonna do when your 5 year old begs for more? Yep, exhaust yourself pleasing the guy. :)
The one real lowlight of our trip was the parking situation. Every single space in Wrightsville is paid parking. Okay, fine. However, half the spaces were unavailable, covered by red “no parking” signs. Soooo, we circled a lot, then I dropped off Paul and the kids so they’d be able to go onto the beach, and then I decided, instead of randomly trying streets, I would circle the same dang loop of spaces on Salisbury until one opened. Luckily, the top of the 3rd loop around, someone pulled out and even offered up his paid parking permit good the rest of the day. Score! However, the parking really is ridiculous. I think I’ll research to see if another area on the island would be easier, since, admittedly, we did go to the most popular spot.
Some nice things about using the Salisbury public access, however, is that there are public restrooms right by, rinse-off stations, and a playground. Of course we had to spend a good while checking it out on the way back to the car at the end of the day.
A lot of playgrounds in the area seem decidedly geared towards the preschool set, so it was nice that there were more challenging features, like this climbing wall for monkey boy, and some real swings.
I don’t think anyone really needed to get any ya-ya's out after a day playing hard on the beach, but something about a playground always gives them energy, and the ride home is always better with tired kids. We need to work on the parking situation to hopefully avoid future frustrations, but overall, we’re positive on Wrightsville Beach.
Oh, and for some fun, here are a few photos my father scanned from, well, I can tell from the regrettable hair, it’s from when I was in the 7th grade. I had an asymmetrical haircut growing out that summer. I looked like that poor girl in Pretty in Pink who got her head caught in the door. Fantastic.
But hey, at least I had a head in the 80s! Apparently my father didn’t. He did, however, rock the Casio digital watch. ;)