Family Vacation on the NC Coast

Last time we went on a family vacation, it was to Tybee Island. This time, the crew was different: LacyDog stayed with my mom and her dog Mocha; Lindsey is living on her own; and of course we didn’t even know about the newest family members during our last vacation! We chose a different location, too, because I’ve always wanted to visit the North Carolina coast.

family vacation

I was unplugged other than instagram this trip (which was lovely!) and did not even bring my big camera, so these are almost all iPhone pics.

You know, it’s funny: I was hoping to create some good memories during this family vacation, and we did that — but I’m realizing yet again how much we learn when we’re not even trying to, and that’s pretty awesome.

Island bicycle riding

One of the things I most looked forward to was spending time on my pretty blue bike where I could ride without the brutal hills around our neighborhood. It was fantastic. We rode every day, always in the morning, and sometimes in the afternoon, too. Kathryn and I would bike up to the coffee shop first thing, and Ken would come along after with the kids since Scout is still learning to ride and is therefore slower than molasses. {My husband has the patience of Job.}

bicycling on the island

I bought myself a new hat; it’s my beach-souvenier thing, apparently, as you’ll see my Tybee hat and my new hat both making appearances in these photos. This one, though, I bought as inspiration. The name of the coffeehouse we frequented is the Flying Pig, named such because when the owner told folks she’d like to move to the beach and open a coffee shop, they said, “When pigs fly!”  She opened shop 12 years ago.

So I got myself a Flying Pig hat — because I’m learning to dream big dreams, and if her pig can fly, then maybe mine can, too.

Oak Island Lighthouse

Although the lighthouse was closed for tours this time of year, we drove over to that end of the island to see it, partly so the kids could see how much bigger it is than what it looks like from far away, and of course I suggested Ken set up a self timer for a photo op. 😉

We may not have toured the lighthouse, but we did complete the NC Coastal Lights puzzle during our morning visits to the Flying Pig!


Beach fun!

Neither of the little ones had ever been to the ocean so this was all kinds of new and exciting! Kathryn taught them the finer arts of sand castle building, they collected some sea shells, and played in the waves. We saw dolphins, fishing boats, all sorts of birds, a shark rather close to shore one evening, and some beautiful sunsets.

playing at the beach

Ken took Kathryn out after the kids were in bed one night to see the Milky Way. She’s the astronomer of the family, and he’s long been wanting to photograph the Milky Way, so they both loved it. {Ken’s photo below.}

Milky Way by Ken Worley

Ferry ride + Aquarium visit

We have passes to the Georgia Aquarium this year, since oceanography is our homeschool focus, but we didn’t want to miss an opportunity to visit the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. To get to the aquarium, we could’ve driven about an hour from where we were staying — but we learned there was a ferry to take us across. None of us had been on a ferry before, so the Volvo and the family went on an adventure together. {There are two identical ferries; in this photo, we’re on one while the other one goes the opposite direction.}

Fort Fisher ferry

The NC Aquarium is much smaller than the Ga Aquarium, of course, but the staff was wonderful and we enjoyed our visit. The kids got to touch different animals than we ever have before, including horseshoe crabs, bamboo sharks, and anemones. But our favorite part of the visit wasn’t even aquatic; it was the butterfly house, a temporary exhibit ending this month.

NC Aquarium

Lunch date in Southport

One afternoon, Kathryn volunteered to hang out with the littles so Ken and I could have a few hours to ourselves. {She rocks!} While they watched Finding Nemo, we had a lunch date where we enjoyed good food, breeze + salt air, sail boats going by on the Intracoastal Waterway — and actual uninterrupted conversation. After lunch, we walked around the town (cutest EVER), let an old fisherman take our picture like the tourists we were, and perused a few shops (where I found my new bird friends).

lunch date in Southport

Later that evening, we celebrated the kids’ one-year adoption anniversary with pizza. We decided pizza will be our “thing” since we went out for pizza right before we went to the courthouse on their adoption day.

Kayaking a blackwater river

Although I enjoyed everything we did on our trip, I think my favorite was our kayak excursion on our last day. It was a bit of a splurge for us all to go, but we’d never done it and I love a [relatively safe] adventure. The weather was iffy, and I didn’t want to be two miles down a river when a lightning storm came, but it turned out perfect. Even our never-sit-still child behaved well, which made it much more enjoyable for the one [me] who had her in the kayak. {Mom confession: I may have threatened dire consequences for any wiggling that might cause a kayak to flip into that swampy water.}


Hello, homeschool-on-vacation learning!

We paddled more than two miles into a blackwater swamp-ish creek, and of course, back out again. I learned that the tannic acid (also found in tea: awesome!) that makes the water look black is also mosquito-proof. Seriously, we spent three hours in a swamp and there were literally zero mosquitoes. {I’m in the blue kayak.}

kayak blackwater river

We saw turtles and owls and ibises. We saw gar jumping, but thankfully none jumped into the kayaks with us. {Apparently that’s a thing.} We heard alligators but did not see any, and I was rather surprisingly disappointed about that since I’d been near panic the night before thinking about the possibility of kayaking with alligators.

kayak family

I cannot rave enough about our guide. If you ever find yourself in the Southport area wanting to kayak, Jeff of Lighthouse Watersports is your guy. It’s obvious he loves what he does. Kathryn said it was clear he was made for that job, and that’s an inspiration in itself. He’s very knowledgeable about the history and ecology of the area, thoroughly answered our questions, volunteered all sorts of interesting information, showed as much respect to the little kids as to the adults, and generally made the whole experience delightful. Oh, and he took these photos for us, too!

So someday, when I live in a cottage near the sea, I want a kayak. 😉


I’m going to be linking up this week with Kris and Mary.