My kids have always loved the beach, but we hadn’t been since we moved from Los Angeles to Columbus, Ohio almost two years ago. So obviously, we were eager to get back. My mom and her husband have family who have a beach rental in North Topsail, NC and we were lucky enough to book the home a year in advance and have twelve months to look forward to returning to the beach. Booking so far in advance did lock us in, and unfortunately my husband had a job opportunity come up where he would have to be back in Los Angeles for three weeks, with our planned vacation falling right smack in the middle of his time away. But since my mom and her husband and my brother and nephew were all planned to meet us in Topsail I decided to take the boys on my own.
My boys were so excited to get to the beach that we had to go straight into the ocean at 5 pm! Luckily our rental house was right on the beach so we could have beach time easily whenever we wanted. Having a home right on the beach was definitely the most convenient way to vacation with kids. We didn’t need to haul one million things down to the beach, we could go back to the house for lunch and bathroom visits, and take a midday nap break for the younger kids.
The kids’ favorite activity was just playing in the ocean. Quincy also loved digging in the sand and Charlie was obsessed with collecting shells. We also flew kites one morning, caught fish with little nets and collected them in our beach buckets to see who could catch the most (I won, but I split my fish among the boys’ buckets to keep the competition close), and hunted for ghost crabs one evening. We went on lots of treasure walks to collect shells and hunt for shark teeth (I found 10 and Charlie found 2!).
After a few days at the beach we all needed a “surf, sun, and sand break” so we did a little day trip down to Carolina Beach for the morning and Wilmington for the afternoon. Carolina Beach Boardwalk is a really cute little area full of pastel and amusements and it has an arcade. We didn’t realize the amusement rides don’t open until the evening but we were plenty entertained by the arcade and snacked on delicious warm donuts from Britt’s Donut Shop.
We headed up to Wilmington after lunch and walked around the Riverwalk and had ice cream at Kilwin’s (soooo good!). It was a really hot day and we stumbled upon The Museum of the Bizarre and decided to go inside and take a break from the heat. I had read about the place doing a bit of research on Wilmington and it seemed family-friendly on their website. It was definitely bizarre — they have curated a collection of some really crazy stuff. Some of it is not appropriate for young kids (like the collection of letters from serial killers) but other stuff is just weird and freaky and cool. The stuff that was inappropriate was over their heads and not something they noticed anyways. There is a maze of mirrors and a laser obstacle course room that they thought was fun. If you like weird and bizarre things — or if you need a place to beat the heat for an hour — this place is worth a visit.
We didn’t make it to the Children’s Museum of Wilmington or the Fort Fisher Aquarium, but I’ve heard wonderful things about both. I also hope to see more of the historic district and to do a bit of shopping next time I visit.
Was taking my kids to the beach without my partner easy? Definitely not. I did have grandparent and uncle help, but when you’re the only parent you take on all of the stress and mental labor of vacationing with kids. But was all of the stress and exhaustion and hard work worth it? Absolutely. My boys made so many wonderful memories with each other, with their cousin, and their uncle and grandparents; and also with me. It is a trip I’ll never forget and I’m proud of myself for doing it.
If you are looking for a quiet, family-friendly place to vacation I highly recommend Topsail Island. When you rent a beach house on the beach you are also getting your own beach! There’s no need to get down early to get a spot. We set up our canopy each day and played until we were ready for a break (usually lunchtime). You have all the comforts of home (I had my own bedroom and bathroom), we saved money because we ate our meals at home, we could do laundry — it was an ideal way to do a beach trip with kids.
We loved our rental and I would highly recommend it — you can find it here. There are 5 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms, so it is perfect for a group/multi-family trip.
I’m really looking forward to making this trip again someday — but next time, with my whole family!