Last week we were on vacation (reason for not posting) and I didn’t want to let folks know we wouldn’t be home so I didn’t announce beforehand…
Each year my parents rent a house in Emerald Isle, NC. It’s about a two hour drive from our home and although we live just 30 minutes from the beach in southeastern NC, the Crystal Coast is like being in a totally different place. This year, the crew staying at the house included my parents, our family, my mom’s father and mother, my aunt (mom’s sister) and cousin (her daughter), my two youngest brothers and their girlfriends. Yes, everyone had a bed! My other brother and his wife and daughter live about an hour from the beach and because he is a Marine who can’t just take time off at will, he was able to make a couple of day trips.
Our trips each year are a little bit different. This year, because our kids are not so scared of the ocean, we spent most of our time on the actual beach and had a great time.
The Crystal Coast consists of the towns of Emerald Isle, Pine Knoll Shores, Salter Path, Indian Beach and Atlantic Beach which are all on the same island and the inland towns of Cedar Point, Morehead City and Beaufort (which in NC is pronounced Bow-fort with a long o sound like a girl and her Beau). There is a lot to do without it being too much like Coney Island or the Jersey Shore :). There is the usual miniature golf, go-karts, piers, great restaurants, shopping and a Civil War Fort.
Each year we try to do one thing different (and when I say “we” I am referring to Jeff, myself and our kids). This year we made a day trip to Aurora, NC and the Fossil Museum there. You can find out more about the museum here. It was an hour and a half each direction, but it was totally worth it for us. The museum is small, but we loved it. Aurora is a very small town like so many in NC that to look at it would seem in decline, but the museum is bringing in tourists (a few, but it’s a start) and hopefully it will make a rebound. Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan (PCS) runs phosphate mines in Aurora and is the major employer. In the mines, tons of prehistoric fossils have been found as well as all around the Crystal Coast area. Many are from sharks. In fact, the whole first room of the museum is dedicated to shark fossils. There is a rather large shark head (man-made) jutting from the wall when you enter. Joey loves sharks but he ran screaming the other direction. Jeff had to run in with him. We were able to compare jaws of the modern day great white shark with prehistoric ones. The sizes of these sharks were MASSIVE.
A Modern Day Great White Shark’s set of jaws
The next room included marine mammal fossils including an entire pre-historic whale skeleton.
It also included a giant shark mouth that you could pose for pictures in and quite a few shells in perfect condition.
The final room in the main building was artifacts from the native Pamlico peoples. Lots of cooking utensils, bowls and arrowheads. There was also a collection of Mayan artifacts donated to the museum (and brought to the US legally). My favorite of the Mayan artifacts were alligator and turtle whistles and a pregnant figurine.
There is a whole other building, the museum’s learning center that we were not able to tour because we were pressing our luck with Shelby. They also have an area where you can dig for your own fossils which we did enjoy. We found some prehistoric coral, some shells and a few shark’s teeth.
Because we still have another whole building to explore, we can’t wait to go back ;).
We also enjoyed a great day at the Atlantic Beach park. The park is on land owned by the city that used to be part of a grocery store parking lot area. We enjoyed take out lunch from the Big Oak Drive In under the beautiful oak trees.
The trees are gnarled from years of exposure to salt, sand and hurricanes. It is truly magical to sit under their canopy.
There is also a small playground there for kids to play on.
We have made the visit to the park an annual event.
We didn’t spend as much time in either Morehead City or Beaufort as in years past, but we love living so close that we can make a weekend trip to either.
We hope to eventually allow the kids to go Fort Macon. We attempted this once when I was about seven months pregnant with Will and Joey was under 2…let’s just put it this way, we should have heeded the warning on the sign at the Fort’s entrance:
(this pic was taken Valentine’s Day 2010)
For a week every year we get precious time to make these memories and we love the area and all it has to offer. We can’t wait for beach week next year…and hopefully a few short trips in between!