Why does Holden Beach get so many awards? Time and again, this small seaside town in Brunswick County, North Carolina has been identified as one of the very best family-oriented beaches in America by media outlets including such well-known sources as National Geographic Traveler magazine and USA Today.
Just last month Stephen P. Leatherman, known as “Dr. Beach” for the list of America’s top 10 beaches that he’s released annually for more than twenty years, told American Profile magazine that the island is the “best family beach” in the United States. “When I look at family beaches, safety is a very big issue,” Leatherman says, and as both traffic and crime are minimal, Holden Beach’s natural beauty and charms can flourish undisturbed.
So what’s the deal with Holden Beach, and why does Dr. Beach continually recommend it by name to his more than ten million readers?
Located on a tiny barrier island that’s part of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands chain, Holden beach is in many ways a throwback to a bygone era when going to the shore meant relaxation and reconnecting with nature rather than reveling in the Vegas-like atmosphere that seems to be overtaking many popular beach towns these days. You’d be hard-pressed to find a neon sign or a crowd of rowdy drunks spilling out of a bar in Holden Beach – the town itself is mostly residential, with a population well under 1,000, and building restrictions of 35 feet in height mean that no high-rises towers exist here to block the spectacular views of sunrise and sunset over the ocean that the island’s southern orientation make possible.
In short, the combination of small-town charm and unspoiled natural beauty seems to account for the perennial popularity of Holden Beach. The friendly locals and a general feeling of old-school, yester-year beach vacationing seem to draw many families looking for an old-fashioned beach experience without the crowds and noise of more built-up areas. But that’s not to say the island doesn’t have an excellent selection of stores and restaurants – it does, and as the “downtown” area is situated right on the coastal highway, you can even access “downtown” by boat or kayak!
Dealing with children on vacation can be a headache for parents just looking to relax and unwind, but Holden Beach would probably never have been voted “Best Family Beach” if there wasn’t plenty to do with your kids. If children tire of the fine, soft sand and comfortably temperate waters of the beach, there’s always the chance to wade and explore the tidal pools near Lockwood’s inlet, where low tide brings a fascinating array of marine life within arm’s reach on a daily basis. Waterslides, bumper cars and miniature golf just minutes away on the Mainland don’t hurt, either!
While adults will of course appreciate the natural beauty of Holden Beach, they’ll be doubly grateful for the vast selection of charming hotels, inns, B&B’s, and affordable rental homes available on the island and in the immediately surrounding area. The Brunswick Islands are home to forts, lighthouses, historic architecture, boating, fishing, and more than 30 golf courses, so it’s unlikely that anyone will be getting bored when they vacation here. In fact, leaving Holden beach may very well be the hardest part of the entire experience!
Image by Carly & Art