Just 25 minutes south of downtown Wilmington is a somewhat different, lesser-known beach experience than Wrightsville
Beach. Pleasure Island (a barrier island, just a narrow inlet separating it from the mainland) is home to Carolina
Beach, Kure Beach and Ft. Fisher. Kure Beach is worth a visit for a taste of what a typical vacation at the beach
was like thirty, forty, fifty years ago.
The first thing you should know about Kure Beach is that it ain't nothin' fancy. You want to do it posh? Head elsewhere.
But for a bona fide blue-collar vacation spot, Kure's your place.
First off, no chains - no chain restaurants, no chain hotels, no chain retail at all (except for the gas). The
motels are all small mom-and-pop establishments; there are dozens of them, most similarly priced (most all under
a hundred a night during the Memorial Day-Labor Day season, half that during the off-season), most providing kitchenette
options, most with pools, most perfectly clean - just not fancy. The Kure
Keys has a sauna. Hidden Treasure is a unique Inn located on a quiet side street, 2 blocks from downtown Kure Beach. Each of their 4 units has a private entrance to a shaded brick patio. All rooms are
non-smoking (anywhere outside is fine). The efficiency kitchens are fully
equipped. All units have a/c, cable color TV, refrigerator, microwave, and coffee maker and the property is run by Nancy Salerno in a hospitable way that seems to turn customers into friends. There is a pool too. (You can e-mail nancy at firstname.lastname@example.org).
For a very comfortable Kure experience, make a reservation at the Palm Air Cottages, run by the ultra-accommodating
Ea Ruth and Anne Brodsky, located in the heart of the town, across the street from the beach, a block from the
famous Kure Beach Pier, and within a half-dozen blocks of a goodly collection of restaurants, ice-cream
stands, beach-accouterment rentals, souvenir shops (nothing like a beach-town souvenir shop for wacky T-shirt designs,
snow globes and a wide variety of generally priceless/useless items) and the aforementioned Citgo.
Kure Beach, and next-door Carolina Beach, were popular vacations destinations for servicemen and their families during WW II, and as such were among the first integrated beaches in the South. Kure remains zoned such that no
building can be over three stories high, which adds to the throwback appeal of the place. And the beach itself
-- as in, the sand - is wide, well-kept and kid-friendly. This is good Southern summertime-and-the-livin'-is-easy
family fun. Not that there's no excitement to be had. In the summer, most every night, two blocks up from the pier, a church
camp puts on an outdoor combination puppet-human show (it's kind of hard to describe) with an inspirational message,
well worth visiting.
Then of course there's the state aquarium at Ft. Fisher. The antique shops of Southport are just a ferry trip away too.
And the second weekend of October is the Pleasure Island Seafood, Blues & Jazz Festival, two days of
music, lots of stuff to buy and some really good food.
But for the best dining experience to be had in the vicinity, head back the three miles to Carolina Beach, to Michael's
Seafood. Michael's is situated in its new expanded location at the foot of the bridge to the mainland (if you
hit the bridge, you've gone too far). Here's what I get at Michael's: a cold beverage. Then, a cup of Michael's
consistently award-winning Captain M's Seafood Chowder. Then, a green salad with a big piece of fish on it, selected
from among the catches of the day, perhaps tuna or mahi-mahi; this is a salad that's fully a meal. Michael's is,
of course, very casual, family friendly, and you can catch a game there on the tube as well.
And you know that if you decide that Kure Beach is just a little too quiet for you, Wilmington is right up the road. After a night on the town the quietness of Kure Beach may seem more appealing.
See also: Wilmington , Ocracoke, Wrightsville Beach, Outerbanks, Southport