We found a campground near Sunset Beach and Ocean Isle Beach called Brunswick Beaches Camping Resort. It turned out to be very nice - our sites were right near a river, close enough to the bathhouse and pool, and had a bit of shade from a few large trees. Speaking of the bathhouse - it was probably the nicest bathhouse I've ever seen at a campground - very nice and well kept showers and restroom facilities. We could fish on the river right near the campsite, and we were only a short drive to the nearest grocery store. Plus the beaches were less than 10 miles away!
Brunswick Beaches Camping Resort, Shallotte, NC
We set up camp Friday night and cooked dinner over the campfire with all the kids. Saturday morning we headed down to Ocean Isle Beach to visit The Museum of Coastal Carolina (you know, indoor, air conditioned fun for a few hours). All of our kids enjoyed it - and we had six with us between the ages of 2 and 7.
Museum of Coastal Carolina, Ocean Isle Beach, NC
From there, we headed down the coast to Myrtle Beach to kill a few hours. It was over 90 degrees this weekend and the heat and humidity was almost too much to handle outdoors for extended amounts of time. We drove around Myrtle, and ended up at Broadway at the Beach. We made instant plans to return the next day to visit the Ripley's Aquarium when we had more time! We ate lunch (and sat inside in the air conditioning) at Shucker's Raw Bar where the kids could walk around the upstairs, play games, and cool down. We even tried an Oyster shooter (a raw oyster, cocktail sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and tabasco sauce in a shot glass topped with beer)...and survived.
Ripley's Aquarium, Myrtle Beach, SC
We learned that when the canopy has the option to be staked down to the ground to prevent it from blowing over...it is probably (okay, definitely) a good idea to actually stake it down. A short afternoon thunderstorm blew through our campground on Sunday afternoon, and our canopy fell on top of our tent...which resulted in the tent collapsing and everything inside getting soaked with rain water. Whoops. Lesson learned.
Thanks to smart phones and credit cards, we found a hotel nearby that had a vacancy for Sunday night, and we all ended up packing up our (wet) camp and moving to The Comfort Inn for the night. Maybe I should have been more disappointed that our three night camping adventure was cut short to two nights...but the hotel, with beds to sleep in, air conditioning, a bathroom in the room, and a hot breakfast in the morning, felt incredibly luxurious. Especially after two hot and sweaty nights in a tent with kids.
Before we left town, we made certain to visit the beach. The locals all seemed to think Ocean Isle Beach was better to visit than Sunset Beach, so we parked near the putt-putt course (for free!) and walked across the street to the public beach entrance. The kids loved it! My little one was too young to remember the last time they were at the ocean, so it was extra fun watching her learn how to balance and try to stay on her feet in the waves and surf.
Ocean Isle Beach, NC