Archived Outdoors

Serendipitous beach trip

out natcornConscientious, detailed vacation planning; anticipating the “what ifs” and having contingency plans; route planning and hashing out all the logistics can surely make that extended vacation a lot smoother and more relaxing. But sometimes that out of the blue, spur-of-the-moment retreat can be just what the doctor ordered.


Last Monday I received an email from my sister who lives in Rock Hill, S.C. She noted that my other sister from Houston was coming for a visit. They had plans to rendezvous in Charleston, where they would catch my niece, Haley, in a couple of plays during Spoleto and then they were heading up the coast to Holden Beach. She said there was room and wondered if we would like to come. Let’s see, family, free lodging and an ocean across the street — yep, we’re in.

Sure, it’s a whirlwind trip; six and a half hours in the car Friday morning and six and a half hours back Sunday afternoon; would it be worth it? The girls are old enough now (11 and 7) that with just a little diversion in the car they can hang for 6 to 8 hours without getting too antsy. And it’s the beach so swimsuits, shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops and you’re all packed. We had one little glitch — I had to work Thursday night, but that was an easy hurdle. The girls showed up, all packed, at 7 a.m. when I got off work — my bride took the wheel and we were on the road.

I woke up about three and a half hours later and we were on I-20 east of Columbia, S.C., headed for the beach. About three hours more and we were crossing the Intercoastal Waterway to Holden Beach.

The island was bought in 1756 by Benjamin Holden along with about 400 acres of mainland. The Holdens ran cattle on the island and used it for a family fishing playground. The Holden Beach area became the resting ground of several Civil War ships. The wreckage of the USS Iron Age can still be seen from the eastern end of the island during low tide.

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Benjamin Holden’s grandson John started a commercial fishery on the island and in 1924 surveyed a small section called the Holden Beach Resort, which was the first subdivision of beach property in Brunswick County.

The southern belles were having a leisurely morning in Charleston and we got to the beach before them. Since we didn’t have a key for the house, we donned our swimsuits and headed for the ocean. It was just past high tide and healthy breakers were rolling right up to the beach. We played in the surf until my sisters arrived and then went back to the house for boogie boards, and back to the beach. A dock on the canal behind the house provided the perfect platform for Izzy and Maddie to catch crabs and dip minnows and shrimp. By eight o’clock Saturday morning the mermaids were back in the ocean.

Holden is a nice beach for ocean fun. Sand and sea are clean and pretty and there are nice breakers during high tide. An island-wide 35-foot height limit for all buildings ensures no high-rises and their obligatory restaurants and shops. While the majority of the homes are rentals, it still gives the beach a community-feel. One has to go back across to the mainland for most shopping/dining choices.

Sandwiched between six and a half hours of driving on Friday morning and Sunday afternoon was a full and two half-days of family and pure ocean bliss — a good trade off in my book any day.

(Don Hendershot is a writer and naturalist. He can be reached a This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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