Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Travel Video News Rates its Top Ten Beaches for Sun, Surf & Solitude

It is always good to see Carova Beach competing with other elite beaches. Below is the full article from Travel Video TV:

Top 10 US beaches to mix sun, surf and solitude
Seeking out sun, surf, and sand is an easy enough task, but is it possible to stir seclusion into the mix, too? Our editors say “shore”! We’ve dug deep into our arsenal of secret sands to present our top picks for secluded U.S. beaches, where quiet coasts invite in-the-know sunbathers to savor their relative solitude. Sure, some of these destinations are fairly remote (some even require off-the-path travel to offshore islets), but some of the most isolated shores are right under beachgoers’ noses, in popular stateside spots like Florida, California, and Hawaii. You’ll just have to plan a visit soon – while these semi-private sands remain undiscovered for the moment, the cat’s officially out of the bag.

Enderts Beach, California

Living as long as 2,000 years and growing as high as 35 stories, the imposing old-growth redwoods that make up Northern California’s Redwoods National Park tend to overshadow the region’s sublimely secluded U.S. beaches and coastline, which are separated from the lush forest by wide swaths of sand and marsh. That doesn’t bother the birds and occasional sunbathers at Enderts Beach, an idyllic stretch surrounded by wildflower-carpeted bluffs. The half-mile walk from the parking lot, about 500 feet above sea level, down to the driftwood-strewn beach is rewarded with bracing breezes and dramatic views of the Pacific and its denizens (migrating whales can be spotted in March and April), with nary a human in sight. Once you hit the sand, send the kids off on a ranger-guided tide pool walk or pitch a tent at the Nickel Creek campground and spend the night in this land of giants.

Bowman’s Beach, Florida

The secret’s out about the beauty of Sanibel Island’s linen-white sand beaches – situated about 25 miles southwest of Fort Myers, Florida – so you won’t be alone in searching for a stretch of a secluded U.S. beach to call your own. But that’s just what you’ll get when you leave your car and make the quarter-mile walk to Bowman’s Beach, Sanibel’s most peaceful place. The island is well-known as one of the best shelling spots in the country, but you’ll find little competition here. There’s minimal development and ditto on amenities – though Bowman’s does have one perk not found on any other beach on Sanibel: barbecue grills.

Carova Beach, North Carolina

This barrier beach covers the upper stretches of the Outer Banks, North Carolina, and is the most undeveloped of an already spartan beach chain. Part of what keeps the region mellow is the lack of paved roads, with Highway 12 stopping north of Corolla. Four-wheel drive is a must, as the only route to these secluded U.S. beaches is a ride on the sand or a primitive system of dirt roads connecting vacation homes in the wooded interior. Drive slowly to see the wild horses (some are descendants of shipwrecked Spanish mustangs) that roam the protected dunes.

Cumberland Island, Georgia

This protected National Seashore in Georgia (it’s also designated a United Nations International Biosphere Reserve) has been an in-demand getaway and secluded U.S. beach since the late 19th century, when the Carnegies used it as a family retreat. In the 1970s, the civic-minded family fought to protect the powder-smooth sand from high-rise developments, making it possible for beachcombers to enjoy the wild horses, armadillos, and sea turtles that call the island home. These days, the National Park Service limits the number of day visitors and campers to just 300 per day, but if you stay at the luxurious Greyfield Inn – built in 1900 by the Carnegies, and the island’s only hotel – you’ll get unlimited access to a 1,000-foot-wide band of sand that stretches for miles.

Dry Tortugas, Florida

Accessible only via boat, Florida’s Dry Tortugas are a seven-island cluster in the Gulf of Mexico with excellent reef snorkeling, swimming, and bird and marine life spotting opportunities. The isolated national park will take some planning to get to – a couple of catamaran operators make the 5-hour round-trip journey from Key West, a worthwhile splurge that includes a tour of Fort Jefferson (an unfinished 1846 fortress that encompasses half a mile and has 50-foot walls), snorkeling gear, breakfast, and buffet lunch. To enjoy crowd-free time on one of the top secluded U.S. beaches, reserve one of the limited overnight camping spots; it requires packing all essentials, though, including drinking water.

Kaihalulu, Hawaii

A hard-to-find location, dangerous surf, and a treacherous cliff-hugging path down to the shore make Kaihalulu, also known as Red Sand Beach, one of the top secluded U.S. beaches indeed – and off limits to all but the most adventurous. South of Maui’s Hana Bay on the far side of Ka’uiki Hill, this reddish Hawaiian cove – the product of an eroded volcanic cinder cone – is surrounded by tall black cliffs and lined with green ironwood trees. While the strong Pacific currents are somewhat tamed, thanks to a rocky lava seawall that acts as a natural barrier against the surf, swimming is still risky as the jagged rock wall can be as dangerous as it is protective. All the same, the striking sight of the stretch of red-and-black sand set against the turquoise blue lagoon, and guarded by the black rock barrage, make the trip here worth it. Come early in the morning for the utmost isolation.

Orient Beach State Park, New York

Long Island’s (in New York) amazing beaches are no secret, but there are still a few places for those seeking secluded U.S. beaches to get away from the crowds and spread out their blankets in the sand. Delightfully desolate Orient Beach State Park, on the tip of the island’s North Fork, has a 300-foot sandy stretch and plenty of amenities like a playground, picnic area, and barbecue grills. Head out for a family-friendly guided hike of the thick forest and marshes that border the beach and keep an eye out for the resident ospreys. Bike and kayak rentals are also available to help you explore on your own.

Point Bennett, California

Pods of bottlenose dolphins vault through the air as your boat approaches San Miguel in the Channel Islands National Park, better known as North America’s Galapagos. Point Bennett, at the westernmost tip, is one of the Channel Islands’ most secluded U.S. beaches and as far from Southern California freeway culture as you can get. In addition to seasonally pupped pinnipeds (seals and sea lions), the islands are home to some 2,000 species of plants and animals, 145 of which are found nowhere else on the planet. Ferries run from Ventura, a quintessential California coastal town teeming with trendy eateries and lounges (don’t miss the bustling roof deck and fresh California fare at the Watermark on Main), antique shops, and quirky bed-and-breakfasts around its revitalized Main Street; its scenic harbor is also the site of the Channel Islands’ Visitor Center.

Roque Bluffs, Maine

Getting to Roque Bluffs is half the fun. From Route 1 in Machias, Maine, follow Roque Bluff Road for 6 miles, past lobster-trap-scattered blueberry barrens, dense stands of boreal fir trees, and finally through a thicket of fragrant beach roses, where you’ll access one of the state’s hidden gems (and one of the most secluded U.S. beaches). The park consists of a freshwater kettle pond and an ocean-facing pebble beach, both of which provide pristine but chilly swimming (thanks to the Labrador Current). Facilities include picnic tables, grills, changing rooms, and bathrooms, but the real draw is the solitude of the beach and the pure cobalt waters on Englishman’s Bay.

Sandbridge Beach, Virginia

Only 15 miles south of the busy Virginia Beach resort area, Sandbridge Beach seems a world away, offering a peaceful haven of golden Atlantic-fronted sands in an area dubbed the “Outer Banks of Virginia.” Stretch out on 5 miles of secluded U.S. beaches, marked by pristine sand dunes and surf-worthy waves (surfing instruction can be arranged). Nearby, opt to rent a kayak for exploration of the adjacent Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which consists of beaches, woodlands, and marshlands occupying 9,000 acres, or cast a rod at the fisherman’s paradise that is False Cape, a gorgeous, mile-wide barrier straddling Back Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Currituck Tourism having a great year so far

I get a lot of calls seeing how the rental market is doing. Below is a very good snapshot into how 2010 is shaping up by the Daily Advance's Cindy Beamon:

By Cindy Beamon
Staff Writer

The signs are good. Vacation homes are booked. Weekend traffic toward the Outer Banks creeps along, a frustration for motorists no doubt but a positive omen for business owners remembering last year’s disappointing season.

As the peak of the tourist season shows promise, the only spoiler could be the unpredictable — a tropical storm or the unmentionable something worse.

Currituck Tourism Director Diane Nordstrom said the heavy traffic is a good indicator that tourism on the Outer Banks is returning to normal. Vacation bookings are also looking up. Last year, vacationers could wait for a better deal by delaying their plans. This year, vacationers who wait are missing out. Most vacation homes and hotel accommodations are near capacity, Nordstrom said.

One case in point, said Nordstrom, was the call she received from a frantic vacationer after his plans fell through for a private rental. He needed accommodations for 19 and had only a couple weeks to make the arrangements. Last year, he would have been more fortunate. This year, he went through a list of the big rental companies and found nothing.

Vacation rental companies say those who wait to reserve vacation homes risk losing out.

For hotels, vacationers are continuing to reserve rooms at record rates, said Jeff Tack, general manager for the Hampton Inn in Corolla.

“We’re having a fantastic, record-setting year,” Tack said.

Since early spring, the 123-room hotel has filled 119 to 120 rooms every night, he said.

Tack said the hotel did well last year as vacationers opted for shorter, less-expensive vacations. This year is even better, although there is a difference, he said. Instead of Porsches and Mercedes in the parking lot, like last year, the Hampton Inn is back to accommodating more of its regular clientele. The average stay is about three or four days, Tack said.

Only one thing could spoil the good season: bad weather and more particularly, Tropical Storm Colin which threatens to move toward the East Coast by Sunday. Hotel guests are already concerned, although projections track the hurricane making landfall closer to South Carolina and Georgia.

Ross Twiddy, director of marketing for Twiddy Realty, said a storm has the potential of ruining a good season so far.

“If it’s a quiet storm season, I think it’s going to be a great year for the Outer Banks,” Twiddy said.

Vacation bookings got off to a slow start this spring, but have picked up dramatically in the summer months. As long as the weather remains clear, the season should be the best it’s been in two years, a welcome relief from previous years when a downturn in the national economy scared away vacationers.

“It’s a strong season, and it looks to continue into late August and September,” Twiddy said.

Rentals for 2010 are already better than 2009 with bookings at or near 100 percent. For next weekend, Twiddy’s company has rented 880 vacation homes at 100 percent capacity. Only 15 rental homes are open for the next week, and the rest of the month looks just as promising.

One of the positive indicators that tourism is on the upswing has been the traffic snarls that Twiddy calls a “cursed blessing.”

Highway Patrol Sergeant Tony Parrish said heavy traffic has been the cause of several fender-benders, particularly over the weekend. Last weekend, the highway patrol responded to 14 collisions in Currituck. Since early July, the Highway Patrol has responded to seven to 11 collisions each weekend.

Parrish said the Highway Patrol has increased its presence on N.C. Highway 168 and U.S. Highway 158 in response to this season’s heavy traffic.

At this week’s Currituck commissioners meeting, Chairman Paul O’Neal said he was caught in bumper-to-bumper traffic from the Wright Memorial to Coinjock last weekend.

“It’s just like old times again,” O’Neal said, referring to the heavy traffic before the downturn.

Although vacation bookings are up, the health of retail sales remains uncertain, Nordstrom said.

The best indicator will come in three months when county sales tax receipts are available, she said.

For vacationers this season, the best advice Janice Farr, vice president of Sun Realty, offers is not to wait to book that vacation.

For rental home owners and all the other businesses that benefit from the tourism industry, everyone is keeping their fingers crossed for a strong finish to a good year.

“A few more weeks to go with no weather events, and we’ll be happy,” Farr said.

Corolla Charter School not selected but not giving up.

Despite making the final round, the Water's Edge Village School was not selected by the State for charter but the group remains optimistic about getting the school up and running. Below is an article from the Daily Advance's Kristin Pitts:

By Kristin Pitts
Staff Writer
Saturday, August 7, 2010
They didn’t get the State Board of Education’s approval on Thursday, but supporters of the Water’s Edge Village School aren’t giving up just yet.

The Corolla-based proposed charter school made it to the final round of consideration, but ultimately lost its bid to become the state’s 100th and final charter school.

Instead, the state board granted preliminary approval to Union Independent School in Durham.

In an interview Friday, Water’s Edge president Meghan Agresto called Union Independent a “very deserving school,” adding that the board’s votes went primarily to schools like the one in Durham that were already up and running.

“What we’re getting just from their vote is that they’re not funding the dreamers, and that’s OK,” Agresto said. “We don’t think of ourselves as dreamers. We think of ourselves as people who had an idea, see a need, and are going to fill a need. There’s an under-served population here and we’ll do what it takes to get a school started.”

Agresto says that the group’s next step will be to talk with Currituck County Schools Superintendent Meghan Doyle. Following that conversation, the group will meet with parents and community members.

Agresto says Water’s Edge backers are not exactly certain what the future holds, but that she wouldn’t be surprised if the school becomes a reality within the next year.

“If in 2011 in September we have a school up and running, I won’t be surprised,” she said. “We are an active bunch with a vision and a mission and we are moving toward it. It might not happen, but I’m not going to be surprised if we manage to get it to happen.”

Whether the funding for the school comes from grants, public or private funds remains to be seen, Agresto said.

The idea of creating Water’s Edge originated from a desire to meet the needs of students who don’t have convenient access to a free public education. Currently, parents of students in the Corolla area may either send their children on what for some students amounts to a three-hour round-trip commute to a Currituck school, pay out-of-county tuition to a closer Dare County school, or home-school their children.

Weighing in on the state board’s decision Friday, Doyle said she was disappointed to hear that Water’s Edge’s bid to become a charter school had fallen short.

“I will continue to work with Water’s Edge Village School, the Corolla Education Foundation and Meghan Agresto to see if we can come up with solutions that are better than having very young students on the bus before 6 a.m. in the morning,” Doyle said. “The Corolla Education Foundation has done a great deal of work that is not in vain that I am sure will benefit us as we look for other options.”

Agresto said the biggest thing she had learned from the charter school application process was the importance of already having a school up and running.

“We’re moving forward and we’re feeling good,” Agresto said. “So that’s where we are right now.”