Easing Along

Easin’ Along – Kure Beach, NC to Huntington Beach State Park, SC

Great Egret, Huntington Beach State Park, SC

Note: Our trip along the Coast was interrupted by Hurricane Irma during our stay at Tybee Island, GA.  We were able to make it home with no difficulty, but Irma dictated a break for Easin’ Along while we made the return trip. Thanks to our readers for coming back. We join our trip in progress.

The Kure Beach area gave us a wonderful beach vacation. While there we enjoyed fantastic meals at Jack’s Mackerel Grill and Freddie’s Italian Restaurant and both were as good as we remembered from our visit two years ago. Those dining experiences will be covered in a food post at a later date. The Kure Beach pier, built in 1923 and the oldest fishing pier on the Atlantic coast, is a great place to walk off those evening meals and we loved chatting with the tourists attempting to catch fish. The view of the picturesque beach at dusk can be stunning.

Kure Beach, NC

Speaking of fish…Helen (adorable wife) wanted to pick up some fish to grill on our last night at Kure Beach. While we waited for our table at Jack’s Mackerel, she asked the friendly bartender to suggest a seafood market in the area. Our bartender said she always went to Blackburn Brothers just down the street. It was a good suggestion. We went the next day and were told by everyone in the market to try the Hog Snapper, something we had never heard of.  Helen was intrigued so we bought a piece, hand-cut by the lady behind the counter.  I chose a fresh piece of grouper.

Blackburn Brothers Seafood, Kure Beach, NC

Back at the campsite, we fired up our Coleman Road Trip Grill and cooked the fish, brushed with a little olive oil and sprinkled with Old Bay Seasoning.  The grouper was delicious, and to this day, Helen swears that the Hog Snapper was the best fish she has ever eaten…ever. For the rest of the trip, she asked at every fish market we entered if they had Hog Snapper, but it was not to be found.  Thanks, Blackburn Brothers. We enjoyed a great meal and one not to be forgotten.

Campsite – Huntington Beach, SC

We are certain to return here but, after five very pleasant nights at Fort Fisher AFB Recreation Area, it was time to tow Bertha to the south and make our way to Huntington Beach State Park in Murrell’s Inlet, SC, a three hours drive.

After check-in, we backed Bertha into a secluded campsite in the woods. As is her usual custom, Helen was getting antsy to see the ocean so, after setting up; we took the five-minute walk to the beach. What a treat…the beach is wide and there were only a few people about. We looked forward to our morning shell search and coffee walk.

Huntington Beach State Park, SC

Back at the campsite, we could barely make out a small parking lot through the woods to our rear so we decided to take a narrow path and see what was attracting people to this spot. What we saw were birds…lots of beautiful birds soaring over a very scenic marsh. Extending out into the marsh was a long walking pier. Although it was late and we were ready for dinner, we walked out for a better look.

Over the next few days, we probably spent as much time in the marsh as we did on the beach. The assortment of cranes, ibis, wood storks and the very rare Roseate spoonbills flying overhead made for must-see entertainment and I took lots of pictures.  These birds obviously didn’t mind being photographed and remained committed to feeding in the marsh while we snapped away.

Lagoon, Huntington Beach State Park, SC

I’m certain that I’ve never seen a spoonbill prior to this trip and, with their unusual bills, they are both peculiar and impressive. According to the Park Ranger, their natural habitat is in the Florida Keys, but a few had made it to South Carolina in 2009 to take up residence here. We saw three on our first walk and again on every day after that. One morning we spotted two of them among a group of wood storks and began taking pictures when an alligator shoved his nose above the surface in the middle of the gathering. He swam up to the spoonbill before taking a leap at him.  I missed the picture, but the alligator missed his target also and swam away to begin his morning nap. The spoonbill was remained unruffled by it all and continued to swirl his wide bill in the shallow water.

Roseate spoonbill vs. alligator

Our morning beach walks were also a treat. We caught the rising sun every day and had the beach almost to ourselves.  There was not an abundance of shells, but we found some tiny shark’s teeth to add to our collection. Adjacent to the dunes, a turtle nest was fenced off and awaiting a big coming out party.

Shark’s teeth

I have been coming to Murrell’s Inlet and Pawley’s Island for over forty years and Helen for much longer than that. We love the area and much prefer the laid-back lifestyle offered here over the heavy commercialism of large beach cities. Also, I have a love of fresh seafood, and I love it best when it’s fried. Murrell’s Inlet is home to one of the best seafood restaurants on the Carolina coast—Lee’s Inlet Kitchen.  I couldn’t stay away so we checked in there during the second evening of our stay for fried flounder and fried oysters and some of the best hushpuppies in the world. It was divine dining.

Lee’s Inlet Kitchen, Murrell’s Inlet, SC

On our last evening in the Huntington Beach area, we met Cheryl and Bill, good friends from Knoxville at Bovine’s Grill in Murrell’s Inlet for dinner and drinks.  We were seated on the deck with an awesome view of the marsh and enjoyed a wonderfully relaxing evening with great food and great laughs. This trip was getting better by the day.

The next morning we packed up Bertha for the drive down the coast to Parris Island Marine Training Center near the town of Beaufort, SC. Before we departed, we took the time to have our picture made in the large rocking chairs at the Park Visitor Center. Helen cornered a Park Ranger to show him a picture of the snake she nearly stepped on that morning to see if he could identify it. He identified the striped reptile as a harmless Ribbon Snake, native to the marsh of South Carolina.

Helen with Park Ranger

We’ll long remember our time and the birds of Huntington Beach State Park.  For now, it’s time to fly south. This is retirement living at its best and we’re glad you’re Easin’ Along.

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