Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cheap Family Fun: The Beach

I think the last time we spent the day at the beach was about 4 years ago. My son was just a year old. Since our last trip was so long ago, and since we were going to my husband's aunt & uncle's house, which is near the coast, for Memorial Day dinner, we decided to spend a couple hours at the beach. Nothing like soaking up some sun and sand!

We went to Fort Macon State Park. The main beach parking lot was full, so we had to go to the other beach that was closer to the fort. Unfortunately, the "other" beach doesn't allow swimming or wading due to strong rip currents. This beach is on the tip of the island and is a high traffic area for boats due to the harbor. Still, we were ok with not swimming in the ocean knowing the kids wouldn't be interested in doing much more than building sand castles. We did, however, stick our feet in the waves just so we could say we "swam" in the Atlantic, haha!

Our daughter's first time in the Atlantic. She tried to be a real trooper when the water touched her toes. She also kept insisting on sticking out her tongue every time I tried to get a picture of her getting her toes wet.

The kids loved the waves and watching the boats pass by. I say waves, but really it was the wake from the boats. The actual ocean waves were about a football field's length away down the beach close to the jetty. We were too close to the harbor side, so there just weren't any real waves.

Our son enjoying the Atlantic as well. This was about as close as he was willing to get!

The beach on this side of the island is actually very wide. The tide comes in quite far up the beach, and we saw that a pool of tidal water had been created in a dip in the sand. There were several families with small children that were playing and swimming in the pool. So we ditched the "no swimming, no wading" water and headed over to this tidal pool to investigate. Sure enough, there was a very long pool of water and probably 50 people--from the very young to the very old--swimming and wading in it. Perfect! So we set up camp and proceeded to test the water. No waves, some shallow parts, some deep parts, and perfect for our kids.

Here's our son with the large expanse of beach behind him.

At one point I had to rescue my daughter. Hubs was relocating our towels and picnic supplies. I asked our daughter to wait in one spot while I grabbed her brother and helped him across one area of the pool. She decided to not wait and jumped in. Of course being 2 1/2 and with no experience swimming, she immediately started struggling to stay afloat. While holding onto my son with one hand (no way was I going to let him go and say "wait here"), I raced to my daughter and grabbed her with my other hand. In her panic, she grabbed my bathing suit and we had a wardrobe malfunction right there on the beach! Aaghhh!! I did my best to remain modest until I could set the problem awright and tried to brush it all off, hoping no one saw anything during the whole commotion. The good news is that my daughter's near drowning did not affect her joy of the water, and she was happy to continue swimming (while hanging onto me of course!) and wading (and was actually quite brave wading in shallow water all by herself!).

Here's our daughter being "brave" wading by herself. The water was about 4 inches deep in the center of the pool along this side. It was much deeper--close to 5 feet deep--about 50 yards down. The kids liked experiencing both the shallow & the deep parts.

We kept the activity very inexpensive due to some well-coordinated planning. The parking & beach were free. We were scheduled to eat an early dinner, so we ate a late breakfast and skipped lunch. I brought snacks and juice boxes so we could have a family picnic on the beach, holding us over until dinner.
All-in-all, we had a really fun & inexpensive family activity, and lots of pictures to help us remember the occasion. :)

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