Slow Down in Holden Beach NC: An Unforgettable Family Vacation

Sunset at Holden Beach NC. Couple walking along beach in water, holding hands

Ahh, family beach vacations.  For some, relaxing at the beach for the week is pure serenity.  For others, the thought of baking in the sun all day and then fighting the crowds on an overpriced, loud, and busy boardwalk just elicits pure anxiety.  But when you visit Holden Beach NC, it is almost like you have been transported back in time. If you want to be surrounded by calm, natural beauty, and simplicity- then this is the beach for you!

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Holden Beach’s Location

Holden Beach NC is an intimate, family-friendly beach between Wilmington, NC, and Myrtle Beach, SC. It is primarily a residential community with the natural beauty of pristine beaches and friendly, laid-back people.  

We spent a week down in Holden Beach this past summer with the family. Now, I’ll be honest. The idea of a beach vacation with a 2 and 4-year-old sounded stressful.  But this was one of the best getaways we have had for a long time! 

How Does a Beach Vacation Promote Wellness?

According to a March 2021 article published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, a meta-analysis (that’s just a fancy way of saying someone looked at a lot of other research articles and analyzed all of their results into one paper) shows an undeniable health benefit to having access to “blue space” (aka bodies of water).

So what did this analysis show? Promoting physical activity and spending time near blue spaces, like beaches and rivers, is essential for our well-being. These environments offer great places for exercise and have positive effects on mental health, reducing stress and anxiety. They also provide opportunities for social interactions, which helps to build a sense of community and support. By incorporating blue spaces into our daily lives and communities, we can enhance both our physical and mental health while creating a more sustainable and enjoyable living environment.

I don’t know about you, but after reading that study, I’ve got some beach house goals! Or at least a girl can dream 😉

If you would like to learn more, I’ve got the citation and link down below.

Where We Stayed In Holden Beach: An Affordable Oceanfront Rental Home

Our family rented an oceanfront house through Proactive Vacations.  Our rental home, Catch A Wave, located at 667 OBW,  was an older home that seemed like the owners had put a good amount of work into it to give it a good update where updates mattered (like putting in solid surface flooring throughout the home). In some areas, its age was still showing, but the house was clean and perfectly located along the oceanfront.  

The budget-friendly rental cost compared to other homes in the area, gorgeous views, and access to the beach made this the perfect house for us. 

Living room with beach view at Holden Beach NC

But seriously, waking up to ocean views, sitting out on the deck at night, reading a book, and listening to the waves crash was the perfect way to unplug and enjoy nature from the comfort of our rental home.

On a side note for families with younger children- it was really wonderful being able to just walk right out to the beach and back.  Considering we had multiple kiddos who still needed naps, the convenience of running back to the house to make lunch or take a nap while the older kids stayed and played was great.  

Sand dunes with walkway to the beach in Holden Beach NC
Our walkway to the ocean

The Food in Holden Beach NC

While we cooked most of our meals in our rental home because the idea of shuffling kids back to the house to go out to eat wasn’t relaxing for us, we did enjoy dining out a few meals.  The following restaurants were all great experiences:

Provision Company

Our first meal out was at the Provision Company.  Located in Holden Beach NC, the Provision company had an amazing fresh shrimp burger and cucumber salad that was perfect on a hot day. We sat outside and enjoyed inlet views.  This is it if you want a relaxing, unpretentious restaurant where the whole family can sit and enjoy fresh seafood.  

Provision Company door sign in Holden Beach NC
Shrimp burger with lettuce, tomato, onion, and remoulade sauce and cucumber salad from the Provision Company in Holden Beach NC
View of the Intracoastal Waterway from the Provision Company in Holden Beach NC with water tower in distance

Inlet View Bar and Grill – Shallotte, NC

One day after visiting Ocean Isle, we made our way back to the Inlet View Bar and Grill in Shallotte, NC.  While it feels a bit off the beaten path, this restaurant had stunning water views, and I’m still dreaming about their mildly spicy hushpuppies.  

Inlet View Bar and Grill in Shallotte, NC

Beaches and Cream

Our last night at Holden Beach, we rode out to Beaches and Cream.  This local homemade ice creamery makes its ice cream fresh from dairy sources from a North Carolina dairy farm, and the flavors are rich, creamy, and delicious.  

Beaches n Cream sign in Holden Beach NC

Ocean Blvd Coffee

Most of my vacation was spent chugging whatever coffee someone had brewed that morning (and I was SO grateful it was there waiting for me).  However, I knew I needed to head down and check out the local coffee shop, Ocean Blvd Coffee.  They had a bulletin board filled with local activities, like one for oceanfront yoga classes every Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday morning.  Other activities were listed here, so this was definitely the place to get community information!  By the way, my coffee was delicious!

frozen coffee with whipped cream with beach kayaks in background

Activities in Holden Beach

One of the things that set Holden Beach apart from other family-friendly beaches is the lack of significant commercial activities throughout the island.  If you are looking for more of a busy boardwalk atmosphere or a bustling beach town, this won’t be the town for you.

But the amazing thing about Holden Beach is the absolute joy you can find in enjoying its natural beauty.  This was a time for us to reconnect with nature, enjoy quality family time together, and let my children grow their love for all things beach-related.

Watching Baby Loggerhead Sea Turtles Hatch

One of my most memorable experiences from our vacation was watching one of the most awesome moments- seeing baby loggerhead sea turtles emerge from their nest and make their way toward the ocean.  With the help of the Holden Beach Turtle Patrol, these nests are identified and marked off in order to protect and preserve the nest as best as possible.  

These volunteers will also interact with the groups of people who happen to make their way over to the nests and will educate the visitors about the lifecycle of the loggerhead turtle and their conservation efforts to protect this species.  If you spend time on the beach at night or on your home’s deck, you will probably see people walking the beach with infrared flashlights. These folks are most likely the turtle patrol volunteers monitoring the sea turtle nests or beachgoers walking along at night and trying to be considerate of the nesting or hatchling turtles.

The fact that we were able to share this beautiful moment with our children at such a young age is something that I will cherish always.

If you want to see what a baby loggerhead sea turtle looks like, take a look at the video below! (PS- they are super cute!)

Loggerhead sea turtle babies hatching from their nest at Holden Beach NC

Walking to the Sandbar

On the eastern side of Holden Beach is a shell collectors’ paradise.  One evening after an early dinner, we went out and walked to the sandbar.  We saw crabs along the way, little fish that tickled our toes, and we found some really unique, perfectly intact shells.  You can also see beautiful views of Oak Island from this point.

Crab in water
Family holding hand of toddler walking towards a sandbar with sun in the background

Visiting the Holden Golden Memory Mailboxes

You can visit the eastern Golden Holden Memory mailbox if you keep heading toward the island’s eastern tip.  A simple mailbox with a post in the sand is filled with notebooks and a pen where visitors and residents jot down their notes and thoughts.  Memorials, life advice, proclamations of love, and signatures are scattered all throughout the pages, making it like a living time capsule.

Golden Holden Memory Mailbox on the East end of Holden Beach NC

What makes this area magical isn’t just the whimsical beach mailbox but also the driftwood branches that are decorated with shells.  As visitors come to the area, shells are collected and hung along the branches of these delicate trees. It’s a gentle reminder that even though there is a lot of solitude at this spot, there are others who have come before you, too, making you feel like a part of a small, special community that also loves this hidden gem.

driftwood with shells hanging from branches along shoreline in Holden Beach NC

Watch the Sun Rise

Okay, ya’ll.  I am not a morning person.  Oh, how I wish I were, but it just simply isn’t in my DNA. But one of the best decisions we made at Holden Beach was waking the kids early to sit on the beach and watch the sunrise.  

We watched the golden sun come over and illuminate the beach while my children happily cuddled with us on our beach blanket in the sand. Seeing them sit in awe of the sun’s beauty while it kissed the sky is something that be burned in my memory forever, and I hope it taught them that as much as we can watch beauty on a computer or a TV screen, there is no substitution for being out in nature and enjoying it in person. 

sunrise at Holden Beach NC

Admire the Night Sky

Thankfully, most of the homes along the beach didn’t have their lights on in the evening because they didn’t want to disturb the hatching of the baby sea turtles.  The light can disorient them, making it difficult for them to find their way to the ocean, so you really should turn any exterior lights facing the ocean off at night.  

We could see beautiful night skies because of the lack of light pollution.  At one point, we could see a portion of the Milky Way.  The moonlit views were so dreamy (I felt like I was in a Nicholas Sparks book)!

Night sky photo with Milky Way
Moonlit night with view of the ocean at Holden Beach NC

Other Fun Family Activities

With each family having a planner at the helm, thankfully, our group wasn’t short of fun indoor activities, too.  

My daughter and son enjoyed doing an ocean craft activity one day while the adults were in the middle of making breakfast.  The adults stayed up and chatted in the evenings after the kids went to bed.  While we were all tired from the day’s activities, we all enjoyed a few rounds of Codenames.

Then, as a souvenir for all of us to remember our fun family trip, I brought white t-shirts and a tie-dye kit, and we all made tie-dye t-shirts.  All of the kids (and adults!) got to pick their own patterns and colors.  While it was a bit of a messy process, the end results were really fun! It made for some great family photos and some comfy, colorful, unique t-shirts that are so much better than a store-bought one any day.  

tie-dye tshirts on coffee table

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What I Wish We Did Differently In Holden Beach

Honestly, not much.  I wish we had explored the local restaurants and businesses a little bit more, but we were too busy enjoying all that the beach had to offer!  

However, for our next vacation, here is a list of things I would want to add to our Must Try list:

While traveling with young children is always a process, this was by far more relaxing than I thought it would be.  Holden Beach’s natural beauty and kind locals genuinely make your beach getaway peaceful. It was nice to unplug and enjoy life’s simplicities in a world where stimuli constantly surround us.  

mixture of sea shells

Having Gratitude for Family Time and Coastal Serenity

As I looked back at our vacation photographs to jog my memory of our trip, the most precious thing that came from this time was seeing the constant smiles on my kid’s faces.  They gained a love for the North Carolina coast and its beauty. I hope I can continue to teach them that love throughout their lives and that they can continue to enjoy the happiness, calm, and peace that nature can provide. 

As part of my 52-week wellness challenge, I am going to travel to at least one new destination this year, and I know wherever it is, we will celebrate the beauty and peace that we can find with a grateful heart!

So, have you been to Holden Beach NC? Do you notice a difference in how you feel when you are at the beach? Drop a comment below to share how you practice wellness when you are visiting your favorite NC beach. And don’t be a stranger- feel free to reach out to us on social media, too. <3


Georgiou M, Morison G, Smith N, Tieges Z, Chastin S. Mechanisms of Impact of Blue Spaces on Human Health: A Systematic Literature Review and Meta-Analysis. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2021; 18(5):2486.

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