Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Huntington Beach State Park, SC


One could easily cruise by the entrance to Huntington Beach State Park on Highway 17 between Murrells Inlet and Pawleys Island, South Carolina and never have a clue that they have missed a little piece of paradise. Just south of Myrtle Beach lies a hidden gem where the locals love to spend time.
The actual address is 16148 Ocean Highway (17) Murrells Inlet, SC 29576.
As you enter the park (after stopping at the booth to either pay or display your park pass), you will venture across a causeway that is worthy of an incredibly slow drive for the purpose of viewing amazing birds and possibly alligators sunning themselves on a small sandbar.
A left turn after the causeway will take you to the campground area, but a right leads the visitor to a large parking lot and two buildings that house restrooms. The structure on the right also offers a gift shop and information on the park’s programs and activities.
The gigantic, colorful Adirondack chairs located just outside the gift shop building are a busy photo op venue for tourists and locals alike. Youngsters are frequently seen climbing into the large chairs while Mom or Dad snap a souvenir photo.

A stroll through the picnic grove deposits you onto a short, narrow boardwalk that leads to the most spectacular ocean view imaginable. Every time I step into the sand on that beach, I feel as though I have come into possession of my own private island, particularly when the busy summer season is behind us and the sunny fall days provide us with an outstretch of endless beach that is breathtaking. And it is right in our own back yards if we live along the Grand Strand of the South Carolina coast. How blessed are we?

Located on the grounds is Atalaya, the remains of the winter home of Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington. There are bike trails, hiking trails, scheduled programs and events at Huntington; however, the very best activity is a simple, extended beach walk--guaranteed to diminish miles of stress from your shoulders.
Visit http://www.southcarolinaparks.com/huntingtonbeach for more information, history and a list of upcoming events.
I'll be back soon with another Grand Strand, South Carolina favorite location!
Best travels,
Mary Anne

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Marsh Walk of Murrells Inlet, SC

Just a short drive south on Highway 17 from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is a peaceful fishing village called Murrells Inlet. Folks who visited this location many years ago probably remember it as a quiet little town. In the past few years, however, new neighborhoods have developed and generated tons of activity, and Highway 17 Bypass is a busy, major thoroughfare between Myrtle Beach and Charleston.

Turning off from the Bypass and venturing over to Highway Business 17 in Murrells Inlet will transport you to the small village existing in the memories of multitudes of past visitors. This short stretch of land featuring multiple restaurants and a fabulous gift shop, The Lazy Gator, is one hopping place during the busiest season running from June through August.

September is the perfect time to explore Murrells Inlet because the days are summertime warm, and the crowds of vacationers have significantly diminished.

Beside the Crazy Sister Marina and Wicked Tuna restaurant, the sightseer can walk along an outstretched pier and also stroll on the Marsh Walk, a walkway that is conveniently situated behind the restaurants. This area offers a lovely view of the marsh, waterways, wild life, boats, high rise hotels in the distance to the north, spacious beach homes of Garden City to the east and goats and peacocks coexisting on a small island behind Drunken Jack’s Restaurant.

During the tourist season, this part of town is packed with families seeking dining, music, kayaking, jet skiing, dolphin tours, bike rentals, private charters, pirate boat adventures, and the list goes on. Mid-September brings a quieter Marsh Walk with spectacular sunny views and a sense of serenity that the kids are back in school, and now the adults can finally take that relaxing saunter along the Marsh Walk.

I found the Marsh Walk to be so charming, I featured it in one of my inspirational novels, Never Say Perfect. (See http://www.awriterspresence.com)

And to think that we actually live in Murrells Inlet, where vacationers clamor to enjoy everything we love about it…an enormous blessing! Since I live in vacation land, my next few travel blog posts will introduce a variety of locations and attractions in the Grand Strand area of South Carolina, where the ocean meets the mysterious marshland.

See you soon with much more fun from the coast of South Carolina!

Mary Anne Benedetto

Author of Eyelash, 7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing: Build a Priceless Legacy One Story at a Time!, Never Say Perfect and From Italy with Love & Limoncello

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Cape May, NJ - Recipe for Stress Relief

Cape May, NJ is known as the nation’s oldest seashore resort. This charming town transports the visitor to a simpler, more peaceful time and place.

For lovers of history, this quaint Victorian village at the extreme southern tip of NJ, also known as Exit Zero off the Garden State Parkway, exudes enchantment at every corner.

Be aware, however, this is not a rockin’ party town. If that is the venue you seek, you will want to look elsewhere. Cape May is for families--from doting grandmas and grandpas to the cuddly tiny babies and everyone in between.

My affinity for Cape May comes from over twenty years of vacationing for one week each summer with a great group of girlfriends at this therapeutic location. We have rented either a cottage or house on this same property for all of these years, and as soon as we walk through the door, we feel a warm, comforting sense of calm that says we are “home.”

What does one do for summer fun in Cape May? In a nutshell, folks relax on the pristine beaches (beach tags required, but are easily obtainable), take a boat tour, para-sail, pedal around town with the family in a surrey, rent bicycles and ride to the famous lighthouse to view the surrounding land and seascapes, commune with the animals at the Cape May County Zoo, partake of historical and ghost tours, wander through unique shops that offer items not typically found in your local mall, hop aboard the Cape May Ferry for a scenic ride across the Delaware Bay for outlet shopping in Lewes, Delaware, dinner theatre, mini-golf, golf, bird watching, taste wine at the local winery, or catch up on your reading as you kick back on a large veranda or porch.

One of the benefits of a stay in Cape May is that you can basically park your car and walk to many destinations. A few restaurant locations will require crawling back into your vehicle, but much can be accomplished on foot.

Atlantic City is just a short drive from town in case you hear the slots calling your name. And one would never know that there is an adorable shopping venue near that location. 

The Historic Smithville Shopping Village, with approximately 60 boutiques, 7 eateries, paddle boats, 26 weekend events and on site theme lodging, is a viable option for a day of retreating from overexposure to the Cape May sun. See http://www.historicsmithvillenj.com and http://www.colonialinnsmithville.com for more information.

A visit to Cape May would never be complete without a dinner at The Lobster House. Prepare for a period of hanging around if you are trying to eat there during the busy summer season, but you can be sure that the wait is well worth it!

In memory-This post is dedicated to Mary Ann Murray, one of our original Cape May vacation ladies, who went to heaven on June 21, 2013. There is not a day that you won’t be missed--forever.

Mary Ann Murray-Always in Our Hearts

Friday, June 14, 2013

City of Savannah Exudes Southern Charm!

Whether you are staying in a quaint bed and breakfast in one of the four Historic Districts or living it up at the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa, Savannah greets you with a sunny smile and the enchantment of a lazy downtown Savannah River setting.

Founded in 1733 by General James Oglethorpe, I think he would be proud to see that his plans for a town designed in a grid style with a variety of deliberately established park squares had not, for the most part, been disturbed by modern construction and city development.

With very little time to explore during our visit, we managed to squeeze in an overview of what this town has to offer. Walking on the more than 200 year old cobblestones by River Street, we were glad that we were all wearing sensible shoes, or danger could have been lurking in the form of a twisted ankle or two.

Savannah’s average low temperatures are in the forties during January through March and November through December, with their average high being 92 in June and July. If you love to walk, you’ll be thrilled with the Downtown Historic District where you can pick up a sightseeing tour through http://www.oldsavannahtours.com or other choices including The Savannah River Boat, The Owens Thomas House Tour, The Isaiah Davenport House Tour, The Juliette Gordon Low House Tour, Plantation Carriage Tours, Dolphin Magic, Old Fort Jackson and the Tybee Island Light House. You can visit http://www.officialsavannahguide.com/ for details!

The dot shuttle connects Savannah’s visitor centers, shops, restaurants and parking facilities throughout the Historic District. Visit http://www.connectonthedot.com. There are also easily obtainable taxis, carriage rides and efficient Pedi-Cabs that can transport you to your downtown destination in a heartbeat.

Speaking of Pedi-Cabs, when we were returning from dinner, my husband Fred told our driver (pedaler?) that there was an extra tip for him if he beat the other Pedi-Cab that carried our friends, Larry and Sharon DeCosmo. So they raced all the way back to our hotel, and we could hardly stop laughing as they pedaled as fast as their calf muscles could possibly pump. It’s never dull in my world.  

Along River Street, you can shop, dine, relax, be entertained, absorb the art and history, people watch and imagine the past generations who walked these same cobblestones and viewed the same Victorian architecture in the distinctly unique Victorian District.

As previously mentioned, Savannah is designed with twenty-two park-like squares, each with its own individual appeal. Most are named after notable individuals. This is a town that represents magnificent colors, bountiful gardens, a palpable sense of history and an undeniable presence of the old south.

Ask anyone who has visited Savannah, and they will tell you about the amazing food. Good restaurants abound, and one of our favorites was Vic’s on the River with flavorful choices and impeccable service.

As we strolled along the river, we saw a sizable ship that was docked. It was an American Cruise Lines ship that takes in the Historic South and Golden Isles for seven days. A few of their ports include Amelia Island, FL; Savannah, GA; Hilton Head, SC; Beaufort, SC; Jekyll Island, GA; and Charleston, SC. Would I ever love to take that cruise! See http://www.americancruiselines.com for updated information and additional destinations.

I hope to return to Savannah soon and plan to book as many local tours as I can possibly pinch into my narrow window of time. If that works out according to plan, I’ll be sure to tell you all about it!

Wishing you the best in your search for remarkable travel destinations!

Savannah's River View at Night

By the way, have you ever thought about venturing to Italy? You can travel there directly from your beach chair or sofa when you read From Italy with Love & Limoncello! This is the true story of four non-Italian speaking women who set out on an unguided tour of three regions of Italy. You will walk in their shoes as they share their experiences during this fabulous fifteen day trip. Check it out at http://bit.ly/OiDxsk