Money Magazine, April 2001

"Best Places to Vacation"
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Small resort islands, away from the crowds
The Carolina Coast
The Carolina coast
Located between the crowded oceanfront hotels of Myrtle Beach, S.C. and the Outer Banks is the historic city of Wilmington, N.C. Far less visited than these neighboring destinations, the area around Wilmington, stretching south to Cape Fear, is known for its white sand beaches and a string of smallish resort islands just off the coast. Wilmington itself, a city of about 76,000, has a 230-block restored historic district and a lively waterfront lined with restaurants and shops; it's also home to the country's third largest moviemaking facility. You can stay at Catherine's Inn (800-476-0723), a bed and breakfast overlooking the Cape Fear River, for $105 to $125 a night. But to get the most of the region's coastal beauty, we suggest making one of the islands your base.

Five-mile-long Wrightsville Beach, for example, is the most popular spot in the area and home to the Carolina Yacht Club, founded in 1853 and one of the oldest clubs in the country. The Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort (910-256-2231),and the Blockade Runner Beach Resort 800-541-1161 allow kids 12 and under to stay and eat free.

For those seeking a more tranquil spot, Bald Head Island, located at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, is one of the most unspoiled beach and maritime forest areas on the Carolina coast. No cars or high-rise buildings are allowed on the island, which is accessible only by ferry or private boat.

Try Theodosia's Bed & Breakfast (800-656-1812), which charges $170 to $250 a night, including use of the island country club and a golf cart for getting around. Then there's Figure Eight island, an ultra-exclusive oceanfront resort community where Al Gore's family and many a Hollywood celebrity have spent their vacations in recent years. Summer-home rentals there cost $2,500 to $5,500 a week (910-686-5775).

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