Thursday, February 23, 2017

Bald Head Island

Where the Cape Fear River meets the Atlantic Ocean, there is a treacherous area of shoals known as the Frying Pan Shoals.  Set close to these shoals is a barrier island, Bald Head Island.
Formerly home to Native Americans, pirates, lighthouse keepers, coast guard crew and camping boy scouts, 19 families set up house on Bald Head Island in the 1970's. There was no electricity, no marina, no ferry, no phones and no restaurants or stores. They made do on this beautiful island. And they lived in harmony with nature. 

Even today, the only way to get to Bald Head Island is by ferry or private boat. Development has been limited. There are houses, an inn, a marina, a few stores and restaurants. But no mini-golf. No high rises. And no cars. Golf carts are the only transportation allowed. It's  a throwback to a simpler time.

Of course, you pay for it to be simpler. You pay to park your car at the ferry lot. You pay to ride the ferry. You pay to either be picked up by your innkeeper or  to rent a golf cart. And you pay to rent a house or room at the inn. It all costs a pretty penny. But man. I really love this island. 

My visit was only as a day tripper. I took the ferry over to the island, walked about a block to the golf cart rentals, rented one and was off. It was a midweek, off-season visit and I saw only a few other visitors - with the exception of employees. Tooled around the island on the cart checking out the lighthouse - Old Baldy, the oldest lighthouse in North Carolina that is still standing - the chapel, a few stores and gaping at the gorgeous island homes.

The next stop was to check out the beach. It was the widest, most untouched piece of sand I've ever seen. I could've stayed all day!

A day definitely wasn't long enough. And I still haven't made it back. But I hope to. I can't forget Bald Head Island.

Things to know about visiting Bald Head Island, North Carolina-
- The ferry is a 20 minute ride and takes only foot passengers, bicycles or golf carts. Round trip tickets are $22 for adults and $11 for kids 3 -12. (No charge for 2 and under)
- You can add an extra charge for tram service to your destination (golf cart pick up and drop off)
- There is a no frills ticket that is for same day round trip with no tram service.
Ferries depart from Ferry Road at DeepPoint Marina in Southport, North Carolina. There is overnight parking available for a fee.
- You can drop off passengers and luggage at the ferry building. All luggage is put on a conveyer belt and loaded by ferry workers. Some items are considered oversized and you will need to purchase an extra ticket for those items.
-There is one inn on Bald Head - The Marsh Harbour - which is located within walking distance of the ferry dock.
-There are several restaurants and a grocery store, The Maritime Market. One thing to be brought from home is liquor. There are no liquor stores on island.
-Golf cart rentals are available within walking distance from the ferry. If you are going in season at a particularly busy time, reservations are highly recommended.
-Most visitors stay in vacation home rentals. There are several rentals companies available.

How about you? Have you ever traveled somewhere and immediately loved it? Are there places you need to get back to?

This post is part of a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute and Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog Party!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Zion National Park Scenic Drive

Zion National Park, located in Springdale, Utah, is one of the Mighty Five - five national parks located in Utah. I've written about our day HERE before - we took the shuttle bus through the canyon, my son and his girlfriend hiked some of The Narrows and we visited the lodge. But I omitted the scenic drive at Zion, which to me, warranted it's own separate post. 

This must-do scenic drive is a six-and-a-half-mile-long scenic stretch of road which parallels the Virgin River on the floor of Zion Canyon. It provides stunning views with the red rock towers looming some 2000 feet above you. Talk about feeling small!

First things first - You must pay a fee to enter Zion National Park, even to drive the scenic drive. And oversize vehicles and rv's must pay an extra fee to drive through the canyon's tunnel - when the tunnel was built in the 1920's, cars were much smaller and no one anticipated such large vehicles going through it. So you must arrange an escort through it in advance if your vehicle is too large to fit so traffic can be stopped for you to get through the tunnel. (Check at the visitor center or lodge for oversize vehicle info) We did the drive as a loop - passing through the park's mile long tunnel, cutting through the Checkerboard Mesa area and when it ended at Highway 89 at Mt. Carmel Junction, we turned around and drove back. It was about a 10 mile stretch total and we were able to pull off the road for a better view and for some photo opportunities. Please be aware that this is a switchback road and drivers like to gawk at the scenery - sometimes stopping in the middle of the road.(And when you drive through the tunnel watch for the windows that you can look through so you don't miss any scenery!)

Over time, erosion by wind and rain and freezing and thawing created horizontal and vertical cracks in the sandstone which has created a checkerboard effect. You can see this at the Checkerboard Mesa pull off along Highway 9.

If you visit Zion, I hope you don't miss this drive. We managed to visit the Canyon and make the drive all in one day. I hope, also, that you have more time than we did - but I'm happy that we had the time we did. I've said before that Zion ranks as one of my favorite US National Parks. And I'd go back again anytime!

This blog is part of a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute and Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog Party!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Postcards from Japan

Two years ago I traveled to Asia for the first time. I met my two daughters in Tokyo for a week - we saw views from atop the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, enjoyed a happy hour, shopped Tokyo's most famous shopping street, walked it's largest park in winter, visited a shrine, took the train to the seaside town of Kamakura seeing a very large Buddha statue, went to Tokyo Disney Sea and wore kimonos on a photo shoot in Narita.  I've covered most of it on this blog - but sometimes there are photos that just don't fit into stories. Some are of curiosities that are different from where you live and some are of everyday life that are different from yours. So in wrapping up my trip to Japan I'm sharing some of these photos. Some you've seen and some you haven't. I hope you enjoy them.

All the different flavors of Kit Kat

No smoking for fish - or anyone else - at Tokyo Disney Sea

Bamboo in Kamakura

Tokyo Disney resort seen through the monorail Mickey windows

A statue of the legendary dog Hachiko  in Shibuya

Prayer cards

Vegetation at Narita-san Temple

Boy band advertising

Famous neon of Tokyo

Experiencing morning rush hour in the Tokyo Subway. We even got to see one of the famous white glove people pushers!

Hollywood video game palace. You should hear the noise inside this building - so many machines with their bells ringing and clanging!

People crowding the famous shopping street, Takeshita-Dori

Sea views in Kamakura - it's tough to see but there are even sailboats out on the water, in February!

Some of the many vending machines

Italy? No. Tokyo Disney Sea

Kamakura's Hasedera Temple - this was the picture in my mind of Japan

A preschool bus carrying preschoolers to school.(I worked in a preschool so I'm probably more interested in this photo than others!)

Have you been to Japan? Asia? Where is your favorite place you have visited in Asia?

This post is part of a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute, Photo Friday at Pierced Wonderings and Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog Party!