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United Beach Vacations Blog

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fort Fisher Hermit was among NC's most popular tourist attractions

Robert Harrill was born in South Carolina in 1893. His mother and two brothers died of typhoid fever when he was a young boy, perhaps portending a life lived on the boundaries of mainstream America.

Harrill worked as a farmer and mill worker, and found employment as a laborer during the Depression under the government’s Works Project Administration. He married Katie Hamrick and fathered five children.

After a series of setbacks including failed jobs and unsatisfying work, plus a crumbling marriage, he was committed to a mental institution.

In 1955 at the age of 62, Robert Harrill escaped confinement and the restrictions of modern American life. He moved to Kure Beach, NC, and became the legendary Fort Fisher Hermit.

Harrill set up his new life in an old WWII bunker in the woods, and he lived there until his death in 1972. He lived off marine life and a small vegetable garden he maintained nearby. Along the way, he became North Carolina’s second most popular tourist attraction, trailing only the USS North Carolina Battleship for number of visitors.

The term hermit is a classic misnomer, since Harrill greeted curiosity seekers with great enthusiasm. His guest registry included more than 100,000 people from all 50 states and 20 countries.

Although the Fort Fisher Hermit’s death was officially declared a heart attack, many believed he was murdered. His legacy remains today with The Hermit Society, which was formed in 2002. Two years later The Fort Fisher Hermit, a documentary film, received several independent film awards.

The Fort Fisher Hermit’s bunker is still standing and can be reached by hiking the Fort Fisher Hermit Trail on the outskirts of the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Ferris Wheel Returning to Carolina Beach Boardwalk?

Carolina Beach vacations may have gotten more thrilling -- and retro at the same time!

Our friends at Snow's Cut Monthly report the following:

"It almost happened two years ago. Local bussinessmen Brett Keeler and Adam Higgins worked tirelessly to set the stage for a small summertime amusement park to come to the beach, but it just didn't work out. There are a lot of logistics to work out and the amusement company decided not to come.

Now the amusement company has had a change of heart and they want to set up this summer. This Monday (March 23) the town Technical Review Committee will look at the plans and then it will go before the Planning Commission on April 9 and the Town Council on April 14. If everything works out they could be open in May."

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ghostly Gator Greets Guests at NC Aquarium

Was it Essau in The Bible who was albino? And what about Johnny Winter of rock and roll fame? (he also played a show in Carolina Beach last year). I think there’s a Chinese model who’s hair is pearly white.

Now, the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher is getting in on the no-hue action, recently introducing an as-yet-to-be-named all-white alligator. The 5-foot specimen features a typically topographical backside, teeth sharper than a puppies, and freaky pink eyes -- a rarity indeed.

The Aquarium is having a contest to name its newest reptile. Please visit online at during the months of April and May. The winner will be announced in June.

The NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher is located just south of Kure Beach, near the mouth of the Cape Fear River, on U.S. 421. The site is less than a mile from the Fort Fisher ferry terminal. Hours are 9am to 5pm daily (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day). Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, and $6 for ages 6 through 17. Free admission for children under 6, registered groups of N.C. school children, and NC Aquarium Society members.

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Friday, March 6, 2009

Sandy Paws: Dogs at the Beach

Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe. We are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made. -- Roger Caras

Ah, dogs. Any human who's ever had the pleasure of having one own them will happily tell you the fascinating con game their four-legged friend embodies. What? It's 4 o'clock and I usally eat at 5? Time to walk meaningfully around my friend until he succumbs to my charms, and more importantly, to feed me. Huh? Watching TV without scratching my ears? May as well walk back and forth, making faint whiny noises until I get pleasured. What's that noise? A car passing the house? Time to bark like a burglary is imminent.

The truth is more and more people can't live without their pet dogs. And that means more and more are taking vacations with four-legged friends in tow. The problem is many places either don't accept pets (although this is changing with demand), or impose restrictions on pets in public places.

The following is a short publication about leash laws in Carolina Beach and Kure Beach, courtesy of a friend:


As fellow pet-lovers, we at United Beach Vacations would like to welcome you and your dog to Pleasure Island! We have lots of tips and great advice to ensure that you and your pet have a great time. First, let’s get the not-so-fun stuff out of the way. There are places dogs can’t go at certain times of the year. But don’t worry, because we’ll follow that up with some great places that dogs CAN enjoy!

CAROLINA BEACH-Dogs are allowed on the beach from November 1 until February 28. During these times, your dog MUST be on a leash, and you must have in your possession a container to pick up dog waste.

KURE BEACH-Dogs are allowed on the beach only from October 1 until March 30. During these times, your dog MUST be on a leash, and you must have in your possession a container to pick up dog waste.

OK-now that we have that out of the way, see below for some great places that you and your pooch can enjoy together:

FREEMAN PARK: This area is located at the north end of Pleasure Island. With a $10.00 day pass, you can bring your 4-wheel drive vehicle (and your dog!) onto this beach. Dogs are required to be on a leash from April 1 to Sept 30. From October 1 to March 31, dogs are allowed off leash as long as they remain under voice command and the owner is within a reasonable distance from the pet. For more please visit

FORT FISHER STATE PARK: This is a state-owned park located at the southern tip of Pleasure Island. A $10.00 day pass and a 4-wheel drive vehicle gives you access to beach fun for you and your pet. Dogs are allowed at all times but must be on a six-foot leash.
For park hours and more info:

CAROLINA BEACH STATE PARK: This is a beautiful 700 acre park with miles of trails through many different natural habitats for you and your dog to explore. There is no cost to hike in the park, and doggie waste bags are provided for you to use. Dogs MUST be on a leash at all times. For park hours and more info go to

OFF-LEASH FUN: There are two off-leash dog parks in the area where your pooch can make new friends:
In Carolina Beach, check out the fenced in dog park located in Mike Chapell Park on Dow Road. For more info call Carolina Beach Parks and Rec at 910-458-2977. In Kure Beach, check out the Gurney Hood Barking Lot located on the corner of K and 7th Ave. For more info go to

We hope you enjoyed this edition of The Pooch Post, and have a great time here on Pleasure Island with your best buddy! If you have any questions, please call our office.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

New places to eat for 2009 season

Can Carolina Beach take all this excitement? First it announces that the ABC Store is doubling in size, then we hear about a Brew Thru opening at a place conveniently located right before the central business district (but on the left side heading into town).

New restaurants are popping up as well. Havana's will open in the space formerly occupied by The Cottage Restaurant. Actually a lot businesses have occupied this space, located at the corner of Lake Park and Cape Fear. The structure was built nearly a century ago for a businessman (back then he might be called a tycoon, or a robber barron) who worked for the New Hanover Transit Authority, the primary developer of Carolina Beach.

The building has also had turns as the Ogburn House, The June Inn (1948-81), The Cottage, and most recently, the short-lived and not-so-lamented Zorba’s. Havana's opens next week.

Tangerine Caribbean Grill is also getting some buzz, and you can't miss it -- the big orange building taking up a large lot near the marina, but still on the main road (North Lake Park Blvd).

Harbor Masters, at 315 Canal Drive, is also fairly new and is eager to please. It's changed its young menu a few times already but offers decent specials.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

CAPE FEAR QUIRK: Unseasonable, unreasonable cool temps continue

It's been an interesting winter here in Carolina Beach, and in the Cape Fear region and Wilmington, NC area in general. And by interesting, we mean "colder than a witch's thorax." While the mercury zoomed up to 70 last Friday, we were treated to rain (which we need) all weekend, and temps plummeted again to sub-freezing last night.

Because this latest cold snap came with a threat of snow (which would be our 3rd experience with the white stuff this year), area schools had delayed openings. That's probably a quaint idea to those in the northern part of the country. Just the threat of snow, and even just a dusting, can close schools. Can you imagine if accumulations were more like half a foot, or nine inches? Kids would be idle for days, mucking up parents' carefully calibrated schedules. And the local hardware stores would sell out of their 2 or 3 snow shovels in a matter of minutes. Pelicans at Carolina Beach State Park might get little ice cubes in their next mouthful of fish.

Fear not, though. Before you can say "hazy, hot and humid," we'll be basking in the warm glow of spring and summer sunshine. The only question remaining is: When will it be warm enough to swim in the ocean without a wetsuit? Last year, I swam comfortably on May 10. Can it warm up enough for that date again this year? Stay tuned.

By the way, the long range forecast according to the revered Farmer's Almanac calls for temperatures above normal through June, with temps below normal and precipitation above normal July through October.

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