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Family Traditions: The Gills Family Falls in Love with Emerald Isle

I have to admit to feelings of trepidation in 1992 while planning our first vacation at Emerald Isle. My brother and I had grown up on beaches on the eastern shores in the north and were not sure what to expect of this island in North Carolina. Our children were all under ten years old that year and we stayed in a less expensive cottage on the third row, just in case things didn’t work out as we had hoped. That July, my brother packed his family up in Maryland and my family packed up in Virginia and we came south. My only hopes were that the rental cottage would be nice with at least enough room for both our families to share and that the beach would not be too crowded.

Our trip was long, highways back then not being what they are now, but the check-in agents at Emerald Isle Realty eased our nerves. We easily found our cottage and, after briefly checking it out, we all went straight to the beach. When I stepped on the white sand for the first time and walked into the surf, my worries were immediately washed away with the waves of blue water. There were only a few families nearby enjoying the ocean breezes and picking up shells – a welcome change from what we were used to up north. We had plenty of room to set up without walking on someone else’s beach blanket or kicking sand on sunbathers.

Each day we lounged on the beach and every night we laughed in bumper boats or at put-put golf. We spent early mornings surf fishing, a rainy afternoon at the aquarium, walked around the town of Swansboro and ate our dinner overlooking the yachts at Beaufort as the sun set. Each night my brother and my husband took the children and flashlights out to the dark beach and searched for fiddler crabs until bedtime.

It sounds like we tried to do too much on that first visit to Emerald Isle and maybe we did but we didn’t know when we would ever come back. We saw that first Emerald Isle vacation as a once in a lifetime opportunity for some memory making with the children while they were young. Each year, however, we found a way to return.

Sometimes we came with more families and rented several houses near each other. Emerald Isle Realty always worked with us to find the right accommodations no matter how large our group became. We learned where to buy fresh shrimp and crabs and we made a tradition of stopping at the produce stand near the bridge to buy boiled peanuts. Each year our cottage was a little bigger, with a few more amenities than the last and my husband would always walk the beach and dream of, one day, renting one of those big homes right on the beach.

Life doesn’t always work out like we plan and for several years, when our children were in college or had jobs, we sat on the beach alone. In spring of 2011, my husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer and he decided it was time for one day to be today. Most of us had students graduating from college that spring so the time was right for a reunion.

First we called our relatives and then we called Emerald Isle Realty. The agent set us up in the most beautiful sandcastle home. It was right on the beach with an oceanfront pool, a game room with pool table and big screen TV and other amenities for everyone to share. We had huge living area and kitchen where all nineteen guests enjoyed family dinners every night. On this July vacation, did all the things we like to do at Emerald Isle. We rode bikes, steamed crabs and shrimp, made sand castles, jumped the waves and walked the beach. We even chased fiddler crabs in the dark.

A full moon rose over the ocean each evening while we were there and we sat in the hot tub and pool and watched the fireworks along the beach. Our children, who were three and ten in 1992, returned with their families and enjoyed the island we have grown to love.

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