Step away from the crowds and flashing amusement lights and onto the pristine sands of Holden Beach. With a population of less than one thousand year around residents, you are free to roam uninterrupted along the shores, without tall buildings and blaring music to interrupt the solitude. During the summer months, the transitory population of this Cape Fear Coast community grows to nearly 10,000 people. While located only 40 miles from the commercialized Myrtle Beach area, Holden Beach is a world away from that fast-paced and rowdy environment.
Holden Beach is a haven for family travelers or couples seeking a quiet oceanfront escape. Enjoy a front row seat to the whistling sound of sea oats and playful romping of Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins. Lay back and relax on the porch of a beach house rental and swing the afternoon away in a hammock. Walk along the water’s edge picking up seashells and watching little ones build sandcastles. The lack of large crowds allow children more freedom of movement while still under the watchful eyes of parents.
Settlement along Holden Beach began around 1756. Land grants were issued by the territories’ “Royal Governor” for fifty shillings per every hundred acres. Benjamin Holden bought four hundred acres, including the island which laid between the ocean and his new plantation. When Holden passed away in early 1778, he bequeathed the area he referred to as “my beach” to his sons James and Amos. After a later land transfer the entire island became the sole property of his youngest son, Job. Benjamin Holden’s great grandsons, John Jr. and George took steps toward developing the area into a summer resort in 1905. The industrious brothers parlayed their love of the fishing industry into a successful beachfront business. The pair shipped nearly 2,000 barrels, each containing a hundred pounds of fish during 1908. The brothers’ fishing business was one of the most successful and productive along the coast of North Carolina.
John Holden Jr. envisioned the potential of the beachfront property in 1924 and had the area subdivided into plots of land. The 64 tracts of land became the Holden Beach Resort. A 60 foot bridge crossing Old Ferry Road was constructed during the days before power tools, to allow quick passage into the area.
Although Holden died before the resort was developed, it was the first official subdivision in Brunswick County. The first hotel on Holden Beach was a ten room structure surrounded by sand dunes along the sore. The Great Depression meant a “Vacancy” sign frequently hung on the hotel during the late 1920’s. Although the hotel was not as successful as the Holden fishing business, it did lay the stepping stones for tourism in Holden Beach.
Unpaved roads and a lack of public utilities deterred visitors to Holden Beach from staying more than an afternoon along the sandy shores. The Holden family was a flurry of ideas to attract enough attention to the beach that North Carolina state officials could justify road paving and modernization of community utilities. Projects by the Holden clan included a small electrical plant to offer services to beach cottages and the hotel, a bathhouse and a beach pavilion. The pavilion, compete with a “new-fangled jukebox” and construction of 15 cottages were completed in 1939.
World War II brought many changes and restrictions for residents and visitors to Holden Beach. Due to German submarines believed to be patrolling the North Carolina coast, night beach use and lights along the shore were prohibited. The United States Coast Guard patrolled the beach at night via horseback. Telephone lines were constructed along the beach so the patrolling guards could call in anything suspicious to the guard house while remaining in the saddle. Liberty Ships carried needed supplies and materials to soldiers fighting in the war. Holden Beach residents during the war years reportedly say the ships “burn at sea” when hit with German submarine torpedoes.
The destruction of Hurricane Hazel” in 1956 had a massive impact on both natural vegetation and shelters of coastal birds. The lack of shrubbery, trees and flowering vegetation bolstered sand shifting. To help combat the erosion of natural habitats for wildlife, the Holden family erected birdhouses for martins, blue birds and other feathered creatures along the shore. Bluebirds were nearly extinct from 1950-1970 in Brunswick County. Alan Holden enlisted the aid of local 4-H clubs to situate birdhouse he handcrafted around the island. A local church group raised money to build additional birdhouse to help the population continue to gain a strong foothold in the area.
Modern Holden Beachfront
While decades have passed since the initial development of Holden Beach, the area remains fairly unaltered. More hotels and beachfront recreational opportunities have been added, yet the feel of the area remains unaltered. No building along the beach is taller than 35 feet in height, offering spacious views and walkways for sun-seekers. Waterfront restaurants feature views of passing boats and fresh seafood. A host of shopping venues are located just a ten minute drive from the beach. Seeking to work in some time on the links while on vacation? Nearly 10 golf courses are available less than one hour’s drive from Holden Beach, including the renowned Pine Hurst course.
Socializing and sampling local cuisine and works by local artists can be hand during annual festivals. Holden Beach area heritage and recreational festivals include the Azalea Festival, North Carolina Oyster Festival, Day at the Docks and North Carolina Festival by the Sea.
After a day spent playing among the sand and surf, Holden Beach visitors can enjoy an evening of family friendly entertainment. Local attractions offer a rainy day alternative and multi-generational bonding experiences.
Magic Mountain Water Slide and Ice Cream Parlor offers homemade ice-cream and outdoor water slides. Get cooled off while cruising down the twists and turns of the slides.
Super Track Go Carts and Bumper Boats offers an afternoon of fun for the entire family. Whiz around the track racing against grandpa and feel like a professional race car driver. Splash and dodge in the bumper boat pool and feel like a kid again.
Holden Beach Turtle Patrol works to preserve sea turtles habitats and nesting sights. Walk the beach and look for flags designating hatching spots. Preserve the wonders of nature with a photo, but do not disturb the eggs or nesting area.
Sharky’s Watersports rents jet skis and offers parasailing excursions.
Fantasy Isle Ice Cream and Miniature Golf fills waffle cones to the brim with the house specialty, Mello Buttercuip ice cream. Play a round of miniature golf with the kids and let the smiles unfold as you wind through colorful obstacles along the course.