CharlotteNC to HoldenBeachNC
January 27, 2008 9:07 PM   Subscribe

Driving from Charlotte, NC, to Holden Beach, this July: warnings, advice, cool places to show the kids en route, anecdotal musings all appreciated...

It looks like the fastest flight for us this summer to get to the beach is a non-stop from PDX overnight to Charlotte, instead of our usual 1 stop into RDU. I am seeking reasons why this is brilliant or ill-advised. It looks like the drive time is about an hour more than RDU to get to the beach, and the girls have never seen much of the low-country.
posted by docpops to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
74 heading east from Charlotte is a nightmare. Monroe alone will slow you down an enormous amount. As the airport is a bit to the south, I would actually consider driving down to Columbia and cutting over to Florence on 20. I am not sure how much time you would save, but I am sure how much stress you would save. Obviously, if you can fly into Columbia it might be a good idea. I imagine you have looked into flying into Myrtle Beach or Wilmington already. If not, then do so. That would make your life much easier.

Anyway, I can't advise you enough to stay off of 74 between Charlotte and Lumberton. You just wind up driving right through small cities and towns and enjoying all of their traffic lights. No matter what way you go, it is pretty boring until you reach the coast. If you fly into Wilmington or Myrtle, you would be traveling along the coast (sort of). There are many places I could direct you to. Have you been to Holden Beach before? Southport is a beautiful small southern city/town that is just to the north of Holden Beach. There is a ferry there that can take you over to Carolina Beach. It is a twenty or so minute ride up the Cape Fear River.

Have you been to Holden Beach before? It is one of the beaches I have been to the fewest times in southern North Carolina.
posted by flarbuse at 10:34 PM on January 27, 2008

Flarbuse, maybe you haven't been on 74 in a while. It's actually four lanes, relativey fast once you get past Monroe (70 mph in some stretches and you can really fly), until you get just outside Lumberton. The two-lane stretch is down to only 13 miles, with only a traffic light at I-95. They put a bypass around both Hamlet and Rockingham.

Also, here's a shortcut to get you around Monroe altogether:

From the Charlotte airport, take Billy Graham Parkway (shut up) to I-485 East (outer loop). Get off on the Providence Road exit and head south to NC 84 (Weddington Road) and turn left. Take Weddington Road to where it merges with NC 75 (Franklin Street). Follow NC 75 through the town of Monroe and you will end up on US 74 on the east side of Monroe when you get on the other side. From there, it's a breeze.

Not much to see on the trip, although it's worth a stop at Pee Dee Orchards for fresh peaches and the Lumberton Farmer's Market if it's open.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 3:52 AM on January 28, 2008

As someone who has driven many, many times from Wilmington to Charlotte and back, I can say that both Flarbuse and Sweetie Darling are right: even with tricks to avoid Monroe and bypasses around Hamlet and Rockingham, the trip is something to be endured more than enjoyed. You still go through several small towns and there really is not much of interest to stop and see.

If you decide to do it, be aware of the speedtrap around Whiteville, east of Lumberton, where the speed limit drops from 70 suddenly.
posted by pasici at 4:30 AM on January 28, 2008

Thought of this in the shower: Gas stations are few, and icky, between Laurinburg (about the halfway point) and Whiteville. Be sure to stop if you're in doubt. They are also your best bets for fast food on that side of the trip.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 4:32 AM on January 28, 2008

As a veteran of the Holden Beach family vacation, my top two picks would be the Battleship North Carolina in Wilmington and checking out venus flytraps in the wild at Carolina Beach State Park. Have fun!
posted by Shoggoth at 6:31 AM on January 28, 2008

Everyone - Thanks. This is what makes Ask great.

The calculus in my world is tedium of a car trip v. the stress of delays/missed connections on an airline with two young kids (we can fly nonstop from PDX to CLT but not RDU). Perversely, having grown up back east, I sort of enjoy seeing the area, so the above answers tell me very well what to expect - some good, some not. I've been to Holden 5 times, but via different routes each time, i.e. driving from DC, RDU, etc. We're going to fly out of RDU on the return because I know I can fly up I40 in 3 hours and be on a plane the day we check out.

The problem with flying into MB or Wilmington was mostly that we had to hop on a commuter plane in Charlotte, then we had to kill 8 hours before check in at the beach.

Anyway, I'm going to print all this out.
posted by docpops at 7:42 AM on January 28, 2008

As a former but recent resident of Monroe, I agree. Avoid at all costs! There are so many traffic lights between Charlotte and Monroe and all of them are very long. Sweetie Darling's advice is good if you're not going during rush hour. If you are, then you might as well just take 74. The back roads clog up in a hurry because of all the fancy subdivisions dotting the countryside out there.

Holden Beach is the only beach I made it to in my time down South, but I enjoyed it very, very much. I hope you have a great time!
posted by bristolcat at 9:20 AM on January 28, 2008

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