One of the first things many military wives do after getting orders to a new duty station is look up things to do there. No one likes to sit around bored and after the cost of moving, there’s not always much money to be spent on entertainment. Thankfully, one of the best free/cheap summer activities is swimming. As Florida-natives, we LOVE to swim! You can find me and my bunch at the pool, lake, or river as soon as temperatures start to rise.
After arriving in the heat of the North Carolina summer, one of the first things I did was find somewhere to swim near Fort Bragg. One of the options I found was White Lake. Pictures on-line showed a crystal-clear lake with sandy beaches and a family friendly atmosphere. It has also been dubbed the “Nation’s Safest Beach”. According to the internet, White Lake has been attracting visitors since the early 1900s and became a high-end vacation destination in the 1920s.
We decided to spend our first Carolina holiday at the lake. On the 4th of July, we loaded up the truck and headed south. From our home in Spring Lake, the drive to White Lake took a little over an hour. After leaving Fayetteville, there wasn’t much in the way of gas stations or restaurants. I advise making sure you eat and get gas before you leave.
We didn’t eat anything before leaving home because we thought we would get something to eat once we got there. However, White Lake is a very small town, most of which is concentrated around the lake itself. There weren’t very many restaurants to choose from and the ones we saw were packed. We finally found one that we could squeeze into and had a decent lunch. Ski Burger is a cute little place that serves breakfast, burgers, and fries. The food is good and so is the price, so we couldn’t complain.
As far as I can tell, there is only one public beach on the lake: Goldston’s Beach. (Please, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.) There is an entry fee ($5 per person, but kids 12 and under get in free), but it was only $10 for our whole family. Goldston’s Beach is an attraction all its own, even if you don’t plan to swim. There is a small amusement park, mini golf, arcade, Bingo hall, motel, restaurant, and store! The whole place has a cool, retro vibe. There are plenty of vintage photo opportunities to be had.
Since we were on a budget, we by-passed all of these attractions and made our way straight to the beach. We took off our shoes, laid out our blanket, and headed straight for the water. As you can imagine, the lake was extremely busy because it was the 4th of July, but it wasn’t as bad as we expected. [We went back on a non-holiday weekend and there was a fraction of the crowd.] We were hesitant to leave our stuff on the beach while we were in water, but thankfully, nothing happened to it.
We were expecting crystal-clear waters (as promised by the internet). However, this was not the case. I feel that the lake would have been it’s normal, beautiful, clear self, if it hadn’t been for all the boats and people stirring up the murkiness. Although it wasn’t as clear as we expected, it wasn’t exactly dirty either. I never got that lake-y smell, but our swimsuits were dingy by the time we left. [On our second, trip, the water was much clearer, but still not as pretty as the pictures on-line.] If you’re iffy about the water, you can stick to making sand castles on the beach!
Later that night, it was time for fireworks. I was seriously impressed with the fireworks display put on by a town that boasts a population of less than 500 year-round. The fireworks were shot off from the end of Goldston’s Pier, so from where we were on the beach they looked like they were almost directly over us. The whole show was about 30 minutes long and it was beautiful!
All in all, it was a great day! We like the lake and plan to swim there many more times while we’re stationed at Fort Bragg. There is also a water park down the road from the lake that we can’t wait to try next summer! I feel that I can confidently recommend White Lake as a good swimming hole and hope that you enjoy it as much as my family did!
Don’t feel like the lake is right for you? Is it too far to drive? Check out Chalmer’s Pool in Fayetteville!