You slide into the starting position, gripping the rope. For a moment, your eyes wander, surveying the white sand beaches and clear waters that surround you. High on a mast above, a cable carrier hooks the other end of your rope—with a tug, you launch into the water. Without the hum of a boat's outboard motor, you're free to concentrate on the sound of your wakeboard cutting the water's surface as you prepare to lift out of the rippling waves and off the first jump.
This is the introduction wake-boarders and wake-skaters at Hexagon Water Park receive when they set out on the flexible cable that winds through the Tucker Lake obstacle course at high speeds. In this controlled environment, instructors help riders of all ages master the particulars of extreme water sports, such as how to stand and when to give ducks the right of way. Beside the cable park, other visitors explore the open water aboard stand-up paddleboats and kayaks. Visitors can also explore beachside attractions such as water slides, rope swings, and inflatable climbing structures.
Seaward Action Charters offers a sport-fishing opportunity for brave boaters to reel in the fish of their daydreams. Gird your nautical forearms and cruise around the ocean on a four-hour fishing trip that ventures no further than 5 miles from the shore. As USCG-licensed captain Mark Gorges and fellow captains pilot a trustworthy 30-foot Grady-White, guided by GPS and radar, guests plant their feet firmly on the deck and harvest piscine fare from the ocean. Whether awaiting the strike of a spanish mackerel, a flounder, or simply playing catch-the-Spam-can with a bluefish from the bow, there will be plenty of fun for every rod-wielding bait-chucker. In addition to high-quality fishing tackle, the boat boasts modern amenities such as an electric toilet and a sink.
Surrealist murals of outer space—complete with orbiting dolphins and bowling pins—look down from overhead as customers topple pins on the 32 USBC-certified bowling lines inside Planet Fun. This cosmic theme extends throughout the 50,000-square-foot family entertainment center, and kids and adults flock to its many attractions. At the two-story indoor laser tag arena, epic sci-fi battles are fought with focused beams of light amid spirited debates over hypothetical confrontations between the Enterprise and a Star Destroyer. The nine-hole mini-golf course allows guests to immerse themselves in the black-lit glow of the sea, accompanied by sights of giant neon oysters, starfish, and divers.To refute theories that life isn’t all about games, Planet Fun also boasts a redemption arcade stocked with more than 100 titles. After exchanging tickets for prizes, players tackle stomach rumblings at the on-site Starz Grill, which serves up a family-friendly menu of steaks, salads, burgers, chicken, pasta, and all-you-can-eat crab legs.
A Cape Fear naturalist with a master's degree in environmental science and captain's credentials from the United States Coast Guard, Captain Joe Abbate is just the guy to follow into North Carolina's swamps and coastal waterways. Joe and his nautical team at Wrightsville Scenic Beach Tours lead expeditions along the Atlantic coast that range from birding tours to sunset expeditions to excursions in which passengers learn to talk like a pirate from Don Juan Cortez, a swashbuckling historical reenactor. The company's fleet consists of two ships: Shamrock, a 27-foot, motorized catamaran that can carry up to 22 passengers, and Island Hopper a 22-foot skiff that can navigate both the open water and marsh grass.
When Skydive Myrtle Beach’s instructors say that their careers are plummeting, they aren’t being pessimistic about their employment prospects—they’re telling the literal truth. Many of these professional plungers boast a background in the military and Special Operations, putting their extensive airborne experience to work helping civilians learn the art and thrill of free falling. They provide one-on-one instruction on the ground for new skydivers before loading them into a Pilatus Porter airplane for a 15-minute ride to altitude. At a height of a little more than 2 miles, they strap onto their students and execute a high-altitude jump, reaching speeds of 120 miles per hour before deploying the chutes. The resulting drift to earth lasts about five minutes, allowing students the perfect opportunity to capture photos of Myrtle Beach or very incautious birds.
Within 93,000 square feet, the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores manages to fit all of the state's and most of the world's main aquatic environments into five galleries. A 30-foot waterfall throws a cool mist over guests as they begin a journey that brings them to the Piedmont gallery, where the aquarium's three spunky river otters—Neuse, Pungo, and Eno—frolic and play poker underwater. Further exhibits promise other memorable encounters, such as the Tidal Touch Pool where handlers let visitors touch skates, rays, and select invertebrates. At the epicenter lies the ocean gallery, anchored by a 306,000-gallon tank with a 65-foot viewing window. Sand tiger sharks and moray eels swim about the Living Shipwreck exhibit, a replica of a German U-boat that sank off the United States' East Coast in 1942. Behind the glass of another tank, a young loggerhead sea turtle named Nimbus flashes its gold-toothed smile and rare white coloration.
Divers host live shows twice a day in the ocean tank, answering visitors' questions via special equipment. They've also been known to assist with proposals, unveiling engagement rings as an unsuspecting fiancé peers through the glass. Beyond overseeing the standing exhibits, the staff also ventures outside for numerous educational programs and activities. Participants can catch crabs, fish in the surf, explore the marsh, or even explore the water on canoeing and kayaking outings.