Nothing could be finer than North Carolina

Nine years ago, Carole and John Gallway stumbled upon a little slice of paradise. From the balcony of their luxury villa, it looks something like this: beneath a canopy of tall pines, twisted oaks and swaying palm trees, 2,000 acres of emerald grass unfurl into three championship golf courses. The links are dotted with little lakes and framed by groomed walking and biking trails.

Every now and then, splashes of magenta azalea bushes punctuate the gently rolling landscape, while a soft breeze carries the unmistakable scent of sea salt from the nearby coast. Ahhh. Life doesn’t get much better.

Welcome to Sea Trail Resort (officially called Sea Trail Golf Resort and Conference Center), located in Sunset Beach, North Carolina.

Carole Gallway, 59, and her husband John, 64, retirees from Maine, first came to Sea Trail for one week after spotting an ad in a brochure. Carol had recently retired from banking, and John was still working at the local paper mill.

“Sea Trail stood out from the others because it had something for both John and me,” recalls Carole. “He likes to golf, and I like beaches. For us, i was the best of both worlds.”

John had his choice of three distinctly different links:

The Rees Jones Course is straightforward, with elevated greens, wide fairways, large mounds and pot bunkers.

Willard Byrd, in the Floridian style, features lots of water with a curvy dogleg design. It’s built on undulating greens, around several man-made lakes.

The Dan Maples course demands accuracy. Five holes wind along the Calabash Creek, and the tree line is a heavy curtain of foliage.

John hit all three courses and was hooked. Meanwhile, Carole dipped her toes in the soothing water of nearby Sunset Beach. “The sand is wonderful, and you can walk for miles,” she says.

Sunset Beach is a quiet coastal town that has kept development in check. There are no high-rises here. But you can shop, grab a bite and explore places like the shore bird sanctuary. It takes five minutes to get there by car. If you don’t feel like driving, Sea Trail offers a complimentary shuttle service.

After the Gallways’ first experience at Sea Trail in 1996, the couple vowed it would not be their last. With each successive visit, the length of stay increased. When John fully retired almost four years ago, the Gallways made the resort their second home, staying six months at a time.

During the 2005-2006 season, Sea Trail again welcomed the Gallways and approximately 150 other long-term guests from Canada, U.S., Bermuda and Europe. Most came during the snowbird season – between December and April. “The long-term-stay guests are like family to us,” says Sea Trail senior sales manager Lezlie Tyler. “We see them year after year.”

Long-term stay package
CARP Travel offers several long-term-stay packages that may include round-trip air to Raleigh Durham from Toronto, one-month accommodation in a luxury villa with kitchen, living/ dining area, washer and dryer; plus linens, towels and cleaning service. A 30-day rental car is also included. Prices range from $1,599 to $1,799 subject to availability.

Activities galore
Teeing off is just one of many things to do here. The Village Activity Centre is equipped with indoor and outdoor pools, cardio-fitness centre, lighted tennis courts, whirlpool and sauna. The on-site, licenced massage therapist uses hot stones that make the tightest muscles melt.

Beyond the resort, options are just as plentiful. If you think of the area as a cluster ring, Sea Trail is the diamond and the surrounding vicinity is a grouping of precious gems.

A 40-minute drive south from Sea Trail will land you on the sparkling shore of Myrtle Beach. Join the fast-paced fun at live music theatres, outlet shopping malls and more than 70 championship golf courses.

Or head north and you’ll unearth some spectacular finds. Southport, an historic fishing village located approximately 35 minutes from the resort, was once a major player in packing and shipping shrimp. Today, it makes a name for itself as a tourist destination and as one of Rand McNally’s most desirable places to retire in the U.S. Beneath its refined and quiet exterior bubble stories of heroes, pirates and shipwrecks.

From its shores, grab a ferry to Bald Head Island. In 20 minutes, you’ll dock in a magical oasis where moss drapes from oak branches like a fine chenille shawl, and rare Loggerhead sea turtles nest in the sand.

Learn more about the fauna and flora at the Bald Head Conservancy. You can also check out the oldest lighthouse in North Carolina, affectionately known as Old Baldy.

Back on the mainland, drive 20 minutes northwest, and you’ll find Wilmington. It’s home to one of the largest districts listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Get an overview of the city by flagging down the free trolley, or do it the old-fashioned way – by horse and carriage.

With all there is to see and do, it’s no wonder the Gallways call Sea Trail their second home. “Once you come here and experience what the area has to offer,” says Carole, “I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want to stay for the long term.”

The mean temperature on North Carolina’s southern coast for December to April ranges from 7 C (45 F) to 17 C (62 F).

North Carolina
For a copy of the North Carolina Travel Guide and Map:
1-800-VISIT-NC (1-800-847-4862);

CARP Travel
As well as long-term stays, CARP Travel also offers a Ladies Southern Tour.

Sea Trail Golf Resort and Conference Center