By Monday afternoon, choppy yet powerful swells brewed somewhere in the tropics had rolled onto Holden Beach, pummeling errant beachcombers and creating pristine six-foot peaks several hundred yards from shore.

By Monday afternoon, choppy yet powerful swells brewed somewhere in the tropics had rolled onto Holden Beach, pummeling errant beachcombers and creating pristine six-foot peaks several hundred yards from shore.

Those distant waves had lapped my daydreams for months, and I fought for them until my shoulders ached and saltwater poured from my nose.

They were worth it, but they didnít stay long. They never do.

Waves arenít the reason I travel to this small North Carolina hamlet about 40 miles northeast of Myrtle Beach. I can exercise anywhere. Holdenís where I go to sit down.

Once unpacked with friends in one of the large rental houses that line the elongated residential sliver, you donít really have much choice. The 8.5-mile island has only one bridge to the mainland, which makes for a dreadfully long, 35 mph drive back into town.

Youíll never keep more comprehensive grocery lists.

In a delightful way, youíre marooned with nothing but your groceries, swimsuit, books and tumbler of rum. A week at Holden is a study in living simply and enjoying lifeís less hectic side while lost in the gentle cadence of a rocking chair.

For those who like a vacation in the classic sense ó that era before we felt guilty about slowing down ó this is paradise. (If youíre restless, bikes, surfboards and kayaks are available to rent at Beach Fun Rentals.)

On one side of your abode, roughhewn wooden boardwalks reach over grassy dunes to white-sand beaches and the Atlantic Ocean. On the other, verdant marshes and estuaries border a calm inter-coastal waterway lined with docks, fishing boats and a few weathered seafood restaurants. (My favorite is Provision Company, where crab cakes and craft beer await.)

Much of the island has been developed, though buildings sit within prime birding habitat, a surprisingly clean coastline and wild dunes that are recognized as a sea-turtle sanctuary.

Naturalists have identified nests of hatching turtles each year Iíve been, and they remain on hand to see them off on their midnight run to freedom. When they emerge, much applause ensues.

These evenings are a pretty reliable way to know youíre relaxing: Watching a turtle waddle out to sea is the highlight of your week.