beach houses

Hurricane-Proof Beach Houses

I’ve mentioned a few times that one of my goals is to buy a beach house.

There are fewer places where I’m happier, than on a beach. (From the number of posts on the subject, I think that’s pretty clear!) And while I frequent the New York beaches each summer, it’s a long haul for me to get to any of them. My dream is to be able to spend most summer weekends at my own place, in a nearby beach town.

I’m not envisioning anything fancy. Just someplace bright, airy, and relatively quiet.

I do know the risks that come with owning a beach house, though. Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast’s seaside towns hard. Lots of areas are still recovering—including LBI, where I recently vacationed.

Knowing that, I’ve been poking around the web to see what can be done to help beachfront homes survive hurricanes. In the process, I stumbled upon two very different, but gorgeous, houses built to withstand natural disasters.

This seaside cottageВ sits on Hunting Island, off the coast of Maine.В The stones on the exterior walls came from the island. I love the juxtaposition of the rocks and weathered wood…

rustic exterior

…and how the home is just a few steps from the water!

rustic porch

That proximity to the ocean puts the house in a FEMA flood zone, which meant it had to built to code. Design firm, the Knickerbocker Group, oversaw the project: making sure vents could handle rushing floodwaters, ensuring that all wood was rot-proof, installingВ electrical wiring at least three feet off the floor. And that metal rod running along the roof, inside the living room? That’s to keep it from blowing off during a bad storm.

rustic living room

Scary to even think of that. Though I imagine falling asleep on most nights, listening to the sound of waves, makes the risk worth it.

rustic bedroom
On the other end of the design spectrum, is this Tsunami House, fromВ Design Northwest Architects,В on Washington’s Camano Island, in the Puget Sound.

tsunami_house_02

It, too, was built to FEMA code. The lower level is an expansive patio and seating area…

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…but since it would likely be underwater in the event of a hurricane, the main living space is nine feet above ground.

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The structure was built to withstand 85 mph winds and earthquakes.

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At first, I was really wowed by the Tsunami House. But after seeing the stone cottage, I feel like that’s more my style: simple and rustic yet elegant. Either way,В it’s inspiring—and encouraging—to see what can be done within strict flood zone codes.

Which house do you prefer?

(Images of the stone house via Houzz;В images of the Tsunami House by Design Northwest Architects, found via Weather.com)

A Week on Long Beach Island

In early June, a group of friends and I rented a house on Long Beach Island.

True to its name, Long Beach Island is a lengthy, skinny barrier island off the coast of mainland New Jersey. The ocean is on one side, the bay on the other.

LBI, as it’s lovingly referred to, is a favorite summer escape for those of us who grew up in or around NYC. It’s just two hours, by car, from the city. When I was a kid, I lived for our annual vacation there: long days at the beach, riding my favorite carousel horse at the little amusement park, eating pancakes at Uncle Will’s, a breakfast place. I was excited to return to the island as an adult.

OurВ rentalВ was in Surf City, a block from the bay, three from the beach.

vacation rental

It had five nice bedrooms…

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…plus an outdoor hot tub, grill, beach cruisers, kayaks and tiki bar!

tiki bar

Many previous renters raved about the tiki bar in their reviews.В To be honest, I was wondering what the big deal was. But once we settled in, the appeal was clear. The tiki bar was the perfect place to hang out, any time of day…

peter and mal

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karen

…especially when cool beers or frozen drinks were involved.

pina colada

Since it was early June, it was still off-season. Many shops and restaurants were closed, or only open Friday through Sunday.

I didn’t mind, though. Because that meant the beaches were dead.

walkway to beach

When you’re accustomed to packed NYC beaches, it’s a luxury to have a stretch of sand allВ to yourself.

setting up on the beach

Some days were a bit cool and cloudy for sunbathing. That’s when everyone broke out the paddleball and frisbee.

frisbee 2

frisbee 4

I didn’t partake in the games, in case you were wondering—I have zero hand-eye coordination!

I was jealous of the people who owned beachfront homes. How nice it must be to hear the sound of waves from your bedroom.

beachfront homes 1

One day…

beachfront homes 2

LBI is 18-miles long. One cloudy day, Evan and I drove to the southern tip. A year and a half ago, Hurricane Sandy hit the island hard. Surf City, the neighborhood where we stayed, looked like it escaped pretty unscathed. But we drove byВ areas that were still rebuilding. Any house that was under construction, whether a new or existing structure, was being built several feet into the air, on pilings.

Holgate, a community on the south end, was still recovering. We passed many homes that looked abandoned on their pilings, with the beach washed out and their wiring dangling below.

Evan and IВ drove until Long Beach Boulevard ended, then got out and walked onto the beach.

southern part of lbi

We couldn’t go to the very tip of the island, due to rare nesting birds. So Evan hunted for seashells.

On the way back to the house, we stopped for clam chowder. (The soup is so popular on LBI that the island hosts an annual Chowderfest!) I thought this looked like a ton of soup, but we gobbled it up, bread bowl and all, in minutes.

clam chowder in bread bowl

Our group mostly cooked at home. Each couple took a night and prepared a meal for everyone else. I’m lucky to have friends who are good cooks! Every dinner was so delicious that I didn’t snap a picture of a single one. Sometimes being in the moment with good eats and good friends trumps documenting every second.

Of the restaurants we did try, Mud City Crab House was, by far, my favorite.

mud city crab house

The seafood joint isВ actually located off the island, in Manahawkin, but was so awesome that we ate there twice. Their snow crab legs were amazing—and reasonably priced.

snow crab

I was also thrilled that they served blue crabs—my absolute summer favorite! I ordered those for dinner when we returned on another night.

We had to check out of our house on Saturday morning. Before we left the island, we stopped byВ Uncle Will’s, my favorite breakfast spot from when I was a kid.

uncle will's

The place was just as cute as I remembered, with pig-themed paintings on the wall. The ceramic Uncle Wills still held court over the restaurant, and were seated at tables where little kids were dining.

uncle wills

No joke—I was tempted to ask for Will to sit at my table! Just like when I was a kid.

The pancakes were also great.

uncle wills pancakes

Since we got back, my familyВ andВ I have been talking about saving up and pooling our funds to buyВ a beach house, in a few years. That’s the thing about NYC. It’s great to be able to find anything you need, any hour of the day. But the fast pace and crowds also make you crave more of this, especially in the summer:

lbi beach

Ocean Grove’s Tent City

I spent both days on the beach, this weekend. Even though the weather was a little cooler and the beach a tad more crowded than I’d prefer, it’s always wonderful to leave the city and spend some time in the sand and surf.

My new goal in life is to buy a beach house within train or easy driving distance to NYC. I don’t have anything fancy in mind. Just an airy place where I can go to escape NYC on the weekends.

Last week, I stumbled upon a very interesting community that mostly fits that description.

Ocean Grove is a NJ beach town about an hour away from NYC. It has Victorian architecture, a boardwalk, a small downtown area—and “Tent City.”

It’s exactly what it sounds like: a community of people who reside in canvas tents during the summer.

Colorful awnings and flowers decorate tent houses in Ocean Grove

Tent City evolved from a campground, where people stayed while attending religious meetings, in the 1800s.В At one time, there were as many as 600 tents.

Today, 114 remain, with some modern touches, like wooden back rooms, kitchens and bathrooms.

Inside an Ocean Grove tent

The tents don’t offer much privacy—they’re close together and residents can hear what’s going on in the ones around them. There’s no BBQing allowed, and Ocean Grove is a dry town. And, true to its origins, Tent City is still a religious community.

Each tent goesВ for $4,000 to $7,000 a season. Yet, the wait list is rumored to be decades long.

The interior of the Le Duc family's Ocean Grove tent

I can certainly see the appeal. I would happily move into a beachy tent for the summer…though preferably in a non-denominational tent community that allowed BBQing and booze!

(Images via the State of NJ, NJ.comВ and NJ Monthly)

Off to the Shore!

beach

I’m so happyВ that it’s summer. And I’m even more thrilled that I’ll be spending a week at the beach!

My friends and I rented a house on Long Beach Island, on the Jersey shore. (No, it’s definitely not like THAT Jersey Shore.)

I used to vacation on the island when I was a kid. I remember it being sleepy and quaint—no chain stores, lots of mom and pop restaurants, tons of mini golf courses. My sister and I loved Fantasy Island (the island’s little amusement park) so much, that we even rode and named the same carousel horses year after year. (Mine was “Galaxy.”)

I haven’t been back to LBI in almost 20 years, so I’m excited to see what it’s like now. Either way, I’m expecting to have a very nice, relaxing time. It’s hard to beat long days at the beach.

I may or may not be posting next week, so in the meantime, a few quick links from around the web:

There’s a tech edition of Cards Against Humanity. Yessssssss.

An awesome DIY IKEA cat bed.

Some cool photos and video of the Oakland Ballet working with street dancers. (I’m a big fan of Storehouse, the platform on which that was built. So awesome for telling stories. Can we get that functionality on WordPress, please?)

Have a warm and sunny weekend!

So Long, Summer

ocean city lifeguard stand

My favorite season always comes and goes so quickly. But this summer flew by especially fast.

Now that I’m already looking forward to future summers, I’ve come up with two goals:

  • Buy a beach house.
  • Re-learn how to drive. (To get myself to said beach house.)

Obviously, both goals won’t happen overnight. Especially the first one. But they’re doable!

Here’s the logic behind both:

Mal, Peter and I decided that we want to buy our own beach house in five years, or so. It would prevent us from dealing with the nutty summer rental market. And it would take me eons to save for a decent-sized apartment, here in NYC. So it makes sense to look for a house in an area where my money would go a lot further. And as much as I love NYC more than any place on Earth, even I need frequent escapes from the city, for my own sanity—especially during the summer.

We’re planning to spend the following summers doing a few weekend rentals in various east coast beach towns, to get a sense of their vibes. Hopefully we’ll find one that suits us, and has property within our budget.

As for driving…I am the world’s worst driver. I have a license, but I’m so bad that it’s been seven years since I’ve really been behind the wheel. But over the past few months, I’ve decided that it’s time to relearn. I want the freedom and ability to get around in areas that don’t have public transportation—without having to rely on other people.

I’m actually hoping to check off that goal by next summer—so I can drive myself to our rentals. I figure a few hours of driving a month might get me there?

I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

(Photo: Ocean City, MD lifeguard stand)