For each visit to the beach during our weekend excursion to Wilmington we went during magic hour. This is the time of day when the sun is either just about to rise or set. Of course it is not really an hour long, more like 15-30 minutes. It's magic because nothing casts shadows and there is a beautiful soft, cool light. The sun is level with the horizon and its rays are scattering off the ozone making this extraordinary light.
Just after/prior (depending on sunrise/set) to magic hour is golden hour when the sun is just hovering above the horizon and long warm, golden rays cast long soft shadows. It's really hard to drive west during golden hour because the sun is right at eye level, but it doesn't last long. There is nothing like having the time to enjoy the light, particularly as it dances across the ocean changing its color from moment to moment.