May 31, 2009 02:00 PM

Kate Gosselin took a beach vacation this week – if that’s what you call taking eight kids to North Carolina without help from her husband while cameras rolled for their reality show.

Gosselin spent time with her 8-year-old twins and her sextuplets, who turned 5 on May 5, on Bald Head Island, N.C., a resort town that features upscale cottages, a golf course and lighthouse with the only modes of transportation being golf carts and bicycles. The brood, along with a nanny, stayed in a rental cottage while they shot scenes for their reality show.

Arriving on a ferry earlier in the week, the Gosselins were hard to miss with all eight kids, local resident Brittani Reynolds, 20, tells PEOPLE.

Kate, in big sunglasses, looked “like a movie star,” according to Reynolds. “She had a manicure and looked really like she takes care of herself. She didn’t seem unhappy. She actually seemed to be in a good mood; she was making jokes with everyone,” she tells PEOPLE. “She was talking loud to the kids, things like, ‘Don’t stand over there. Don’t touch that.’ She sounded like a mom.”

On Wednesday, Gosselin and the kids spent a few hours on the beach flanked by a camera crew and several security guards. “The kids seemed really lighthearted,” says Mari Leathers, 40, who is vacationing on the island from Wytheville, Va. “Of course they stand out because there are so many of them, but they are really happy looking. One of the girls had a little meltdown because she had misplaced a shovel, but otherwise it looked just fine.”

Leathers says she didn’t see the children swim, but they did play in the sand, making sand castles and digging holes.

“It was a production, that’s for sure,” she says. “It wasn’t a relaxing beach time because they were definitely filming. But the kids seemed happy enough.”

On Thursday, twins Cara and Madelyn – along with a bodyguard and a nanny – stopped at Riverside Adventure Co., a gift shop on the island, where the local newspaper, The Star-News, reports that they girls bought two shark’s teeth and silly putty.

“They looked content enough, and the kids in particular looked really happy,” a local resident who saw them out Thursday says. “They were just being kids. [Kate] seemed frazzled, but that was probably more because she was dealing with eight kids.”

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