Find Scenic Views and Abundant Wildlife at the Nature Preserves in NC’s Brunswick Islands

From the area’s 45 miles of pristine beaches to the unique inland ecosystems, North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is home to a range of diverse nature preserves where wildlife thrives. Visitors can enjoy beautiful scenery and discover native plants and animals, by foot, bike, kayak and more. Choose one of these five nature preserves for your next excursion in the Brunswick Islands, and read on to learn more about local efforts to sustain many of these picturesque spaces from Mansfield Fisher with The Nature Conservancy.

Bald Head Island

Accessible by ferry or private boat, Bald Head Island features 10,000 acres of salt marsh and 180 acres of protected maritime forest, all preserved by the Bald Head Island Conservancy. This distinct coastal area is also part of the NC Birding Trail, where visitors can spot Wilson’s Plover, Painting Bunting and several types of wintering waterfowl. The kayaking and birding expeditions offered throughout the year by the Conservancy offer a non-intrusive and scenic view of these fascinating species.

Bird Island Nature Preserve

Bird Island

Located on an undeveloped portion of Sunset Beach, Bird Island is a treasure with more than 1,200 acres of unspoiled salt marsh and tidal creeks, along with natural dunes and sandy beaches. The island serves as an outdoor laboratory and classroom for scientists and students to learn more about how the ecosystem functions and how we can help to sustain precious coastal areas. The Bird Island Preservation Society Stewards also lead educational walks at certain times during the year. Access Bird Island from the southernmost public beach access point on Sunset Beach to make the trip by bike or foot – be sure to look for the Kindred Spirit Mailbox in the dunes about a mile down the beach!

Boiling Spring Lakes Preserve

Pine WarblerMore than 6,000 acres make up this expansive preserve of rare plants and animals. Boiling Spring Lakes Preserve is home to the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, carnivorous plants, rough-leaf loosestrife, and more than 400 vascular plant species, including the Venus flytrap. Visitors can see the stunning preserve for themselves on the Boiling Spring Lakes Nature Trail, accessible at the town’s Community City off Highway 87. The preserve is also part of the NC Birding Trail where visitors can encounter species like the Pine Warbler, Indigo Bunting, Blue Grosbeak and more.

Ev-Henwood Nature Preserve – preserved by UNCW

Encompassing 175 acres preserved by University of North Carolina Wilmington, the Ev-Henwood Nature Preserve boasts an impressive variety of native plants and animals in the inland town of Leland. Sightings of the Prothonotary Warbler, Swainson’s Warbler and Summer Tanager earned this preserve a spot on the NC Birding Trail. Visitors can take in this natural haven on seven miles of maintained trails throughout the preserve.

Green Swamp Preserve

Pitcher PlantSitting on 15,000 acres, the Green Swamp Preserve is an incredibly unique natural space, considered a longleaf pine savanna, with a diverse herb layer of orchids and insectivorous plants in the open areas. The Preserve is also home to four species of pitcher plants, a stunning sight and great photo-op for nature enthusiasts. Beyond plant life, a range of animals are native to the Green Swamp Preserve – notably the American alligator, fox squirrel, Henslow’s and Bachman’s sparrow and Hessel’s hairstreak butterfly. Just minutes from the coast, visitors can park at the trail access point off Highway 211 in Supply to see this splendid preserve for themselves.

More on nature preserves with Mansfield Fisher of The Nature Conservancy:

Mansfield Fisher works with The Nature Conservancy at the Wilmington, NC-based field office, which focuses on Longleaf restoration through controlled burning. Much of Mansfield’s work takes place at the Green Swamp Preserve in Brunswick County.

Venus Flytrap Green Swamp Nature Preserve“Last year, our Longleaf program in North Carolina assisted or led on controlled burns totaling more than 25,000 acres. We are working to restore natural Longleaf Pine systems and preserve these threatened ecosystems that are home to many rare plants, like the Venus flytrap.”

Why is the fall season a great time to visit the Green Swamp Preserve?

“There is always a reason to go out to the Green Swamp in Brunswick County because, as the seasons change, there will be many different plants to see. The fall is a great time to visit the Green Swamp because this is when many of the grasses flower. The wiregrass and bluestems produce seas of golden grass. Some of the showier plants that bloom in the fall are narrow-leaved sunflower, blazing star, goldenrod, and many kinds of asters.”

What is some of the most unique wildlife you’ve seen in the Green Swamp Preserve?

“There are 16 species of native orchids that can be found in the Green Swamp and 14 different Brown headed nuthatchspecies of carnivorous plants. You will see beautiful longleaf and pond pine trees throughout the preserve. The Green Swamp is a birdwatchers’ paradise. Some of the bird species that can be found are Bachman’s Sparrow, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Bobwhite Quail, Pine Warbler and Henslow’s Sparrows. If you are lucky, you may see White-tailed deer, eastern cougar and bobcats.”

What is your favorite fact about the Green Swamp Preserve that people may not know?

“My favorite fact about the Green Swamp is the important role that fire plays in maintaining the delicate balance of these ecosystems. Lightning and Native Americans maintained fire in these ecosystems and, therefore, many of the plants in the Green Swamp need fire to survive. Without periodic burning, the savannas would become overgrown with shrubs and crowd out many of the flowering herbaceous plants.”

Find The Nature Conservancy on social media:



To learn more about nature in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, and to plan your trip, visit

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Immerse Yourself in the Art Galleries and Events of NC’s Brunswick Islands

Art Galleries

In addition to the scenery of the coast, North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is home to even more beauty in the form of art galleries and events that showcase the work of incredibly talented local artists. Travel throughout the island and inland communities to discover art on display, taking inspiration from the nearby beaches and demonstrating the skills of a variety of creative talents. Beyond browsing, find the work of art that speaks to you, and take it home as a forever memory of your visit to the Brunswick Islands.

Looking to meet up with other art enthusiasts? Check out these upcoming local events.

Southport First Friday Gallery Walk
On the first Friday of each month, art lovers gather in historic Southport to enjoy the local culture with a Gallery Walk put on by the town’s art galleries. Enjoy wine and appetizers at Franklin Square Gallery and browse the many collections featured throughout the participating galleries – including Art@211 Ricky Evans Gallery, Lantana’s Gallery & Fine Gifts, and Silver Coast Winery Tasting Room. Shop for the next addition to your art collection. Admission to the galleries is free, and all are welcome! The next First Friday Gallery Walks in Southport are happening on October 6, November 3 and December 1.

Arts by the Shore
November 3 – 5, 2017, join the community of Oak Island for Arts by the Shore at the Oak Island Recreation Center. The 23rd annual art show will feature more than 200 works of art on display for art aficionados to admire. Don’t miss the reception on Sunday where awards will be presented at 3:30 p.m. Admission is free.

Southport Winter Craft Festival
Get started on your holiday shopping, and find distinct, homemade gifts for everyone at the Southport Winter Craft Festival on December 9, 2017. The event, taking place in historic Franklin Square Park, showcases more than 140 vendors offering hand-crafted home décor, jewelry, crafts and much more.

Also, the North Carolina Oyster Festival October 21 and 22 in Ocean Isle Beach and North Carolina Festival by the Sea October 28 and 29 in Holden Beach feature arts and crafts as well as food and entertainment.

Visit to learn more about the area’s art community and to begin planning your visit!

Plan Your Visit to the 37th Annual North Carolina Oyster Festival

North Carolina Oyster Festival

October is the start of North Carolina’s oyster season, and the magnificent mollusk has been revered in the state for centuries as an important source of food in the coastal areas.  The 37th Annual North Carolina Oyster Festival, returning on Saturday, October 21, 2017 from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Sunday, October 22, 2017 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., is the state’s official celebration of the oyster.  During the Festival, North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands will celebrate all things oyster as a section of Ocean Isle Beach is transformed into a walking district, filled with a variety of foods, crafts, music and more.

North Carolina Oyster FestivalAt this year’s celebration, test your oyster shucking skills in the North Carolina Oyster Shucking Championship where the area’s fastest shucker will earn a cash prize, as well as the opportunity to compete in the National Oyster Shucking Contest in Maryland.  Not up to competing against the professional shuckers?  You can enter the amateur division.  If you are an advocate of the motto “you can never have too much of a good thing?” Put on your stretchy pants and participate in the Oyster Eating Contest! Continue to delight your taste buds at the Oyster Stew Cookoff, featuring delicious samples from some of Brunswick Islands’ best restaurants. Work off some of the calories you have consumed on the dance floor and compete for the top spot in the Shag Dance Competition, whether you’re an amateur or more experienced dancer.

In addition to copious amounts of fried and steamed oysters, festival-goers will have the opportunity to sample an array of foods for every palate, from crab cakes and BBQ, to pizza and sweet treats. Visitors can also admire a wide variety of crafts and artwork available throughout the festival grounds, including handmade furniture, stained glass, wood carvings, sculpture, pottery, leather goods, and jewelry. Don’t miss out on the live music, bring your chairs and enjoy the lineup featuring popular beach bands, cover bands, and everything in between.

Admission is $5.00 for adults and free for children under 12, so bring your family and experience a not-to-be-missed tradition in the Brunswick Islands!

To learn more about attending the 37th Annual North Carolina Oyster Festival, visit


Cast a Line with Ocean Fishing in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands

Brunswick Islands fishing

With 45 miles of coastline, North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is a prime destination for fishing, whether trying your luck inshore, near shore or out in the Gulf Stream. The area attracts fishermen from across the east coast and around the country who come to the Brunswick Islands in search of their prized catch. Outfitters and tackle shops throughout the islands offer equipment rentals for those traveling to the area or for more novice fishermen looking to get into the sport for the first time. Charter boats are available for half-day and full-day charter trips with options for both group and private excursions to near shore locations and out to the Gulf Stream for a trophy fishing experience. The Brunswick Islands’ expert fishing guides are ready to lead skilled fishermen to the top spots, or show beginners the ins and outs of hooking an impressive catch.

We asked a couple of our local fishing experts, Captain Brant McMullan, manager at Ocean Isle Fishing Center, and Captain Cane Faircloth with Ollie Raja Charters out of Holden Beach, to tell us more about their favorite fishing spots and advice for making the most out of a day of fishing in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands.

Why is late summer and fall such a great time for fishing in the Brunswick Islands?

Brant: We have really good Spanish Mackerel and King Mackerel fishing during this time within sight of land. The fish are easy to access, fun to catch and great to eat.

Where is your favorite place to fish in the Brunswick Islands in the late summer and fall?

Cane: Yaupon Reef.

(This is said to be one of the state’s most popular artificial reefs and is only 1.5 miles off the coast from Oak Island.)

What can fisherman expect to catch during this season?

Cane: King Mackerel in deep sea locations, and Flounder, Trout and Red Drum at inshore locations.

Why is the Brunswick Islands such a prime fishing destination?

Brant: We have a large variety of fishing options from the Gulf Stream (50-60 miles off the coast) right to the inshore marshes.

Cane: The three rivers that run out of the area, the Cape Fear, Shallotte and Lockwood Rivers, are great food sources, as they are nutrient-rich.

What makes for a perfect day on the water for ocean fishing?

Brant: Providing people who truly appreciate the fishing experience with a good day fishing, having good conversation and providing a memorable experience.

Cane: Light to variable wind, 83-degree air temperature, and 70-degree water temperature.

Fishing tournament

Don’t miss the U.S. Open King Mackerel Tournament, October 5-7, 2017 at the Southport Marina. A great event for both participants and spectators, the U.S. Open King Mackerel Tournament started over 35 years ago to highlight the amazing fall fishing opportunities in the waters around Southport and Oak Island. One of the largest kingfish tournaments on the East Coast, more than 400 boats enter the tournament each year. Fishermen looking to try out their skills for the grand prize of $25,000 are encouraged to register online before October 3. Spectators are welcome and encouraged to watch as the fishermen bring in their catches to be measured at the end of each tournament day. See for information on additional fishing tournaments in the area.

Visit to begin planning your fishing excursion in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. You can also find out more about saltwater fishing permits at

Nine Not to Miss Golf Holes in NC’s Brunswick Islands

Top Golf Holes

Salty breezes, unsurpassed coastal views, and exceptional golf make North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands a mecca for golf enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels. Home to more than 30 championship courses and over 120 miles of fairways, visitors to “North Carolina’s Golf Coast” can play a new course every day for a month without repeating a hole. It’s impossible to go wrong with the abundance of incredible golf courses throughout the Brunswick Islands, but before you leave, make sure to check out the list below of some of the top golf holes in the area. Selected for their challenge level and extraordinary scenery, these holes will challenge and delight your inner golf aficionado. (All yardages are from the white tees.)

Leopard's Chase Golf Course

Leopard’s Chase, Hole 18

Designed by Tim Cate, and named by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine as one of the “Top 10 Best Public Courses in America for 2007,” Leopard’s Chase is a breathtaking course. Located in Ocean Isle Beach, the course showcases natural and man-made water features throughout its 18 holes. The par 4 18th hole is an impressive finishing hole that tees off over native wetlands to a narrowing fairway guarded by a massive bunker running down the length of the hole on the right and a large lake on the left. The hole features an elevated lagoon in front of the green and a spectacular cascading waterfall that beckons golfers to tackle its 369 yards.

Rivers Edge Golf Course Top Hole

Rivers Edge Golf Club, Hole 9

Named by Golf Magazine as one of the “Top 20 North Carolina Courses in North Carolina in 2016,” and designed by golf legend Arnold Palmer, Rivers Edge Golf Club is a one-of-a-kind course. Located in Shallotte, the course rests along the tidal marshes of the Shallotte River and features over 500 acres of unsurpassed natural beauty. The 9th hole is an exceptionally challenging par 5 at 509 yards. Players are advised to aim down the left center of the fairway off the tee. A suggested second shot would be played towards the middle fairway bunker, then a wedge to a very narrow, deep green surrounded by the Shallotte River and marsh.

Carolina National Golf Course

Carolina National Golf Club – The Heron Nine, Hole 5

With three nines winding through rich, low country terrain, Carolina National Golf Club in Bolivia offers players of all skill levels opportunities to enjoy the sport. Heron’s scenic coastal views set the course apart from the other nines at Carolina. The picturesque 5th hole is a par 3 at 182 yards, and requires both skill and precision to land a good shot over the Lockwood Folly River marshland that surrounds much of the green. Some call this one of the most difficult par 3s in the area and say that four strokes isn’t a bad score here.

The Pearl West Golf Course

The Pearl Golf Links West, Hole 16

Located in Calabash, this links-style course displays vast, open stretches of pampas grass alongside bluffs that overlook the picturesque Calabash River and coastal marshland. Golfers will be pleased by the challenging elements of the course that are complimented by untouched natural beauty. The 16th Hole is a mammoth par 5 at 552 yards, lined by the River on the right side of the hole. The entire hole slopes left to right toward the water requiring strategy to avoid a drastic roll down the hill. The approach shot is also difficult with a side-hill lie.

Oyster Bay Golf Course

Oyster Bay Golf Links, Hole 15

Located in Sunset Beach, this course encompasses variety and innovative architecture to create an unforgettable experience for visitors. With a range of intricate, marsh-oriented holes, scenic freshwater lakes and undulating greens, each hole is unique in its own regard. The 15th hole is a noteworthy par 3 at 135 yards where golfers must test their skills to reach the challenging island green.

Farmstead Golf Course

Farmstead Golf Links, Hole 18

Set in Calabash, this course is one of the most exciting courses in the Carolinas. Farmstead is home to one of the most memorable holes in the area, its 18th Hole, which will amaze any golf fanatic. Serving as the region’s only par 6, this lengthy 679-yard hole (it’s a whopping 767 yards from the back tees) starts in South Carolina with a drive into a wide sweeping fairway and ends in North Carolina on a large undulating green.

Crow Creek Golf Course

Crow Creek Golf Club, Hole 8

Designed by Rick Robbins, this Calabash-based course has earned the reputation of being one of the most well-maintained courses along the east coast. The 8th hole on the course is exceptionally challenging, as it is an all carry par 3 at 143 yards. Skill is needed to clear the surrounding lake and bulkhead wall in front of the green, which slopes from back to front and will require creative strokes. A short hitter can bail out to the right, but will still have to chip to a multi-level green. Course experts suggest that putting could be the key to scoring well on this hole.

Compass Pointe Golf Course

Compass Pointe Golf Club, Hole 18

Located in Leland, this course is truly one of the jewels of the Southeastern North Carolina golf scene. It sits in the untouched wetlands, separated by billowing pine trees and native grasses that create a peaceful ambiance. The 18th hole is quickly gaining recognition as one of the most challenging holes in the county. A par 5, the 500-yard hole is “reachable” in two strokes by the longest hitters, as long as they are able to hit past the hazard that crosses the fairway just short of the green. The majority of players lay up short of the hazard and face a mid to short iron third shot to an elevated green that features the most undulation of any of the greens on the course.

Rees Jones Course Sea Trail Resort

Sea Trail Golf Resort – Rees Jones Golf Course, Hole 5

The Rees Jones Course, part of Sea Trail Golf Resort in Sunset Beach, provides an exceptional background for a round of golf. Scattered with several pot and large expanse bunkers, this coastal course provides an ideal setting for a delightfully challenging game. The 5th hole, a 155-yard par 3, features wide fairways surrounded by water and towering trees. Players tee off from an elevated box to a green with the front half surrounded by water. Many refer to this hole as the kick-off to the most difficult three holes on the course.

To begin planning your golf course excursion to test your skills in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, or to request your free golf guide, visit