Flock to NC’s Brunswick Islands and Capture Birding at its Finest

it doesn’t matter if you are a bird enthusiast, vacationing with family and friends or live in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, everyone is mesmerized by the overwhelming number of bird species living along the coast of the Brunswick Islands.

There are eight birding sites on the North Carolina Birding Trail that are located along the Brunswick Islands. The area’s diverse ecosystems make it a natural haven for hundreds of species of birds.  Over 330 species of birds have bee seen in Brunswick County.

Nature trails andoystercatcher birding sites dot the area from Sunset Beach and the Intracoastal Waterway to the Cape Fear River and the Brunswick Town-Fort Anderson State Historic Site and several nature preserves, offering plenty of places to observe numerous indigenous and migrating bird species, some of which are threatened or endangered. Herons, egrets, bald eagles, plovers, terns, pelicans, clapper rail and one of the largest of North Carolina’s water birds, the federally-endangered wood storks, are among the prized sightings for birders in Brunswick Islands.

wood storksPopular places for birding include the nature preserve on Bird Island, located adjacent to Sunset Beach. The uninhabited, 1,200-acre state preserve offers a chance to see salt marshes, maritime grasslands and shrubs and even rare plants, such as the Sea Beach Amaranth. Over 260 species of birds alone can be found on Bird Island and Sunset Beach, nesting or migrating throughout different seasons of the year. Species that are of interest here include: Horned Grebe, Wood Stork, American Oystercatcher and Black Skimmer.

Another popular stop on the North Carolina Birding Trail includes a ferry ride to Bald Head Island. Bald Head Island provides access to 14 miles of pristine beaches, 10,000 acres of salt marsh and approximately 180 acres of protected maritime forest. Species that are of interest here include: Wilson’s Plover, Piping Plover, Sandwich Tern, Least Tern and Painted Bunting.

piping ploverClick here to view a short video on birding in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands.

Spotlight on Lighthouses in the Brunswick Islands

Caswell Beach Oak Island Lighthouse

along the coast of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is a beach activity perfect for any family looking for adventure or an educational experience. This year, why not add an exhilarating item to your bucket list and discover an elevated, 360-degree scenic view of the Atlantic Ocean and inland waters of the Cape Fear River? The Oak Island Lighthouse, standing just over 150 feet, offers the perfect opportunity to see some amazing coastal views. Venture up the unique 131 steps to the observation platform and capture exceptional aerial photos of Oak Island and the seemingly endless ocean of Caswell Beach. But this isn’t your normal lighthouse excursion – within the Oak Island Lighthouse, the steps leading to the observation platform are ships’ ladders, not the typical spiral staircase found in most lighthouses.DSC_7872_LR

The Oak Island Lighthouse, located on Caswell Beach, is the newest of the North Carolina lighthouses, with construction completed in 1958. For the first five years of the lighthouse’s operation, the lights projected to sailors were the brightest in the United States and second brightest in the world. The lighthouse used carbon-arc mercury lamps that generated 70 million candle power. Now, the lighthouse is powered by four 1,000-watt halogen bulbs that produce 2.5 million candle power. The Oak Island Lighthouse light can be seen for 16 miles out to sea and is still one of the most powerful lighthouses in existence.

Tours to the top of the lighthouse are available all year long by appointment for climbers nine years of age and older. Tour appointments must be made through the Oak Island Lighthouse website, at least two weeks in advance.  The Oak Island Lighthouse is located at 300 Caswell Beach Rd, Caswell Beach, NC 28465.

 Just across the waters of the Cape Fear River from the Oak Island Lighthouse stands the oldest lighthouse in North Carolina, Old Baldy. The lighthouse, located on Bald Head Island, was built in 1817 and haIMG_3589 blogs maintained its original form and location for over 187 years. This historic landmark has 108 steps, five landings and is 110 feet tall.

While no longer an active lighthouse, Old Baldy is open for visitors to enjoy and climb to the top for a breathtaking view of the area’s natural beauty. Take an in-depth island tour with a knowledgeable guide or purchase a ticket to climb to the top. Reservations can be made in advance by calling Deep Point Marina at 910-457-5003 or visiting their website.  Old Baldy Lighthouse is located at 101 Lighthouse Wynd, just a short walk from the island’s ferry landing.

Learn more about the Oak Island Lighthouse and Old Baldy by watching this short video on Brunswick Islands’ Lighthouses
.

Special visitors – From nest to sea

there is no greater feeling or moment than viewing a 250 pound sea turtle glide through the crashing ocean waves. Even better is watching a baby sea turtle make its way toward the huge abyss of the sea. At North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, you can experience both of these magnificent happenings of the loggerhead sea turtle on Bald Head Island, Holden Beach, Sunset Beach, Ocean Isle Beach, Caswell Beach and Oak Island.

From nest to sea, the loggerhead is an extraordinary and monolithic creature that travels great distances to lay its eggs on our many shores from May to August. The hatchings of these creatures will begin in July and continue into October. However, some of the biggest threats to sea turtles are habitat loss, fishing, poaching, and pollution. Therefore, it is our duty to ensure that these turtles fulfill their long lifespan of up to 100 years by educating the community.

Turtle Talks

With conservation practices in full-effect, you will find that our beaches are home to a multitude of protected nests managed by sea turtle protection organizations. These organizations seek to educate locals and visitors about the importance of keeping these charming sea creatures safe.

Many groups offer free seminars, tours and information about protecting the loggerhead turtles. In fact, several of our beaches offer free ‘Turtle Talks’ in order to educate on turtles and provide insight into ways we can help protect this endangered species.

Turtle Talks – Holden Beach
Jun 4, 2014 – Aug 27, 2014, 7:00 PM
Sea Turtle Talk – Sunset Beach
May 28, 2014 – Sep 1, 2014, 12:00PM – 1:00PM
Turtle Talks – Ocean Isle Beach
May 25, 2014 – Aug 26, 2014, 7:00PM

Many of our islands offer the opportunity to sponsor turtle nests. On Ocean Isle Beach, nests are monitored and updated continuously with information regarding the status of each nest. The Turtle Watch Program on Holden Beach even has statistics on the number of current nests, known eggs and the total baby turtles that have made it to the ocean. All the turtle watch or sea turtle protection organizations in the Brunswick Islands maintain websites.  Visit the Sunset Beach, Oak Island, Caswell Beach, or Bald Head Island sea turtle programs for more information.

Plan your last summer beach vacation around this miraculous turtle celebration as you watch, learn and have fun with your family, friends and of course, the loggerhead sea turtle.

Top reasons to visit North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands right now

The math is a no-brainer!


Five barrier islands + four charming coastal towns + six separate beach communities = 45 miles of wide, stunning beaches! This southernmost corner of North Carolina is one of the South’s best kept secrets! Sunset Beach, Ocean Isle Beach, Holden Beach, Oak Island, Caswell Beach and Bald Head Island rank among North Carolina’s best beaches with uncrowded sand, surf and fun, and the picturesque Southern towns of Southport, Calabash, Shallotte and Leland draw visitors with family-owned, one-of-a-kind restaurants, galleries and shops.

Full-Moon Fever

The beach vacation isn’t just for daytime anymore!  North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is also the place to explore by the light of the moon for a new perspective on this pristiIMG_6444 b_edited-1ne coastal getaway. August 10, 2014 and September 8, 2014 are the last two full moons of the summer vacation season and the perfect times to join one of our outdoor adventure outfitters for a moonlight kayak trip to take to the marsh under the twinkling stars. Twilight kayak tours are also available for those that prefer to paddle during the last light of the day.

Purple Feet

For those who need one last blast of summer (and, don’t we all?!), North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands offers fun and quirky summer festivals and events  for a last great beach vacation including the Purple Feet Festival at Silver Coast Winery where, you guessed it, a grape stomp is part of the festivities!

Phlock to the Beach “A Buffett Style Beach Bash”

  • Aug 22, 2014 – Aug 23, 2014
  • Oak Island

25th Annual Oak Island Art Guild Arts & Craft Festival

  • Aug 30, 2014 – Aug 30, 2014, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
  • Oak Island

Purple Feet Festival

  • Sep 6, 2014 – Sep 6, 2014, 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • Silver Coast Winery; Ocean Isle Beach

Back to school – NOT!

When kids head to school, that’s your signal to head to any of our five barrier islands as the already secluded beaches of Brunswick Islands will become even more serene. For a peaceful back to nature experience, visit Sunset Beach where all that separates you from the surf and marsh is a wide stretch of beach and dunes. Connect with nature on Bird Island and take a quiet stroll to the Kindred Spirit Mailbox and get in touch with and share your innermost thoughts.

Tomatoes, blackberries and peaches, oh my!

The flavors of summer are calling from North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. Where ever you are staying for your beach vacation, be sure to get your hands on fresh, locally-sourced produce from the Shallotte, Oak Island, and Southport farmer’s markets. For great coastal dining, spruce up a family cookout with the fresh corn, green beans, tomatoes, watermelon, peaches and more. Oak Island Farmer’s Market even has honey, while Shallotte has handcrafted items such as pottery, jewelry, glassware and homemade bread, cakes and cookies. For a truly unique farmer’s market experience, stop by Southport Waterfront Market for local produce, baked goods, handcrafted items spread under ancient live oak trees and even live music. See the below dates and times for the markets as many close mid-September.

Oak Island FaIMG_0110rmer’s Market, Saturdays through Sep 8, 2014, 7:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Shallotte Farmer’s Market, Mondays through- Sep 13, 2014, 8 a.m. -12 p.m.

Southport Waterfront Market, Wednesdays through Sep 25, 2014, 8 a.m. 1 p.m.

Of course, if you want a night off from the kitchen, our restaurants offer great coastal and waterfront dining!

Turtle Tracks

Turtle alert – the loggerhead turtle nests that have been laid on our North Carolina beaches will begin to hatch in July and go through October! There is probably no experience more powerful than watching baby sea turtles boiling out of the nest and racing to the water line. Sea turtle conservation is conducted across North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands beaches, and, if you see folks camped out on the beach around sundown, stop by for a look. Chances are they are a group of volunteers on “turtle watch” waiting for the hatchlings to emerge and make their way to the ocean. View a video here to see what all the fuss is about!