Check Off Your Beach Bucket List in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands

Beach Bucket

A beach vacation in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands offers a chance for some rest and relaxation and also opportunities to create lifelong memories with loved ones.  Across the destination’s five islands, you’ll find all the activities that make for the best beach vacation memories, along with a few unexpected surprises.

Here are seven Brunswick Islands’ beach bucket list activities sure to make your vacation memorable for the whole family:

Build a Sandcastle

Sandcastle

Opportunities abound to try your hand at sandcastle artistry, or relaxing in the sun and strolling alongside the ocean. With 45 miles of idyllic beaches and six separate beach communities over five barrier islands, fun in the sun awaits travelers in need of a relaxing escape or an adventure-packed getaway.  Sandcastle building tip: create a good strong packed foundation for your sandcastle and be sure to keep your sand wet while building!

Get a Sweet Treat

Satisfy your sweet tooth and stop by one of the many locally-owned ice cream shops and creameries sprinkled throughout the destination. With unique flavors and quality ingredients, you’ll be in for a treat. Each shop offers something special, whether it’s homemade recipes, specialty cones, or a welcoming environment with rocking chairs to sit and enjoy some dessert.

Savor Local Seafood

Calabash seafood

Fulfill your craving for fresh seafood with famous Calabash-style cuisine in the town where it was created. Calabash, the “Seafood Capital of the World,” is home to several locally-owned restaurants serving up lightly-battered, perfectly prepared seafood. Numerous restaurants throughout the islands – many with outdoor waterfront dining – feature menus with fresh, locally-caught seafood and home-style sides.

Discover a Coastal Secret

Venture one mile down the coast on foot or by bike from the last beach access on Sunset Beach and take a serene journey to the Kindred Spirit Mailbox, an unexpected sight among the dunes of Bird Island. Take a seat on a nearby bench and write down your innermost thoughts and dreams on one of the notebooks inside the mailbox, or read notes left by other visitors.

See an East Coast Phenomenon

With the beaches of the Brunswick Islands’ unique positioning toward the South, you can set up your chair on the beach to watch the sunrise over the Atlantic and stay put in the same spot to catch a breath-taking sunset over the ocean. You can see this phenomenon for yourself beginning in the fall and continuing through the winter months.

Be on Turtle Watch

Witness the incredible sight of 250-pound Loggerhead sea turtles laying their eggs on the beach, followed by their babies making their first journey from their nest to the sea. From May to August, you might spot the mother laying her eggs in the dunes, and from July to October the babies hatching and venturing toward the ocean.  Local Sea Turtle Protection Organization volunteers monitor the nests throughout the season to answer questions about the process and can tell you when nests may be ready to hatch. Also, several of the Sea Turtle Protection Organizations offer free “Turtle Talks” throughout the summer. See the events calendar for details.

Go Beyond the Beach

Paddleboarding

Looking to get your toes out of the sand and into a marsh or inland adventure? Explore the beautiful marshes, creeks and estuaries along the Intracoastal Waterway by paddle board, kayak and boat. Channel your adventurous side with some fishing or climb the Oak Island Lighthouse or Old Baldy for a stunning aerial view of the ocean and the marshland. Go ziplining over a swamp or explore nature preserves for carnivorous plants.

To begin planning your bucket list-worthy beach vacation to North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, visit www.NCBrunswick.com.

Find Seashells by the Seashore in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands

North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands’ 45 miles of scenic beaches provide plenty of opportunities for discoveries of coastal treasures along the way. Beachgoers going for a stroll are in for a treat with the variety of seashells found in the area – just keep a careful eye toward the sand.

To help with your next Brunswick Islands shelling excursion, below is a guide of just a few of the shells and other treasures you might find on your outing. Just remember to leave the seashells and creatures in their home if they’re still alive!  Shelling Tip: Be aware of the tides and schedule your shelling adventure for low tide.

Angelwings
Resembling the wings of an angel, this shell can get up to about 5 ¾ inches long with 30 sharply beaded ribs.

 

Olive Shells
These shiny, cylindrical shells can grow up to around 2 ½ inches long, and North Carolina is the Northernmost location where they are found in the U.S. 

Olive Shell

True Tulips
The large, spindle-shaped shells have smooth and shiny exteriors and can get up to 9 ½ inches in size.

True Tulip Seashell 

Sand Dollars
Sand dollars are not seashells but sea urchins.  Sand dollars that are safe to take home are white in color from being bleached by the sun. If you see a sand dollar that is darker in color and has tiny spines that resemble hair, please return them to the water.

 

Starfish
A starfish is not actually a fish, but an echinoderm, which is related to the sand dollar. Starfish can live for up to 35 years in the wild and should be handled gently.

To learn more about the shells found in the Brunswick Islands, visit the Museum of Coastal Carolina in Ocean Isle Beach. The museum features impressive displays of beautiful shells from the region and plenty of volunteers that can tell you more about them and even help you identify the shells you found on the beach. Visitors to the museum can also view shark jaws and teeth, and see live sea stars and urchins.

To get shelling and plan your visit to North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, visit www.NCBrunswick.com.

Enjoy a Labor Day Getaway Without the Crowds in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands

escape to the beach vacation of your childhood this Labor Day weekend in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. While other vacation getaways become packed with fellow vacationers, North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands remain a laid back retreat with plenty of elbow room along the beaches. Enjoy a quintessential island escape on this long weekend getaway to the Carolina coast.

DSC_7872_LRStroll through charming island towns and reminisce of your childhood seaside vacations. For the quintessential island experience, rent a beach bike to discover the treasures of the Islands for yourself. Meander through the historic tree-lined streets of Southport to admire historic picturesque Southern homes or wind your way through the dozens of specialty shops, art galleries and antique stores. Play one of the area’s 30 plus golf courses or take your adventure to the sky and climb one of the Brunswick Islands’ historic lighthouses for endless views of marsh, beach and water.

Dining HRaltWhat would a Labor Day Weekend be without memorable mouthwatering dining? Experience authentic Calabash seafood in the town that created “Calabash style”. Take advantage of outdoor dining options with gorgeous views along the Intracoastal Waterway. For dessert, sprinkle some extra sweetness on your weekend by testing out the frozen treats at numerous locally-owned creameries and ice cream shops throughout the Islands and the mainland.

kayaks at bridge SBSoak in the warmth of summer while sailing across salt or freshwater. Spend the day aboard a boat gazing out on the crystal blue ocean while deep sea fishing or basking in the sun alongside loved ones. If you’re looking for a more personal experience on the water, rent a paddleboard, kayak or canoe or take a guided tour to explore calm freshwater rivers or saltwater tides.

For an experience unique to North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, grab your board and get ready to hang ten in the Oak Island Labor Day Surf Off. All levels and ages are invited to join in the sun, sand and surf at this annual event. Various age and surf categories will compete throughout the day in 15-minute heats. Children and adult surfers alike are welcome to join the Stand-Up Paddle board race later in the afternoon.

DSC_8114_BICYCLEThere is no need to face crowded beaches with a maze of umbrellas and towels this Labor Day Weekend. North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is the place to relax into the quintessential beach holiday getaway. And while some might consider Labor Day Weekend the last of summer, summer temperatures linger in the Brunswick Islands throughout all of September.  So even if you miss Labor Day in the Brunswick Islands, you still have time for that last summer vacation to the beach.  But don’t wait too late!

It’s Sea Turtle Season

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 expanse 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.

Melissa Pitts wmFrom 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.  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 50 years and more 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
Every Wednesday June – August, 7:00 PM
Sea Turtle Talk – Sunset Beach
Every Sunday June 12 – September 4, 7:00 PM
Turtle Talks – Ocean Isle Beach
Every Monday May – August, 3:30 PM
Turtle Talks – Ocean Isle Beach
Every Tuesday May 31 – August 30, 7:00 PM
Turtle Talks – Oak Island
Every Wednesday June – August, 6:30 PM

941519_10151443924603155_427371624_nSea turtle protection organization/turtle watch volunteers monitor nests and update  information continuously regarding the status of each nest. The volunteers keep 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, Ocean Isle Beach, Holden BeachOak Island, Caswell Beach, or Bald Head Island sea turtle programs for more information.

Plan your 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.

The Inside Scoop!

Flava Decorations 1“You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy ice cream and that’s kind of the same thing!” says the sign outside Flava’s Ice Cream in Southport, NC. And who are we to argue? Better to step inside and enjoy a scoop of Death by Chocolate or their most popular flavor, Nutty Coconut, after a day out on the water or any of NC Brunswick Islands’ miles of pristine beaches!

In fact, you can easily satisfy your sweet tooth no matter where you are in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands – each town and island has several choices as unique and individual as the islands themselves!

Holden Beach is home to three ice cream shops that are must-stops. Beaches N Cream’s all-original, small batch recipes use only the freshest, local ingredients that are free of harmful preservatives, additives and hormones for the ice cream purist. Try the Apple Crisp, Boston Cream Pie, Butter Brickle, or County Fair Funnel Cake – the winner of the 2016 New Flavor Contest! With a new flavor featured almost every day, there is always a reason to go back! Head to Fantasy Isle Ice Cream for a one-of-a-kind miniature golf course experience, shaded and hidden by oak trees. Their ice cream however, is no secret. Hundreds of photos of satisfied customers line the walls, and they boast a solid five-star ranking on Trip Advisor. Or walk right off the beach and get your ice cream with an oceanfront view at Haley’s Ice Cream Store. Known for their brightly colored buckets of retro-50s candies, Sandman’s Candyland on Holden Beach also serves ice cream and shakes.

IMG_8791Calabash may be known as the “seafood capital of the world,” but Calabash Creamery sets the standard for old-fashioned ice cream by making it with 16 percent butter fat cream to give it a one-of-kind taste. More than 50 year-round and seasonal flavors, including Brownie Batter, Cinnamon Bun, Mango Tango and the home-town favorite, Cow-a-Bash Crunch, offer just as many reasons to stop in.

DSC_3847_OCEAN ISLE ICE CREAM_LRThe cute yellow building that welcomes you onto Ocean Isle Beach is the home of the Ocean Isle Creamery where you will find at least 17 homemade flavors every day! All the ice cream has its start from a dairy farm in Dunn, NC, and some of the creative creaminess includes Pecan Caramel Swirl, DreamSicle, Cotton Candy and the perennial favorite, German Chocolate Cake. The Ice Cream Shoppe, another favorite place to chill out on Ocean Isle Beach, celebrates its 30th summer this year with a great selection of splits and the best Strawberry Milkshake around!  Build your own sundae at Build a Sundae or have a side of fudge with your ice cream at Pete’s Sweets.

Because a trip to Sunset Beach isn’t complete without a stop at How Sweet It Is, make sure you sample the brightly primary-colored Play Dough ice cream at this adorable ice cream parlor! How sweet it is to have so many options, indeed! You can’t go wrong with their Dutch Chocolate, Banana Pudding or Sea Salt Caramel.

From their striped awning and walk-up window, Spike’s Dairy Bar in downtown Southport churns out favorites like Almond Joy, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and the “to-die-for” Coffee Mud Pie! Be sure to treat your four-legged family member with the ‘Pup Cup,’ a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with a dog biscuit!

Leaky Tiki Sign 2cropThe largest of NC Brunswick Islands’ five barrier islands, Oak Island offers several choices. Frosty’s is legendary for its ice cream and the tantalizing aroma of house-made waffle cones. Top the cone with a generous scoop of Peanut Butter Chocolate or Butterfinger Ice Cream for the ultimate sweet treat! Also on Oak island, Lil and John’s Sweetreat is great for a scoop of homemade ice cream and to pick up some house-made fudge for later.  In addition to ice cream, Tropical Treats offers a lighter take to cooling down with a variety of Italian ices and sno-cones. For a nostalgic taste, head to Dairy Queen for a Dilly Bar.

If you want to keep even lighter on the calories, touch down at, Ocean Isle Creamery, or Back Porch Ice Cream (Calabash) where frozen yogurt is served alongside ice cream.

Maybe you can’t buy happiness, but you can certainly find it in NC’s Brunswick Islands!

Updated June 9, 2017