Fall in Love with Nature in the Brunswick Islands

February is the month of love, but visitors and locals can fall in love with North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands year-round, including its stunning nature and coastal beauty. Whether spotting dolphins from the sand or birdwatching in the marshes, the nature of the Brunswick Islands is sure to take your breath away. Plan your next date with the outdoors with one of these scenic adventures.

Sun, Sand and Surf
The Brunswick Islands’ 45 miles of beaches are filled with opportunities for amazing nature sightings. Take a morning stroll and spot sand dollars and other unique shells along the shore, or go for a bike ride at low tide and watch for dolphins playing in the waves. In the fall and winter months, watching the sun rise and set over the ocean is an incredible view on the Brunswick Islands’ south-facing beaches. No matter the time of year, beachgoers in search of natural beauty won’t be disappointed.

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Walk (or float!) on the Wild Side
Discover a different side of the barrier islands with the Intracoastal Waterway and the area’s vast ecosystem of salt marshes, creeks and estuaries. Find some of the best kayaking, paddle boarding and more in the region where salt water meets fresh, home to crabs, oysters, fish, shrimp, skates and even dolphins. Nature preserves and parks throughout the Brunswick Islands provide additional outdoor spaces to spot wildlife and unique plants. Or try a swamp boat eco-tour for an up close look at a cypress swamp.

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Shell-ebrate Miracles
For a truly heartwarming experience from July through October, watch baby sea turtles make their way to the ocean in their first moments of life outside their eggs. Thanks to an abundance of trained volunteers and the sanctuaries throughout the Brunswick Islands, the nests are observed and tended to so the community can be educated on the importance of the protection of this endangered species. Visitors along the beach at night can see this natural miracle for themselves, and watch as volunteers monitor the hatching process and guide the baby turtles to the ocean, where they can live for up to 50 years or more.

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Birds of a Feather
NC’s Brunswick Islands is home to eight sites along the North Carolina Birding Trail. The Islands’ prime location and varied ecosystems make it a haven for birds, and over 330 species have been spotted in Brunswick County. From the majestic bald eagle to the spectacular painted bunting, nature lovers are in for a treat. For a full list of the NC Birding Trail sites in the Brunswick Islands and the species often seen at each site, visit http://www.ncbrunswick.com/activity/brunswick-bird-watching-mainland.

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Out of This World
For a unique take on some other-worldly nature, visit the Ingram Planetarium in Sunset Beach. The state-of-the-art planetarium has an 85-seat SciDome Sky Theater with high definition digital protection and surround-sound system where visitors can learn about the universe around them. The theater shows educational programs about space exploration and astronomy, along with laser music shows. Explore the interactive exhibits in the Paul Dennis Science Hall for fun, hands-on learning.

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To learn more about nature exploration in the Brunswick Islands, and to plan your trip, visit www.NCBrunswick.com.

 

Bird Is The Word!

In both spring and summer, and especially at North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, bird is indeed the word. The five barrier islands that make up NC’s Brunswick Islands encompass a large network of bird sanctuaries. From the southernmost barrier island, where Sunset Beach stretches southwest to the protected nature preserve of Bird Island, to the community of Southport and the offshore rookeries on Battery Island, there is no shortage of incredible birding experiences in this area.

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The White Ibis is one of the most visible and prolific species with their bright white plumage that contrast against a summer-blue sky and green foliage. According to an article featured by The National Audubon Society, nearly 10 percent of the North American population of White Ibis are supported by the six-acre Battery Island, with more than 5,000 nesting pairs documented in 2012. This tiny spit of land, located just a stone’s throw off Southport’s waterfront promenade, is also home for other wading, shore and song birds. These find refuge in the island’s scrubby shrubs and trees making it the state’s largest wading bird colony and a sanctuary protected by Audubon.

young great blue heron smallIn addition, the more than 45 miles of undeveloped and under-developed shoreline and the pristine estuaries and salt marshes on the islands’ flip-side shelter and sustain a wide variety of wading birds and shorebirds during nesting season.  American Oystercatchers, Black Skimmers, Plovers, Ibis, Egrets, and Herons are among the spring/summertime and year-round residents whose babies hatch here and start the next feathered generation.

Those of us who live here in the pristine coastal communities and barrier islands of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands understand perfectly why these birds choose to return here year after year to nest!

IMG_8855 bThese uncrowded beaches attract plenty of birders and beachgoers too, and while the birds and their fledglings are an amazing site, Audubon provides the following tips to help us protect our nesting shorebirds.  By taking small simple actions to help protect their nesting habitat, you can help them raise the next generation.

Audubon’s Tips to Share the Beach

Respect protected areas and signs. Birds, eggs, nests and chicks are well-camouflaged. Disturbance by people and their pets can cause birds to abandon their eggs and young.

Avoid disturbing groups of birds that are nesting or feeding. If the birds take flight, call loudly, or act agitated, it means you are too close.

Always keep your dog on a leash and away from the birds. Shorebirds perceive people and pets as predators.

Please don’t leave trash or fishing line on the beach. Take your trash with you and place in an appropriate trash container. Trash attracts real predators such as gulls, crows, raccoons and foxes. Fishing line can entangle and kill birds.

Experience Marsh Madness in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands

as spring rounds the corner, and everyone is caught up in the madness happening on the basketball court, North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands beckons both new and returning visitors to look for exciting activities and hidden treasures nestled within the Brunswick Islands. Here, you are the coach. Get off the bench and get involved in Marsh Madness at North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands!

Kayak Through the Marsh

Go on a guided kayak tour through the marshes and waterways around the Brunswick Islands and check out the wildlife that calls the marsh home.  Take a trip to Bird Island, venture down the Intracoastal Waterway, or take a twilight tour to watch the sunset over the marsh.  Excursions are available for all experience levels and ages – including first timers – and guides provide a wealth of knowledge about local wildlife and history.  Or rent a kayak and head out on your own.

DSC_0126_OIB Paddleboard_LRPaddle Your Way to Adventure

Visitors can also try their hand at stand-up paddle boarding. Take a break from the waves and paddle the Intracoastal Waterway, creeks or island canals. Outfitters will deliver and pick up any rentals directly to your condo or beach house. If you are new to the sport, sign up to take a lesson.

Catch a Meal

North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is a top hot spot for salt and freshwater fishing on the East Coast. Depending on the season, fishermen can find red drum, black drum, specked trout, sheepshead, flounder, redfish, shrimp and mullet in the marshes. You can also try your hand at a favorite family activity and go crabbing off a canal or waterway dock.

Spot a Bird

IMG_6999 largeFor bird enthusiasts, or visitors simply seeking to soak in nature’s bounty, the marshes in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands are home to a multitude of bird species. Common sightings include great blue heron, little blue heron, green heron, great egrets, snowy egrets, clapper rail, white ibis, American oyster catchers and many more. There are eight sites in Brunswick County included in the North Carolina Birding Trail perfect for spotting the 330 bird species known to inhabit the various Brunswick County ecosystems.

Beat the buzzer, and don’t miss Marsh Madness at North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands.

Health, Happiness and North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands: #BrunswickIslandsFIT

although the food is plentiful and bathing in the warm sun is tempting, going on vacation doesn’t mean sacrificing your health goals for a period of time. North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands has an abundance of activities that are educational, family-friendly and perfect for boosting your activity tracker goals at the same time. Below are a few activities if you’re looking to increase your step count and even boost your heart rate on your next beach vacation.

IMG_6444 b_edited-1A stay here offers a variety of water sports and exhilarating experiences that can get your heart pumping. Go scuba diving with a certified instructor off the Cape Fear’s Frying Pan Shoals with Scuba South Diving Company in Southport. Or go on a kayaking adventure with Lighthouse WaterSports, The Adventure Kayak Company or Summertide Adventure Tours. These guided tours will take explorers on an adventure around the blackwater creeks, marshes, Intracoastal Waterway or swamps, while also providing a great arm and shoulder exercise.

Stoked about surfing but never had the chance to paddle out and pound some waves? Our islands provide visitors with an astounding buffet of aquatic adventures appealing to both beginners and experienced water-goers. Check out three surf schools with programs dedicated to teaching interested patrons of all ages the surfing basics. Not only is surfing a fun activity for beach-goers, it also provides great balance and lower-body strength training.

Swamp Park IMG_9365For a new and unique activity at the beach, don’t forget to zip into the Shallotte River Swamp Park & Outdoor Center in Ocean Isle Beach. Soar over the Shallotte River Swamp on one of the park’s zip lines or climb to the treetops on the Aerial Adventure challenge courses. This unique challenge is guaranteed to increase your step count and get your heart racing!

Activity doesn’t always mean you have to hustle and exert yourself. People looking for a more leisurely activity can enjoy many of the rental services available on the islands. Anything from bikes and stand-up paddle boards to beach supplies are available for visitor use. Relish your time and take in the sights at your own pace. If biking or paddling isn’t your style, take a relaxing walk on the beach with a friend or significant other, spot a rare species of bird along the Brunswick Islands Birding Trail or take your pup for a jog along the shore.

DSC_6149_INSIDE LIGHTHOUSEWhether you’re set on admiring the sunrises or sunsets, driving your way through more than 30 championship golf courses or climbing 131 ships’ ladders to the Oak Island Lighthouse to see a gorgeous panoramic view, you’re sure to end your vacation feeling happy and healthy while increasing your activity tracker goals at the same time.

How many steps did you take on your trip to North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands? #BrunswickIslandsFIT

 

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.