Island Hop without a Passport in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands

DSC_0873_OIB_Town Wide 1080

with five barrier islands, island hopping is a must when exploring North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands this summer! Located in the southernmost corner of North Carolina, the islands of Brunswick County are strung together with forty-five miles of silken coastline.

Graced with sunny, secluded beaches away from high-rises and crowds, each island provides its own unique character, charm and activities. Here, beaches are perfect for family vacations, reunions, weddings, surfers, nature enthusiasts, and golf getaways, and each island has something different to offer its visitors. It is impossible to pick a favorite, so vacationers should visit them all!

Sunset Beach

Old BridgeStart your island hop on the southernmost island at Sunset Beach for a peaceful and relaxing experience. You will find this island top of the list for a quiet and quintessential beach town as residents are passionate about preservation. Take a mile walk from the last beach access south to Bird Island and the Kindred Spirit Mailbox to learn about sand dune wildlife and experience the habitats of the beautiful coastal preserve. Don’t forget to also tour the Old Sunset Bridge Museum, home to the last pontoon swing bridge on the East Coast!

Ocean Isle

Next hop over to the seven miles of Ocean Isle Beach, where you will find something for every generation! Stroll along the shoreline, scan for signs of sea turtles or catch a wave with private or group surf lessons. To experience sea life with a life-size diorama and touch tank make a visit to The Museum of Coastal Carolina. If you are feeling adventurous, try ziplining through a 300-year-old swamp cypress canopy at The Shallotte River Swamp Park, which is a challenging and thrilling adventure for all ages!

Holden Beach

DSC_7135_HOLDEN BEACH BRIDGENamed one of the best family beaches in the U.S. by National Geographic Traveler magazine and voted one of the top 10 beaches by USA Today readers, Holden Beach is your ideal destination for small town charm. Cruise along the Intracoastal Waterway by kayak and enjoy a day “downtown” with lunch at one of the several restaurant decks overlooking the waterway and the many shrimp boats that call Holden Beach home. In this wildlife haven, your family will enjoy spotting dolphins and playfully chasing ghost crabs with flashlights in the evening.

Oak Island

Ten miles of uncrowded beaches with more than 60 access points, two fishing piers, two marinas and three public boat and canoe ramps makes the town of Oak Island a perfect stop. You will have just as much fun touring the town on bicycles with bells DSC_2743_CASWELL_LRand baskets while eating ice-cream as you will in the water! Include your four-legged family members as Oak Island is one of the top dog friendly beaches in the country according to Dog Fancy magazine.  Sharing the same island, Caswell Beach is a quiet, laid-back beach that is also convenient to the shops and restaurants of Oak Island.  Standing sentinel over its uncrowded mostly residential shores is the Oak Island Lighthouse, a tri-colored beacon reaching about 16 nautical miles offshore. Make an appointment in advance to schedule a climb to the top.

Bald Head Island

Finish off your island hop by secluding yourself from reality at Brunswick’s resort-style, no-cars-allowed, Bald Head Island, only reachable by ferry. Explore the unspoiled natural surroundings hiking, biking or by golf-cart. Bald Head Island is an eco-lover’s paradise with 10,000 acres of nature preserves and extraordinary wildlife. North Carolina’s oldest lighthouse, “Old Baldy,” and Smith Island Museum are favorite attractions for the vacationers!

There are a variety of accommodations for every stop on your island hopping adventure, so start booking your vacation today!

Brunswick Islands Sunrise/Sunset Photo Contest Winners

2 Donna DeBate Cone

along the shores of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, one of the South’s most stunning natural phenomena occurs every fall through winter. Named one of “10 Incredible Phenomena You Have to See in Fall” by Weather.com, our islands have the unique characteristic of running east-west along the coastline with our beaches facing south. Beginning in late fall, this orientation means you can sit on Oak Island, Caswell Beach, Sunset Beach, Ocean Isle Beach or Holden Beach and watch both the sunrise and sunset over the ocean without having to move your beach chair!

Whatever the time of year, North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands features some of the best sunrises and sunsets you’ll experience anywhere.  And no more proof is necessary to highlight this fact than the numerous entries in our first ever Sunrise/Sunset Facebook Photo Contest.  With such a large number of exceptional photos to consider, it was difficult to select four finalists!

Congratulations to our grand prize winner and recipient of a $100 Visa Gift Card and North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands beach towel, Donna Cone.  Donna captured this moment from the shores of Ocean Isle Beach.  Donna’s vibrant sunrise shot received the most likes during the Facebook contest.  For Donna “there is no better time than rising early before others are out to catch a gorgeous ocean sunrise. Truly a spectacular sight.”

2 Donna DeBate Cone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ilona Miskell’s “Sunset at the Dock” shot on Ocean Isle Beach in September received second place honors. Her entry of a tranquil marsh sunset earns her a North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands rolling cooler and beach towel. Ilona told us that her son asked “Mom, don’t you think you have enough sunset pictures.”  She replied “Never!” She adds that “I feel like its a gift at the end of a splendid day.”

7 Ilona Miskell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kelly Clemmons’ gorgeous shot of sunset captured from along the tide’s edge on Sunset Beach earns her third place honors and a North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands beach towel and hat.

2 Kelly Heine Clemmons

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shot on Sunset Beach, the wistful and artistic “Child’s Play at Sunset” submitted by Rochelle Aycoth rounds out our 4 top photos.  Rochelle believes “The Brunswick Islands offer the most unspoiled beaches around. The sunsets, especially heading into the fall, are particularly breathtaking.”  Rochelle will receive a North Carolina’s beach towel for her entry.

Rochelle Aycoth

 

 

 

 

 

Once again, congratulations to our four fabulous finalists!  And thank you to everyone who participated in the contest. Our random prize winner from all entrants is Stephanie Hogston, who wins a rolling cooler. Stephanie submitted a sunset shot from Oak Island.  Our random voter winner is Jeff Broughton who wins a North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands beach towel.

On your next Brunswick Islands visit, be sure to bring your camera and capture those amazing sunrises and sunsets. Who knows, you might be the winner of our next contest.

 

It’s Official: Southport is Coastal Living’s “America’s Happiest Seaside Town”

DSC_3027_SOUTHPORT ICW_LR

fans rallied and Coastal Living Magazine heard. The magazine has named the picturesque village of Southport, NC as “America’s Happiest Seaside Town for 2015.” It was the only town in the Carolinas nominated. Coastal Living features Southport as the No. 1 “Happiest Seaside Town” in the July/August issue of the magazine and online.

Coastal Living revealed the top 10 finalists for “America’s Happiest Seaside Towns” in its March issue. Voting was open until March 31, with Southport receiving the most online votes of the 10 finalists. Southport residents won the contest with a “get out the vote” in a big way.  They created a whimsical and heartfelt YouTube video to make their case, encourage voting and to show how happy they are – as happy as those who enjoy Southport’s charms while on vacation.Southport BC043

Southport’s allure has already been recognized by Hollywood and the television industry, with more than 40 productions having filmed there, including the recent film “Safe Haven” and television series “Under the Dome.” Southport winning the crown as the No. 1 Happiest Seaside Town for 2015 comes as no surprise to both residents and visitors who have always known how special their beloved home and vacation spot is.

Southport is filled with breathtaking waterfront, beautiful 19th Century architecture, uniquely southern landscape and a wealth of history including stories of Native Americans, pirates and the Revolutionary War. With culture that runs as deep as its history, it is no wonder that residents and visitors of Southport are smiling.

Southport has beautiful B&Bs, inns, flagship chain hotels and other comfortable accommodations to make a week or weekend visit.  If you want to add a beach vacation, next-door Oak Island and Caswell Beach have miles of uncrowded, pet-friendly beaches with more than 60 public access points. Family-oriented attractions include the Oak Island Lighthouse, mini-golf, skate park, nature center, two fishing piers, two marinas and three public boat and canoe ramps.  Did we mention golf,  fine and casual dining and ice cream shacks?

 

 

Beach Smart: Stay Safe In The Ocean

aIMG_9389

with miles of un-crowded sand, surf, fun and sun, North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is the perfect destination for beach lovers. And a big part of a beach vacation for DSC_8627_Retouchedmany is enjoying mother nature and the ocean. Wherever you take your beach vacation – in the Brunswick Islands or elsewhere – it’s important to remember that we share the ocean with many types of animals and that tides and currents are an everyday part of the ocean. With that in mind, please take a moment to review some tips on staying safe in the water.

RIP CURRENTS

Rip currents are fast-moving water channels that form when waves break onshore between barrier islands, sandbars or piers; gravity pulls the water forcefully and swiftly out to sea, a hazard for even the best swimmers.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), rip currents can be difficult to see, but here are some clues:

  • a channel of churning, choppy water;
  • an area with a noticeable difference in color;
  • a line of foam, seaweed, or debris moving steadily out to sea;
  • and/or a break in the incoming wave pattern.

Even the strongest swimmer can’t swim against a rip current, but you can outsmart it:

  • Stay calm. Don’t fight by swimming straight back to shore, or you’ll risk tiring yourself out.
  • Swim sideways out of the current and parallel to the shore (see diagram). Then swim at an angle back to the shore.
  • If you’re still caught, float or tread water. The current will eventually dissipate. Even if you’re carried far out, if you haven’t worn yourself out fighting it, you should be able to slowly swim parallel and then at an angle back to shore. If your arms are too tired, swim on your back and use just your legs and feet to propel yourself to the beach.

If you see someone caught in a rip current, don’t try to rescue them yourself. Call 911; yell out the above instructions, and/or toss them a flotation device – it’s a good idea to take one to the beach on every visit. Here’s a link to the NOAA rip current forecast for our area beaches: http://www.weather.gov/ilm/BeachRip

OCEAN WILDLIFE

aIMG_1546 resizeJellyfish can put the sting on your vacation. Always scan the water before splashing in. Make sure you educate your children about jellyfish, as they might touch them out of curiosity in the water or on the sand. In case of a sting, rinse off any remaining tentacles with salt water, not fresh, and use a credit card or other item to scrape, if necessary. Then rinse with vinegar, not fresh water. If you experience swelling, shortness of breath, or faintness, seek medical attention immediately.PMOW

The less common blue-purple Portuguese man o’ war is not a jellyfish but a siphonophore. It can deliver a painful sting even when dead. Portugese man o’ war stings are treated differently than jellyfish stings. First apply saltwater and then follow-up with hot water for 15 to 20 minutes.  Do not treat with vinegar. If necessary seek medical attention.

While the ocean is home to a wide variety of sea life including sharks, shark encounters are rare.  According to the ISAF, Florida Museum of Natural History, the likelihood of a shark attack is 1 in 11.5 million. The likelihood of a fatality is less than 1 in 264 million. http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/Sharks/Statistics/beachattacks.htm  To put it in perspective, in North Carolina you would be 193 times more likely to die from a lightning strike than a shark attack.

Though chance encounters with sharks are highly unlikely, there are precautions you can take when swimming in the ocean:

  • Sharks actually try to avoid humans, but if you’re in murky water they may not see you.  Use extra caution.
  • Leave shiny jewelry on shore – to a shark it may look like fish scales.
  • Sharks see contrast particularly well so dark swimsuits are preferable to bright colored clothing.
  • Remember that you’re sharing the water with fish that attract sharks and other predators. Avoid swimming in the early morning, at dusk and at night when fish and sharks are feeding.
  • Avoid swimming between islands, and within 300 feet of surfers, piers, fishermen and where seagulls or other birds are diving and feeding.
  • Use caution around sandbars with steep drop-offs toward the ocean.
  • Avoid swimming alone, especially far from shore in deeper waters.
  • Avoid swimming if bleeding because a shark’s sense of smell is highly sensitive.
  • Don’t fish while standing more than knee deep in the surf.
  • Do not harass a shark – even nurse sharks can bite.
  • Do not enter water if sharks are around and calmly evacuate the water if any sharks are seen.

For the complete brochure on Shark Sense, click here: http://ncseagrant.ncsu.edu/ncseagrant_docs/products/2000s/shark_sense.pdf

BOATING SAFETY

Boating safety is a serious priority in North Carolina. Operating watercraft is both fun and safe when you observe the rules. For regulations and rules to be aware of when
you bring your boat to our waters, please follow this link to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s boating regulations: http://www.ncwildlife.org/Boating/LawsSafety/BoatingRegulations.aspx

Public boating access areas and marinas are available throughout Brunswick Islands. If you’re planning to rent a fishing or pleasure boat or personal watercraft, our outfitters will include a safety course and checklist.DSC_0390_OIB_Offshore Boat_LR

By educating yourself, your friends and family about ocean safety, you can ensure that everyone has a great vacation and can’t wait to return again soon!

 

Pedal Along the Coast

Bicycles-2 women

the quaint city streets, peaceful seaside roads and gorgeous weather of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands are made for bicycling. Visitors to the Brunswick Islands can feel the sun on their faces and the wind on their backs as they cycle through the charming seaside streets to the beach or through the moss-draped live oaks on the mainland.

Visitors can bring their own bikes or rent them from a number of different companies. Most companies provide adult and child bikes, as well as child trailers to attach to the back of a bike so the whole family can come along for the ride. Tandem bikes are also available at Beach Fun Rentals, Coastal Urge, and PaddleOKI.

The Adventure Kayak Company even gives guided bike tours in and around Southport, teaching guests about the town’s historical blockade runners, river pilots and pirates and showing them the beauty of the live oaks and historical waterfront property.

DSC_8114_BICYCLEOnce they have their bikes, guests can take them out on the 45 miles of wide, stunning beaches, along the roads near the Intracoastal Waterway, or in scenic area parks. North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands has many roads that follow the curve of the coast: Beach Drive and Ocean Drive on Oak Island, Caswell Beach Road on Caswell Beach, Ocean Boulevard on Holden Beach, Ocean Isle Boulevard and First Street on Ocean Isle Beach, Main Street on Sunset Beach, South Bald Head Wynd and Cape Creek Road on Bald Head Island. Click here to see Holden Beach’s Bike Route map. There are three different routes on Holden Beach totaling 20 miles. The Brunswick Nature Park offers bike trails through a scenic 900 acre wooded park near Leland. See the Brunswick Nature Park hiking and biking trail map here.

So whether you’re in the mood for a leisurely pedal along the beach or a sightseeing adventure, North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is the perfect place for your coastal bike ride.