Bridging the gap: The story of the old sunset bridge

until 1958, the island of Sunset Beach, purchased for the princely sum of $55,000, was accessible only by boat from the mainland. That was the year a wooden bridge was built to link the island with mainland. There it operated for more than 50 years. When it was about to be replaced with a much higher, more modern bridge, a handful of local residents were intent on saving the old iconic swing bridge, which had plenty of stories to tell. The Old Bridge Preservation Society relocated it to a shady, flower-filled park under the shadows of its newer cousin. The much-anticipated museum, housed in the old bridge tender’s house, opened in May. Visit www.oldbridgepreservationsociety.org to learn more about this iconic link to Sunset Beach’s past and future.

Insider Tip: You can now purchase cookbooks, ornaments and novels from the Old Bridge Museum or on their website.

A bird’s eye view

make the climb of a lifetime when you visit the Oak Island Lighthouse, the last lighthouse to be built in the entire state of North Carolina. But make sure you wear your sunglasses! Among its numerous claims to fame, this lighthouse is one of the brightest in the United States with a beacon that reaches about 16 nautical miles offshore. The Oak Island Lighthouse is also one of the only lighthouses in the country that use a series of ship’s ladders instead of the typical spiral staircase. To access the top, you’ll want to trade in your flip flops for some tennis shoes, to climb the 131-step ship’s ladder to the balcony at the top. When you reach the top at 158 feet, you’ll be rewarded with a 360-degree bird’s eye-view of the Cape Fear River and surrounding barrier islands. Oak Island Lighthouse and Bald Head Island Lighthouse, also known as “Old Baldy,” are both accessible to all adventurous spirits. Tours to the popular top level of the Oak Island Lighthouse are available year round by appointment for climbers 9 years of age or older. You can make an appointment through their website at least two weeks in advance. The lighthouse is also open for tours to the second level Wed. and Sat. from Memorial Day to Labor Day from 10 am – 2 pm for ages 7 or older. Built in 1817, Old Baldy is North Carolina’s oldest standing lighthouse. Ticket information and hours of operation may be found at http://www.oldbaldy.org/. Insider Tip: Tying the knot anytime soon? Old Baldy towers above the majestic, moss-draped, southern live oaks and is bordered by tidal estuaries and meandering creeks – perfect for special occasions, such as weddings.

Calabash: From shore to skillet

“Good Night Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are…”

 

Fans of classic television and radio will remember star Jimmy Durante and this infamous phrase, but not many know its connection to North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands.

Legend has it that while visiting Calabash, Durante was feeling a bit under the weather. A local restaurateur offered to fix him something to make him feel better. When she did, he told her he’d make her famous, and from that day forward, he closed each and every show with this tribute!

Fast forward to today and Mr. Durante would be right at home –  still delighted to find delectable shrimp, clams, fish and oysters coated in a light batter, quickly fried to lock in freshness and served up in very generous portions!  This is dining Calabash-style, and the reason the town has earned the title of IMG_2776editSeafood Capital of the World!”  Restaurants from coast to coast have tried to replicate the style, but there is nothing like the experience of enjoying it in its home town of Calabash.

As you drive down to the docks that lin
e the Calabash River, restaurant after restaurant beckons – family-owned and each holding their secret recipes tight! Enjoy a bucket of oysters, platter of Calabash shrimp, crab, flounder and even a full menu for land lubbers, if you must.

Check out this list of dining options that any foodie or seafood aficionado will appreciate:

Beck’s Restaurant

Calabash Seafood Hut

Capt. John’s Seafood House

Capt. Nance Seafood

Dockside Seafood House

Ella’s of Calabash

The Boundary House

Insider Tip: After a filling meal of local Calabash seafood, a stroll along the docks is the perfect way to walk off those generous portions.

Outdoor adventures

Kayaking

North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands offers some of the best kayaking in the state. With plenty of places to paddle, miles of black water, salt marsh creeks and rivers as well as the Intracoastal Waterway – you’ll be bragging about this trip for ages. At twilight, breathtaking sunsets put on a show and birds fly overhead. You will love the serene sunset and moonlight kayaking as the ideal combination of relaxation and adventure. Popular kayak guides and outfitters in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands include: Summertide Adventure Tours, Lighthouse Water Sports and The Adventure Company.

Not an experienced kayaker? Each Brunswick Island’s tour guide is sure to offer unique experiences and itineraries, and only require low to moderate fitness levels and no experience is necessary. Your little travelers will love the tandem kayaks available. The tours last around two hours; prices and scenery vary by location.

Insider Tip: Visit North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands during a full moon to experience kayaking tours by moonlight.

Sea Turtle Season

You haven’t been to a more diverse vacation spot than North Carolina Brunswick Islands! Spend your days on the golf course, on the beach, shopping, or visit the beaches that are home to loggerhead sea turtles, spectacular creatures that have made their way to the shores of Brunswick Islands!

Bald Head IslandHolden BeachSunset BeachOcean Isle BeachCaswell Beach and Oak Island  all run Sea Turtle Protection Programs May through October that monitor and record nesting turtles and hatchlings, and they all welcome the opportunity to educate visitors about the turtles and these Hatchling programs.

For centuries, sea turtles have come to our pristine shores to lay their eggs and continue the circle of life. Watching a hatchling, barely larger than a walnut, inch its way to the ocean for the very first time might be one of the greatest sights you’ll ever see. You will be able to learn more about the celebrated creatures with a free seminar, tour and information about protecting this mysterious and endangered species by visiting the many sea turtle protection groups in the area.

In Chinese mythology, the sea turtle represents wisdom. Perhaps that’s why so many mother turtles come to Brunswick Island’s beaches to nest; they know a good place to visit when they see it and you will too!

Insider Tip: The Museum of Coastal Carolina on Ocean Isle is a great coastal primer for children who enjoy dioramas and hands-on experiences including a fabulous sea turtle exhibit!