Active Adventures Along the Brunswick Islands

Venture out of your comfort zone and into nature on an active adventure in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. Parkside, seaside or riverside, the Brunswick Islands are filled with excursions for all levels of adventurers. Explore freshwater and saltwater activities, such as charter fishing, kayaking, surfing or paddle boarding, or discover the rich history of the islands on a guided tour. From the surf to the sky, North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands set the bar higher for adventure seekers in the southeast.

Sand and Surf Adventures

DSC_0407_OIB_Surfing_LR_edited-1Surfing and Scuba Diving

Don’t just dip your toes in the water! Dive straight into the surf with your board or if you’re certified in scuba diving take a saltwater adventure during your visit to the Brunswick Islands. Several factors make the Brunswick Islands the perfect location for surf classes.  Number one, and most important, the gentle sloping beaches allow for waves to break softly, meaning beginner surfers can take their time getting on their feet. The second reason is the relatively smaller waves seen in the area. Waves of 2′-3′ are ideal to start your surfing adventure on. And third, the warm summer waters invite everyone to come experience the beauty of surfing.

Kayaking and Paddle Boarding

Feeling landlocked lately? Your next adventure could lie just around the bend balancing on a paddle board or seated in a kayak in a river, tidal creek, or the Intracoastal Waterway. Island adventurers can pick their intensity from a meandering paddle downstream to kayaking on the ocean tide. Visitors are welcome to bring their own gear or rent equipment during their stay.

DSC_4299_DEEP SEA FISHING_LRCharter Fishing

Let our local charter captains help you find the big catch whether it’s out in the Gulf Stream or in-shore fishing. You’ll be sure to have plenty of “fish tales” from your adventure along with the fresh catch of the day.

 

 

Adventure By Land

Parks

Reconnect with nature on a blissful stroll through one of the many Brunswick Islands parks or nature preserves. Explore the environment and native animals on a journey from longleaf pine savannas to cool Carolina marshes and sandy shores, or hit the trails for biking, hiking or horseback riding. Take a break from the surf and trade sandy beaches for unspoiled woodlands, riverwalks and expansive estuaries.

IMG_8138 crop wmTours

From the breezy comfort of a tram or bicycle to a classic walking tour, opportunities abound to explore the rich and unique history of the Brunswick Islands. Tours give visitors opportunities to discover those who have called the island home, from movie crews filming the latest Hollywood hit to pirates of the past. You’re invited to journey back in time strolling past classic Southern architecture or popular waterfront attractions in the charming coastal towns.

Biking

Treat yourself to the quintessential seaside experience by renting a bike and exploring the enchanting island towns for yourself. Discover the hidden gems of the Brunswick Islands as you wind through the quaint seaside towns. Feel like a local as you breeze past scenic ocean views and colorful storefronts searching for your next adventure.

High in the Sky Adventure

DCIM100GOPROG0100475.Zip Lining

Take your coastal excursion to new heights as you soar above a swamp on a zip line at Shallotte River Swamp Park. Swing into adventure while flying through a 300-year-old swamp cypress canopy. Large and small groups alike are welcome to enjoy a bird’s eye view while flying through the lush treetops.

 

Lighthouses

For those looking for a middle ground between a high-flying adventure and grounded escape, climb one of the lighthouses essential to the Carolina coast’s history. These charming lighthouses are filled top to bottom with the history of the seaside towns and boast spectacular sights of the endless beaches and ocean.

Helicopter Tours and Biplane Rides

DSC_0239_BaldHead_Aerial_hiClimb to even greater heights on a biplane or helicopter tour with the clearest view of the Carolina coast. Hop into a helicopter or an open cockpit biplane for perfect marine life and lighthouse spotting opportunities.

Summer weather beckons travelers to find their adventurous side, whether that’s exploring the surf and saltwater or soaring over southern swampland. Soak in the rays of summer in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands where you will find activities to quench anyone’s thirst for adventure.

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

Ocean Isle Beach NC

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!

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.

10 Experiences for Your Brunswick Islands Bucket List

north Carolina’s Brunswick Islands offers more than just gorgeous beaches, lovely towns and beautiful coastal scenery. Here is a bucket list of ten fun activities that all visitors should do during their stay.

1. Leave a note in the Kindred Spirit Mailbox

Standing slightly tilted in the shifting sand of undeveloped Bird Island and far down the beach from the nearest public access point, the Kindred Spirit Mailbox draws visitors who want to write their thoughts, prayers, dreams and wishes in the mailbox’s small notebooks. These words are then left there for the next kindred spirit to find and read.

2. Visit the old Sunset Beach Swing Bridge and MuseumIMG_1076

The old wooden Sunset Beach Swing Bridge spanned the Intracoastal Waterway between Sunset Beach and the mainland from 1958-2011 before it was decommissioned and a portion placed on the mainland. The Bridge Tender’s House now serves as a museum and contains artifacts from the a ship called the Vesta, which was set on fire and sunk during the Civil War after attempting to run a northern blockade.

3. Zip Line through a Swamp

Guests to the new Shallotte River Swamp Park & Outdoor Center can 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. Those who want to stay closer to the ground can set out on a swamp boat eco tour to see the local wildlife and help trap crawdads, fish, turtles and frogs and see where George Washington is believed to have crossed through the area in 1791. The park is set to open in June.

4. Fish oDSC_0167_OIB_Boy Fishing_LRff a Pier

Large fish are known to lurk around piers, and North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands has several piers perfect for reeling in the catch-of-the-day: Ocean Isle Pier, Oak Island Pier, Ocean Crest Pier, Holden Beach PierSunset Beach Pier and Southport Pier.

5. Climb the Oak Island Lighthouse

The Oak Island Lighthouse, built in 1958, is the newest lighthouse in North Carolina, and visitors must climb a series of ship ladders with 131 rungs to reach the top balcony instead of the traditional spiral staircase. Tours can be made by appointment.

6. Kayak on the Intracoastal Waterway

While the beauty of the beaches is the big draw, others prefer the mystery, serenity and solitude of the marshes of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. The colorful marshes meander and curl, hiding secrets and treasures of the coast. A kayak journey through these quiet tributaries reveals birding, photography, fishing, star and moon gazing opportunities. Rent a kayak or put in your own on the Intracoastal Waterway and float along with the gentle current amidst the beautiful coastal ecosystem and deltas.

7. SUP or Skim

Stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) is a growing trend among beachgoers, who stand on top of a surfboard-shaped board and propel themselves through the water with a long-handled paddle.  Those who want to stay closer to shore can try their hand at skim boarding, which involves balancing on a thin wooden board thrown across the inch or so of water that climbs up the shore after a wave breaks.

8. Live like a Local

North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands offers guests the feeling of small town beach life at its finest. Friendly people, quaint buildings and great food are sure to make visitors feel like theIMG_0028_fb_edited-1y have found their home away from home. Rent a beach house this summer on Oak Island, Caswell Beach, Sunset Beach, Holden BeachOcean Isle Beach, or Bald Head Island, visit the local fish market for some local seafood and cook up your own authentic beach party meal just like a local would.

9. Watch the Sunrise and Sunset

Named one of “10 Incredible Phenomena You Have to See in Fall” by Weather.com, the beaches of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands have the rare distinction of running east-west as they parallel the shore. Beginning in late fall and ending early spring, this orientation means that you can sit on Oak Island, Caswell Beach, Sunset Beach, Ocean Isle Beach or Holden Beach and watch both the sunrise and sunset without having to move your beach chair.

10. Witness a Turtle Hatching

Hatchling There is probably no experience more unforgettable and 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. For example, Ocean Isle Beach’s Sea Turtle Protection Program cares for these gentle giants of the sea, telling their primitive story of mating, nesting, and hatching that has remained essentially unchanged for 200 million years. Headquartered at Museum of Coastal Carolina, the certified program swings into high gear during nesting and hatching season from May through October.Visit oibseaturtles.orgsunsetbeachturtles.org   hbturtlewatch.org,  caswellturtlewatch.org,   bhic.org/sea-turtle-protection-program, and oakislandnc.com/Departments/Parks-Recreation/Sea-Turtle-Program for more information.  View a video of a turtle hatching here.

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!