Eight Free Things To Do in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands

Caswell Beach Oak Island Lighthouse

Sometimes the best things in life are free, and that is no exception in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. This summer discover just how easy it is to go big on a budget in the Brunswick Islands. When you’re visiting, be sure to check out the below eight free activities that are sure to bring on the smiles without breaking the bank or sacrificing the fun factor.

1. Oak Island Lighthouse

Located on Caswell Beach, the Oak Island Lighthouse is a must-visit spot that proves it is possible to elevate your vacation experience at no added cost. The 153-foot structure is the last lighthouse built in North Carolina. While tours to the top of this 15-story beauty are free, friendly donations from visitors are always appreciated and help ensure that future travelers to the area will enjoy the scenic views awaiting atop the 131-step series of ships ladders.

Kindred Spirit Mailbox

 2. Kindred Spirit Mailbox

While walks along the beach are always a priceless perk of a coastal getaway, at the Brunswick Islands you can take a tranquil stroll to a tucked away mailbox full of secrets. Standing in the sands of beautiful Bird Island is the Kindred Spirit Mailbox. This mailbox to nowhere is a true hidden gem holding small notebooks full of the thoughts, dreams, wishes and prayers of wayward travelers. Walk along Bird Island and see the mailbox firsthand to soak in the magic and add your own musings to the ever-growing collection.

 

3. North Carolina Maritime Museum

Venture to Southport to visit one of the three maritime museums sponsored by the state of North Carolina. Visitors to the museum can dive into the rich history of the Cape Fear River region. The museum’s well curated collection tells the story of the region and covers shipwrecks, piracy, the Civil War, and other nautical adventures. While admission to the Maritime Museum is free, donations are appreciated.

Southport tour

 4. Self-Guided Tour of Southport

One authentic and charming way to explore the area is by foot. Spend less and see more with a self-guided tour starting at the Fort Johnston – Southport Museum & Visitors Center. Here maps and brochures that will lead your journey through historic Southport can be found. Stops include churches and homes dating back to the 1800s as well as landmarks like City Hall, the Old Brunswick Jail, Old Smithville Burial Grounds and River Pilots Tower. Southport, “American’s Happiest Seaside Town” as noted by Coastal Living, has been a beloved Brunswick Islands destination since the late 1700s. No stranger to the spotlight, Southport’s innately picturesque scenery has served as the backdrop to many popular films and TV shows such as Safe Haven, A Walk to Remember and The Secret Life of Bees.

Brunswick Town

5. Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson

History buffs will delight in a day trip to the Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson Historic Site. Admission is free and grants visitors access to tour and roam what is left of old Brunswick, a major pre-Revolutionary port on North Carolina’s Cape Fear River. Brunswick Town was razed by British troops in 1776. While the town was never rebuilt, during the Civil War, Fort Anderson was constructed on the old town grounds and functioned until the fall of the Confederacy. Today notable sites include the hulk of what was once Brunswick’s St. Philip’s Anglican Church and remains of a sea captain’s house used by royal governors.

sea turtle

 6. Turtle Talks

North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is home to unforgettable and wonderful wildlife experiences. Loggerhead sea turtles are known to frequent the area, and sometimes lucky visitors are able to catch a glimpse of a magnificent sea turtle gliding through the ocean waves or watch in awe as baby sea turtles make their way toward the sea. Many of the local sea turtle protection organizations offer free seminars, designed for the whole family, to share important information about protecting loggerhead sea turtles. These “Turtle Talks” can are held late spring through summer. See our calendar of events for details.

7. Summer Concerts

The ways to enjoy some free fun in the sun continue with summer concerts at North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. Starting in May through Labor Day week each of our beach communities hold live music performances that are free to enjoy and perfect for family members of all ages. Each community has their own schedule and performing artists change every week, so be sure to check out our calendar of events for more information on who will be playing during your stay.

Farmers Market

8. Farmers Market

In North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, it is easy to live like a local with summer outdoor farmers markets starting up in May. Many of our friendly beach communities host their own outdoor market, some located along the waterfront, offering fine artisanal goods, locally grown produce, baked goods, photography, pottery and other handcrafted items. While the fresh and local goodies are for sale, a stroll through one of our quaint farmers markets is a relaxing way to enjoy a morning at the beach.  See our calendar of events for locations and times.

For more information on things to do at North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, please visit www.NCBrunswick.com.

Forecast Reads 100% Chance of Fun with these Rainy Day Beach Activities

Museum of Coastal Carolina

Sometimes cloudy skies decide to follow you on your vacation. Even the best-laid beach plans can be interrupted by a bit of inclement weather. While sunny skies are always ideal for a coastal getaway, North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands offer an abundance of enticing indoor activities that are not only unbeatable elements of a foolproof rain plan, but also make for incredible vacation stops to experience under the clearest of skies. No matter the weather, the travel forecast will read 100% chance of fun with these indoor activities and experiences.

NC Maritime Museum in Southport

Learn Something New

While our 45 miles of tranquil beaches are no stranger to the national spotlight, our scenic and lively community offers visitors more than just sand and surf. History buffs can venture to Southport to experience Fort Johnston-Southport Museum & Visitors Center and the North Carolina Maritime Museum. Fort Johnston-Southport Museum, originally built by the British in the mid-1700s, offers docent lead or self-guided tours showcasing the history, heritage and culture of Southport. For an even broader look into the history of the Brunswick Islands, the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport shares the story of the Cape Fear region, complete with pirates, blockade running, riverfront archaeology and more. Science seekers can enjoy a rainy day spent under the stars at the Ingram Planetarium on Sunset Beach or a day spent exploring one of the largest dry aquariums on the East Coast at the Museum of Coastal Carolina on Ocean Isle Beach. The Visitors Center at Brunswick Town Fort Anderson in Winnabow includes a video history of the site as well as archaeological artifacts. Guests of all ages and interests can immerse in the rich history and unique culture of the Brunswick Islands with an incredible array of indoor museums and historic attractions that prove a rainy day at the beach still beats a sunny day at the office.

breweries and wineries

Check Out the Culinary Scene

Enacting a rain plan shouldn’t mean taking a raincheck on a good time. With countless culinary experiences offering the best in seafood, family dining and international cuisine, there are endless opportunities to spend quality time with your family and travel companions around a fun and flavorful meal. The booming restaurant scene of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is accompanied by a handful of local hotspots serving up good times by the glass. Makai Brewing Company not only crafts tasty Brunswick Islands brews, but also brings the spirit of Hawaii to even the most overcast of days. Craft beer connoisseurs can also swing by veteran-owned Check Six Brewing Company or the Brunswick Islands’ newest brewery, 34° North Experiment Station Brewery. Check Six offers free brewery tours and features a taproom boasting a fun historical and early aviation theme. 34° North Experiment Station Brewery is the second location for the Red Hare Brewing Company where guests can enjoy small batches of funky experimental beers, inspired by the wild yeast and bacteria of the coastal winds. Local flavors can also be found at Silver Coast Winery in Ocean Isle Beach where guests can enjoy winery tours, tastings, an art gallery, gift shop and more.

Take Time for Retail or Spa Therapy

When life gives you rain, seek a little retail therapy. Throughout our islands and towns, a large selection of specialty shops, art galleries, local craft boutiques and antique treasures await. Whether you are on the hunt for the perfect souvenir or a little something special, you are sure to find exactly what you are looking for among a beautiful coastal backdrop, stunning southern homes and charming streets. For Christmas in July, visitors can stop by The Christmas House in Southport or St. Nick Knacks/Callahan’s in Calabash for a fun collection of festive goodies sure to make a rainy day feel like the most wonderful time of the year. No matter your taste or budget, there is something for everyone to shop and experience.  For a little “me time” try a trip to one of the area’s many day spas for some pampering.

For even more rainy day itinerary ideas, ask a local! Members of our friendly coastal community are sure to have the inside scoop on how to make the most of what Mother Nature has in store. Rain or shine, a vacation to North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is always a good time.

For more information on things to do at North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, please visit www.NCBrunswick.com.

Discover the Museums of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands

Museum of Coastal Carolina

Beyond the beautiful beach scenery, the Brunswick Islands hold a rich history, which guests can experience with a visit to the area’s museums. With history dating as far back as the colonial times and tales of pirates, visitors can explore the fascinating, in-depth past of the islands and coastal communities. Not only does the Brunswick Islands offer a great place for visitors to enjoy the beaches and sunshine, but a trip to coast can also be educational! Be sure to add these museums to your Brunswick Islands itinerary:

Fort Johnston – Southport Museum & Visitors Center:

Fort Johnston in Southport was built by the British in 1748. The fort was used to protect the region from the Spanish and French attacks during King George’s War. It served as the oldest active-duty fort in the United States after 250 years of federal service and was conveyed to the city of Southport in 2006. Today, visitors can explore the museum with an official tour guide or take a self-guided tour. Don’t miss the Safe Haven exhibit with memorabilia from when the movie was filmed in Southport. fort-johnston

Ingram Planetarium:

Visitors looking for more of an out-of-this-world museum experience can check out the Ingram Planetarium in Sunset Beach. This state-of-the-art planetarium has an 85-seat SciDome Sky Theater with high definition digital protection and surround-sound system. 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. dsc_9509_sunset-beach_planitarium_lr

Museum of Coastal Carolina:

The Museum of Coastal Carolina on Ocean Isle Beach is North Carolina’s only natural history museum located on a barrier island. The museum showcases the unique coastal ecosystem of the Brunswick Islands and features the Southeast’s largest dry aquarium, collections of sea shells, shark jaws, wildlife dioramas and a Touch Tank with live sea stars, sea urchins and other animals. Young explorers will also love digging in the fossil pit for shark teeth. dsc_0010_oib_touch-tank_wm

North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport:

The North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport tells the story of the Cape Fear region and the people of its past and present. Exhibits provide a detailed history of pirates, shipwrecks, and the area’s extensive nautical history. The museum offers educational programs for both children and adults, making it enjoyable for all ages.mmsign

Old Brunswick County Jail Museum:

The Old Brunswick County Jail, built in 1904, has been maintained to keep its original form and serves as a museum open to the public. The two-story jail, which was used until 1971 before a new jail was constructed, has a runabout and two cells, which visitors can view on guided or self-guided tours. Visitors can also take a glimpse of the graffiti drawn by prisoners on the second floor. img_0523

Sunset Beach Swing Bridge & Museum:

The historic Sunset Beach swing bridge and tender house that linked the island to the mainland from 1958-2011, now rests in an area shaded by oak trees to serve as a museum and public gathering place. Locals thought that they would be saying goodbye to the swing bridge, but volunteers and the Old Bridge Preservative Society saved it from demolition. The tender house is now open to visitors and displays artifacts from the Blockade Runner Vesta, which ran aground on Sunset Beach. old-sb-bridge-horizontal-2

Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson Historic Site:

Brunswick Town was a pre-Revolutionary port located on the Cape Fear River that was destroyed by British Troops in 1776 and never rebuilt. Fort Anderson was constructed during the Civil War at the same site as the old village to defend the river and north toward Wilmington. What remains of Brunswick Town and the fort is now one of North Carolina’s historic sites and a working archaeological site. Visitors can view displays and audiovisuals about its history, as well as explore outdoor trails along the ruins of the fort.img_5863_tonemapped

Smith Island Museum of History:

Smith Island Museum of History is located on the grounds of Old Baldy Lighthouse on Bald Head Island and is a replica of an 1850s lighthouse keeper’s cottage.img_3467

When planning your visit to the museums in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, be sure to check the hours, which vary by season. To learn more, visit http://www.ncbrunswick.com/fun_and_adventure/heritage_museums.