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.

Special visitors – From nest to sea

there is no greater feeling or moment than viewing a 250 pound sea turtle glide through the crashing ocean waves. Even better is watching a baby sea turtle make its way toward the huge abyss of the sea. At North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, you can experience both of these magnificent happenings of the loggerhead sea turtle on Bald Head Island, Holden Beach, Sunset Beach, Ocean Isle Beach, Caswell Beach and Oak Island.

From nest to sea, the loggerhead is an extraordinary and monolithic creature that travels great distances to lay its eggs on our many shores from May to August. The hatchings of these creatures will begin in July and continue into October. However, some of the biggest threats to sea turtles are habitat loss, fishing, poaching, and pollution. Therefore, it is our duty to ensure that these turtles fulfill their long lifespan of up to 100 years by educating the community.

Turtle Talks

With conservation practices in full-effect, you will find that our beaches are home to a multitude of protected nests managed by sea turtle protection organizations. These organizations seek to educate locals and visitors about the importance of keeping these charming sea creatures safe.

Many groups offer free seminars, tours and information about protecting the loggerhead turtles. In fact, several of our beaches offer free ‘Turtle Talks’ in order to educate on turtles and provide insight into ways we can help protect this endangered species.

Turtle Talks – Holden Beach
Jun 4, 2014 – Aug 27, 2014, 7:00 PM
Sea Turtle Talk – Sunset Beach
May 28, 2014 – Sep 1, 2014, 12:00PM – 1:00PM
Turtle Talks – Ocean Isle Beach
May 25, 2014 – Aug 26, 2014, 7:00PM

Many of our islands offer the opportunity to sponsor turtle nests. On Ocean Isle Beach, nests are monitored and updated continuously with information regarding the status of each nest. The Turtle Watch Program on Holden Beach even has statistics on the number of current nests, known eggs and the total baby turtles that have made it to the ocean. All the turtle watch or sea turtle protection organizations in the Brunswick Islands maintain websites.  Visit the Sunset Beach, Oak Island, Caswell Beach, or Bald Head Island sea turtle programs for more information.

Plan your last summer beach vacation around this miraculous turtle celebration as you watch, learn and have fun with your family, friends and of course, the loggerhead sea turtle.

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!