Tour the Brunswick Islands by Land, Sea and Air

With five barrier islands, 45 miles of beaches and several charming coastal towns, there’s lots to explore when visiting North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. While self-guided tours are an excellent way to discover the area, let the local experts give you the inside scoop. Guided tours are available throughout the islands and seaside towns, whether you’re a history buff, film buff, nature lover or just enjoying learning more about your favorite vacation destination. Below are some tour options that are sure to help you impress friends and family with your Brunswick Islands knowledge.

On Land
Find a historic Southport tour for all visitors in this quaint and charming town along the Cape Fear River. Tours are led by foot, bike and tram to provide in-depth history and fascinating facts about the town with homes and other architecture dating back to the 1800s. Other landmarks that will captivate those looking to learning about the past include the Old Brunswick Jail, Old Smithville Burial Grounds and the Old Yacht Basin, a popular movie filming location. If you’re looking for a thrill, be sure to check out the lantern-led Ghost Walk Tour to delve into the legends and lore of Southport. Around the holidays, you can also sign up for a home tour to see the beautiful, festive decorations for the winter season.

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During the summer, the Bird Island Preservation Society offers a guided walking tour of Bird Island each Wednesday. Learn about the coastal ecosystem of this beautiful undeveloped 1200 acre nature preserve during the 1 1/2 to 2 hour tour.

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Up in the Clouds
For a boost of adrenaline, take your tour to the skies with helicopter and biplane tours. Ocean Isle Beach Helicopter Tours and High Tide Helicopters offer incredible aerial tours of the Brunswick Islands. You can even sign up for a Discovery Flight with Hide Tide Helicopters where you can take a pilot lesson with their professional flight instructors. For a scenic flight for two, take an open cockpit biplane ride with Suncoast Aviation, or design a custom tour with Brunswick Air. Whether soaring over the waves or taking in the vibrant marshland, helicopter and biplane tours take your visit to a new level.

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On the Water
See the beauty of the Brunswick Islands by water with several types of boat tours. Local outfitters will guide you through the waterways on kayaks or paddleboards, a great opportunity for wildlife spotting along the Intracoastal Waterway or the many area creeks and rivers. Bring your camera for a sail or motor boat tour where you can spot dolphins, enjoy a sunset cruise and see the spectacular views that are unique to being on the water. To get up-close with another type of ecosystem, Shallotte River Swamp Park in Ocean Isle Beach offers swamp boat eco-tours to give guests a “frog’s-eye view” of the park’s cypress swamp.

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To learn more about planning your Brunswick Islands vacation and setting up a tour during your trip, visit http://www.ncbrunswick.com/fun_and_adventure/attractions.

Enjoy a Labor Day Getaway Without the Crowds in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands

escape to the beach vacation of your childhood this Labor Day weekend in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. While other vacation getaways become packed with fellow vacationers, North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands remain a laid back retreat with plenty of elbow room along the beaches. Enjoy a quintessential island escape on this long weekend getaway to the Carolina coast.

DSC_7872_LRStroll through charming island towns and reminisce of your childhood seaside vacations. For the quintessential island experience, rent a beach bike to discover the treasures of the Islands for yourself. Meander through the historic tree-lined streets of Southport to admire historic picturesque Southern homes or wind your way through the dozens of specialty shops, art galleries and antique stores. Play one of the area’s 30 plus golf courses or take your adventure to the sky and climb one of the Brunswick Islands’ historic lighthouses for endless views of marsh, beach and water.

Dining HRaltWhat would a Labor Day Weekend be without memorable mouthwatering dining? Experience authentic Calabash seafood in the town that created “Calabash style”. Take advantage of outdoor dining options with gorgeous views along the Intracoastal Waterway. For dessert, sprinkle some extra sweetness on your weekend by testing out the frozen treats at numerous locally-owned creameries and ice cream shops throughout the Islands and the mainland.

kayaks at bridge SBSoak in the warmth of summer while sailing across salt or freshwater. Spend the day aboard a boat gazing out on the crystal blue ocean while deep sea fishing or basking in the sun alongside loved ones. If you’re looking for a more personal experience on the water, rent a paddleboard, kayak or canoe or take a guided tour to explore calm freshwater rivers or saltwater tides.

For an experience unique to North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, grab your board and get ready to hang ten in the Oak Island Labor Day Surf Off. All levels and ages are invited to join in the sun, sand and surf at this annual event. Various age and surf categories will compete throughout the day in 15-minute heats. Children and adult surfers alike are welcome to join the Stand-Up Paddle board race later in the afternoon.

DSC_8114_BICYCLEThere is no need to face crowded beaches with a maze of umbrellas and towels this Labor Day Weekend. North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is the place to relax into the quintessential beach holiday getaway. And while some might consider Labor Day Weekend the last of summer, summer temperatures linger in the Brunswick Islands throughout all of September.  So even if you miss Labor Day in the Brunswick Islands, you still have time for that last summer vacation to the beach.  But don’t wait too late!

Celebrate July 4th with Family Fun and Fireworks in NC’s Brunswick Islands

If you plan on being in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands for the Fourth of the July holiday week, you’ll be in for a treat! The weather is warm, the days are long and sunny, and the sandy shores are awaiting your arrival and there is an abundance of festivities to celebrate all weekend-long.

IMG_2023The North Carolina 4th of July Festival in Southport, founded over 200 years ago, is one of the most historic celebrations in America. More than 50,000 people gather to commemorate the nation’s independence for several days full of family and fireworks. To kick off the week’s festivities, the pre-festival fun starts early at Waterfront Park on Bay Street with a Freedom 5K and 1-mile fun run on June 25 at 8 a.m. All ages are invited to participate in this family event.

Head over to Oak Island on July 1 for a family Beach Day of relaxation and entertainment. The celebration includes endless activities like sand sculpture building, volleyball, corn hole, bocce ball, and horseshoe tournaments. The fun continues into the evening with live entertainment and anniversary fireworks. Beach Day begins at 8 a.m. and ends at 9 p.m. with fireworks at the Oak Island Pier.

OIB July 4 golf cart parade 2For Sunday evening celebrations on July 3, be sure to get a spot at Ocean Isle Beach by 9 p.m. as the community sets off fireworks from the pier.  Ocean Isle Beach’s golf cart and bicycle parade starts at 10 a.m. on July 4th at the Museum of Carolina.

Attend Southport’s daytime July 4th celebrations with North Carolina’s most patriotic 4th of July Parade. Beginning at 11 a.m., the streets of Southport are filled with a variety of over 120 floats and cars, along with live music, concessions and a boat raffle. It’s not Independence Day without fireworks, and Southport lights up the sky with the best of them! At 9 p.m., crowds line the waterfront and boats anchor in the harbor to watch the spectacular display to commemorate America’s birthday.

Calabash will celebrate the 4th with fireworks on the riverfront and entertainment by Gary Lowder and the Smokin Hot Band. Festivities start at 6 p.m.

It’s no wonder the islands are a popular spot for July 4th and all summer long, offering a number of events for locals and visitors to make the most out of their holiday weekend by the beach. Plan your stay around these events! For more information on festivals and activities for the Fourth of July in NC’s Brunswick Islands, please visit our calendar of events.

The Inside Scoop!

Flava Decorations 1“You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy ice cream and that’s kind of the same thing!” says the sign outside Flava’s Ice Cream in Southport, NC. And who are we to argue? Better to step inside and enjoy a scoop of Death by Chocolate or their most popular flavor, Nutty Coconut, after a day out on the water or any of NC Brunswick Islands’ miles of pristine beaches!

In fact, you can easily satisfy your sweet tooth no matter where you are in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands – each town and island has several choices as unique and individual as the islands themselves!

Holden Beach is home to two ice cream shops that are must-stops. Beaches N Cream’s all-original, small batch recipes use only the freshest, local ingredients that are free of harmful preservatives, additives and hormones for the ice cream purist. Try the Apple Crisp, Boston Cream Pie, Butter Brickle, or County Fair Funnel Cake – the winner of the 2016 New Flavor Contest! With a new flavor featured almost every day, there is always a reason to go back! Head to Fantasy Isle Ice Cream for a one-of-a-kind miniature golf course experience, shaded and hidden by oak trees. Their ice cream however, is no secret. Hundreds of photos of satisfied customers line the walls, and they boast a solid five-star ranking on Trip Advisor. Known for their brightly colored buckets of retro-50s candies, Sandman’s Candyland on Holden Beach also serves ice cream and shakes.

IMG_8791Calabash may be known as the “seafood capital of the world,” but Calabash Creamery sets the standard for old-fashioned ice cream by making it with 16 percent butter fat cream to give it a one-of-kind taste. More than 50 year-round and seasonal flavors, including Brownie Batter, Cinnamon Bun, Mango Tango and the home-town favorite, Cow-a-Bash Crunch, offer just as many reasons to stop in.

DSC_3847_OCEAN ISLE ICE CREAM_LRThe cute yellow building that welcomes you onto Ocean Isle Beach is the home of the Ocean Isle Creamery where you will find at least 17 homemade flavors every day! All the ice cream has its start from a dairy farm in Dunn, NC, and some of the creative creaminess includes Pecan Caramel Swirl, DreamSicle, Cotton Candy and the perennial favorite, German Chocolate Cake. The Ice Cream Shoppe, another favorite place to chill out on Ocean Isle Beach, celebrates its 30th summer this year with a great selection of splits and the best Strawberry Milkshake around!  Build your own sundae at Build a Sundae or have a side of fudge with your ice cream at Pete’s Sweets.

Because a trip to Sunset Beach isn’t complete without a stop at How Sweet It Is, make sure you sample the brightly primary-colored Play Dough ice cream at this adorable ice cream parlor! How sweet it is to have so many options, indeed! You can’t go wrong with their Dutch Chocolate, Banana Pudding or Sea Salt Caramel.

From their striped awning and walk-up window, Spike’s Dairy Bar in downtown Southport churns out favorites like Almond Joy, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and the “to-die-for” Coffee Mud Pie! Be sure to treat your four-legged family member with the ‘Pup Cup,’ a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with a dog biscuit!

Leaky Tiki Sign 2cropThe largest of NC Brunswick Islands’ five barrier islands, Oak Island offers several choices. Frosty’s is legendary for its ice cream and the tantalizing aroma of house-made waffle cones. Top the cone with a generous scoop of Peanut Butter Chocolate or Butterfinger Ice Cream for the ultimate sweet treat! Also on Oak island, Leaky Tiki’s is great for a scoop of homemade ice cream and to pick up some house-made fudge for later.  In addition to ice cream, Tropical Treats offers a lighter take to cooling down with a variety of Italian ices and sno-cones. For a nostalgic taste, head to Dairy Queen for a Dilly Bar.

If you want to keep even lighter on the calories, touch down at Banana Boat Landing (Southport), Ocean Isle Creamery, or Back Porch Ice Cream (Calabash) where frozen yogurt is served alongside ice cream.

Maybe you can’t buy happiness, but you can certainly find it on NC’s Brunswick Islands!

Bird Is The Word!

In both spring and summer, and especially at North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, bird is indeed the word. The five barrier islands that make up NC’s Brunswick Islands encompass a large network of bird sanctuaries. From the southernmost barrier island, where Sunset Beach stretches southwest to the protected nature preserve of Bird Island, to the community of Southport and the offshore rookeries on Battery Island, there is no shortage of incredible birding experiences in this area.

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The White Ibis is one of the most visible and prolific species with their bright white plumage that contrast against a summer-blue sky and green foliage. According to an article featured by The National Audubon Society, nearly 10 percent of the North American population of White Ibis are supported by the six-acre Battery Island, with more than 5,000 nesting pairs documented in 2012. This tiny spit of land, located just a stone’s throw off Southport’s waterfront promenade, is also home for other wading, shore and song birds. These find refuge in the island’s scrubby shrubs and trees making it the state’s largest wading bird colony and a sanctuary protected by Audubon.

young great blue heron smallIn addition, the more than 45 miles of undeveloped and under-developed shoreline and the pristine estuaries and salt marshes on the islands’ flip-side shelter and sustain a wide variety of wading birds and shorebirds during nesting season.  American Oystercatchers, Black Skimmers, Plovers, Ibis, Egrets, and Herons are among the spring/summertime and year-round residents whose babies hatch here and start the next feathered generation.

Those of us who live here in the pristine coastal communities and barrier islands of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands understand perfectly why these birds choose to return here year after year to nest!

IMG_8855 bThese uncrowded beaches attract plenty of birders and beachgoers too, and while the birds and their fledglings are an amazing site, Audubon provides the following tips to help us protect our nesting shorebirds.  By taking small simple actions to help protect their nesting habitat, you can help them raise the next generation.

Audubon’s Tips to Share the Beach

Respect protected areas and signs. Birds, eggs, nests and chicks are well-camouflaged. Disturbance by people and their pets can cause birds to abandon their eggs and young.

Avoid disturbing groups of birds that are nesting or feeding. If the birds take flight, call loudly, or act agitated, it means you are too close.

Always keep your dog on a leash and away from the birds. Shorebirds perceive people and pets as predators.

Please don’t leave trash or fishing line on the beach. Take your trash with you and place in an appropriate trash container. Trash attracts real predators such as gulls, crows, raccoons and foxes. Fishing line can entangle and kill birds.