White Christmas Island-Style: Holiday Events and Traditions

beach christmas tree

Winter days may be shorter, but there is no shortage of things to do in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. This holiday season take Christmas coastal and trade in Santa Claus for “Sandy” Claus. Families that shake up their holiday travel plans with a little bit of sun, sand and surf will be rewarded with the gift of a White Christmas celebrated island-style. The only blanket of white you will see here is that of a long stretch of sand on the beach. At North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, there are countless celebrations, parades, markets and festivities throughout our friendly coastal communities perfect for spreading holiday cheer.

Check out our list of can’t-miss holiday events perfect for every member of the family.

Tree Lightings 
Kick off the holiday season with a spectacular tree lighting ceremony guaranteed to enchant and excite people of all ages. Many of our islands and towns host special tree lighting events, so locals and visitors alike have many chances to capture a magical moment of their own.

Tree Lighting Ceremony – Southport
Nov 23, 2018, 4:30 p.m.

Join Southport revelers in Franklin Square Park as the holiday season kicks off with a countdown to the lighting of our big holiday tree. Sing classic Christmas songs and delight in a reading of The Night Before Christmas. Enjoy a cup of hot cocoa and some holiday cookies that will be provided, under the glow of Southport’s holiday lights. The event is free but donations will be appreciated.

Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony – Holden Beach
Nov 29, 2018, 5:30 p.m.

Gather Thursday, November 29, 2018 at the Holden Beach Pavilion for this family friendly event. Enjoy live entertainment beginning at 5:30 p.m. and the tree lighting at 6:00 p.m. Enjoy chorus entertainment, games and a visit by Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Tree Lighting – Oak Island
Nov 30, 2018, 5:00 – 7:30 p.m.

Celebrate the season with a tree lighting at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, November 30 at Middleton Park. There will be crafts and entertainment before and after the tree lighting. Local musicians will play your favorite Christmas songs as you sip on free hot chocolate. A special visitor from the North Pole will make a visit!

North Carolina Christmas Festival and Parade – Leland
Dec 1, 2018, 4:00 – 9:00 p.m.

The North Carolina Christmas Festival and Parade is back and better than ever! The festival will be on Saturday, December 1 from 4:00 – 9:00 p.m. The parade will begin at 5:00 p.m. and will be followed by a Christmas tree lighting with Santa and Mrs. Claus at 6:30 p.m. Pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus will be available after the tree lighting.

Calabash Tree Lighting – Calabash
Dec 7, 2018, 6:00 p.m.

Help decorate the tree, visit with Santa and enjoy hot chocolate and snacks while seeing the tree light up for the first time of the season.

Parades
Nothing shares the spirit of the season much like a celebratory parade. In North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, holiday parades are in no short supply. By land and by sea, Santa is coming to town and the communities of the Brunswick Islands welcome you and your family to join in some of the maritime merriment.

Ocean Isle Beach Flotilla – Ocean Isle Beach
Nov 24, 2018, 5:30 p.m.

The 15th Annual Ocean Isle Beach Flotilla will take place on Saturday, November 24, 2018. The boat parade lines up at 5:30 p.m. in front of Inlet View Bar & Grill. Once dusk has fallen and all the lights are on and ready to go, they will begin their way down the Intracoastal Waterway, ending at Sharky’s restaurant around 7:00 p.m. for awards and an after party. You will find excellent viewing spots between both restaurants, including the ending point in the commercial canal in front of Sharky’s Restaurant.

OIB flotilla

Christmas by the Sea Parade – Oak Island
Dec 1, 2018, 2:00 p.m.

Christmas is perhaps the best time of year to visit the North Carolina coast. The average air temperature is 59.4 degrees and the sun is warm. In celebration of this wonderful weather and the holidays, the Chamber organizes the Christmas by the Sea Parade. The parade is on Saturday, December 1, 2018 at 2 p.m. on the 2.4-mile parade route from Oak Island Town Hall, traveling Oak Island Drive to McGlamery Street. The parade showcases the businesses and organizations in our community. The hometown feel of the parade makes it a favorite event of locals, second homeowners and visitors.

Shallotte Christmas Parade – Shallotte
Dec 1, 2018, 10:00 a.m.

Shallotte’s Christmas Parade is on Saturday, December 1 at 10:00 a.m. The parade starts from the intersection of Main Street & Whiteville Road and ends at the intersection of Main Street & Smith Avenue. The roads close at 8:00 a.m.

Sandy Paws Parade – Holden Beach
Dec 7, 2018, 10:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Celebrate this holiday season with your pup on our pet-friendly beaches! Bring your dog out for a short stroll in the doggie parade and then have a picture made with Santa. The event will begin at Town Hall at 2:00 p.m. on Friday, December 7. Picture opportunities will take place at the Holden Beach Pavilion after the parade.

Southport Christmas Flotilla – Southport
Dec 8, 2018, Approximately 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.

Come and see a holiday parade on the water. Bring a chair and choose your viewing spot along the historic banks of the Cape Fear River. Boats of all sizes (power, paddle, sail) will be dressed in holiday finery. Witness the lights twinkling on the water and lighting up the night sky. Cheer for your favorite boats judged by guest judges, students from the Southport Elementary School Art Class. Come early and enjoy one of the many activities there is to offer in Southport.

southport flotilla

Markets and Festivities

Kick ordinary beach souvenirs to the curb and stop by a local holiday market to find something unique for that special someone. Who knows, you may even discover a little holiday treat for yourself along the way.

Ocean Isle Beach Holiday Market – Ocean Isle Beach
Nov 23, 2018, 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Come on out to the Ocean Isle Beach Holiday Market on November 23 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Over 60 of our area’s finest artisans will participate to create a unique holiday shopping experience. All items for sale will be handmade, homemade or homegrown.

Sunset Beach Waterfront Holiday Market – Sunset Beach
Dec 1, 2018, 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

This holiday market will include a variety of the area’s finest artisans selling their unique handmade, homemade or homegrown items that will make the perfect holiday gift. Pictures with Santa will be available. There will be food trucks, hot chocolate and treats to enjoy as you shop the various vendors. So come, shop, eat and enjoy the start of a wonderful holiday season.

Holiday Craft Market – Oak Island
Dec 1, 2018, 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Find a unique token from the beach to gift to your loved ones this holiday season. This year’s Holiday Craft Market will offer both indoor and outdoor shopping.

Winterfest – Southport
Dec 1, 2018 – Dec 9, 2018, Daytime and Nighttime Holiday Events

Kick off the holiday season with a week of celebration and events throughout the downtown area. Guests of all ages may enjoy live theater, a WinterFest Tea Party, cookie contest, supper with Santa’s elves, a viewing of the Polar Expressa costumed history tour, Christmas fire engine parade, Winter Craft Festival, book sale, performing arts, Santa’s workshop, historic jail tour, Christmas Tour of Homes, and to wrap up the week with the Christmas Flotilla.

Shallotte Christmas Village – Shallotte
Dec 15, 2018, 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

The Shallotte Christmas Village will take place on Saturday, December 15 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in Mulberry Park. Local farmers and vendors will be in attendance.

merry christmas

This winter, swap snow for sand and start a new holiday tradition with your family and loved ones at North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. For a full list of holiday happenings, please visit ncbrunswick.com/events.

Seven Reasons to Shellabrate the North Carolina Oyster Festival

NC Oyster Festival

October marks the start of Oyster Season in North Carolina, and the Brunswick Islands is the place to revel in and enjoy this tasty treat. North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is the site of the state’s official oyster celebration, and the Annual North Carolina Oyster Festival returns to Ocean Isle Beach for its 38th year October 20-21, 2018. Check out our list of seven reasons to stop by and shellabrate at the North Carolina Oyster Festival!

1.Two Days to Experience

With so many things to do, explore and eat, the North Carolina Oyster Festival offers two days to experience the exciting and action-packed event. Visitors can swing by from 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 20 and from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 21 for a shell of a good time.

NC Oyster Festival Oyster Stew Cook-off

2. Friendly and Flavorful Competition

The festival hosts several opportunities for a little friendly competition. Whether guests are looking to shag, shuck or stuff their faces, the North Carolina Oyster Festival has something for everyone. Festival-goers can enter the shag dance competition, oyster eating contest and oyster shucking contest. For even more festive flavor, attendees can buy a ticket to taste one of the delicious dishes prepared by local restaurants for the oyster stew cook-off.

3. Countless Local Arts and Crafts Vendors

The North Carolina Oyster Festival is not just a food festival, it is an arts and crafts extravaganza. The event brings in the best in fine art and crafts from around the area. Attendees can explore rows of vendors offering the best in handmade jewelry, painted glassware, hand-blown Christmas ornaments, natural soaps, jams, handcrafted clothing items, woodcraft, unique cuisines and more.

4. Plenty of Palate Pleasing Eats

While fried and steam oysters do hold the spotlight during this two-day seafood celebration, festival-goers can also sample an array of delicious eats. From crab cakes and BBQ to pizza and sweet treats, the North Carolina Oyster Festival features food for every palate.

NC Oyster Festival

5. Loads of Live Music and Entertainment

Music is an essential part of any great outdoor festival and every year the North Carolina Oyster Festival brings exceptional entertainers to the stage. Bring your beach chair and enjoy an incredible lineup of popular beach bands, cover artists and country music. This year’s lineup includes Wayne Stewart & September Rain; Chocolate Chip & Company; Trey Calloway; Tina Smith; and The Tim Clark Band.

6. Tastes of North Carolina History

The annual festival is undoubtedly about great food and a great time, but it is important to remember just why the mighty mollusk deserves a dedicated event. The oyster has been an important food source in coastal communities for thousands of years, and oyster harvesting has long been a big industry for North Carolina. While oyster harvesting recently experienced a decline, restoration and hatchery programs have helped protect this storied industry and preserve production of this coastal culinary staple.

7. Budget-Friendly for Every Itinerary

Admission to the two-day festival is $5.00 (cash only) for adults with no admission cost for children under 12, making it an easy addition to every travel itinerary. Bring your family to the Brunswick Islands to experience this North Carolina tradition!

For more information on the 38th Annual North Carolina Oyster Festival, visit www.ncbrunswick.com/event/north-carolina-oyster-festival-ocean-isle-beach-nc.  For more information about other events throughout the Brunswick Islands, visit our calendar of events.

Make Travel Plans for Labor Day Weekend in NC’s Brunswick Islands

Still considering Labor Day travel plans for your family? Make crowded beaches and umbrella mazes a thing of the past with a holiday getaway to North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. Our 45 miles of pristine, uncrowded beaches will take you back to the beach vacations of your childhood. With a uniquely relaxed atmosphere and plenty of beach for your blanket, there is no better place to celebrate the end to a fun-filled summer. Our six island beaches house a collection of family-friendly activities perfect for saying farewell to summer. Be sure to check out these suggestions for ways to make the most out of your long weekend in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands.

Shallotte River Swamp Park

Families can experience the swamp like never before with an action-packed, high flying adventure. The park features a two and a half hour zipline tour, seven course adventure park, 50-foot Pelican Dive jump and more. Park owners did not want to sacrifice the beautiful, natural surroundings for adventure, but rather enhance guest experience by seamlessly weaving the two together. The park is uniquely designed around the landscape and rangers educate guests about the ecological benefits of the natural habitat. With an outdoor adventure perfectly suited for ages four and beyond, there is something for every member of the family.

Shallotte River Swamp Park

Last Turtle Talks of the Year

In North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, summer is sea turtle season. For centuries our beaches have been home to loggerhead sea turtles, and every summer local sea turtle protection organizations offer free weekly family-friendly seminars to share important information about loggerhead sea turtle conservation efforts. These “Turtle Talks” are held late spring through summer, with the last of the popular events scheduled just before and over Labor Day weekend. Be sure to check the calendar of events and see if your family can make one of these fun and educational seminars.

Ingram Planetarium

Looking to expand your family’s horizons this Labor Day holiday? Venture to Sunset Beach to explore the Ingram Planetarium. The state-of-the-art planetarium features an 85-seat SciDome Sky Theater with high definition digital projection and surround-sound system. Families can catch thrilling and educational programs about space exploration and astronomy before wondering through the many interactive exhibits.

Planetarium

Waterfront Dining

The vibrant communities of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands are home to countless culinary hot spots serving up the tastiest coastal creations. Whether families are craving seafood, home-style dishes or international cuisine, there is a dining experience for everyone. Some of the best parts of a beach vacation are the views, and the Brunswick Islands boast beautiful waterfront dining spots with a family friendly atmosphere. There are many great options that offer incredible views, fresh seafood and a friendly atmosphere.

Ice Cream Shops

Everyone loves a sweet treat, and lucky for families the Brunswick Islands have numerous local ice cream shops that serve up smiles every day. Each island and town has several spectacular ice cream choices as unique and individual as the islands that house them. Say cheers to the season with the signature treat of summer.

 For even more family-friendly Labor Day travel ideas, be sure to visit www.NCBrunswick.com.

Four Ways to Celebrate the 4th of July in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands

Southport 4th of July

July 4th is a fabulous time to gather the family, pack the car and head to North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. The sun is out, the temperatures are warm and there are plenty of exciting events and Independence Day celebrations happening all around our festive coastal community. Whether your trip is already on the calendar or you are looking for a reason to book, be sure to check out these four fun ways to celebrate the 4th of July with us.

1. NC 4th of July Festival and Fireworks

Join a Southport tradition with more than 200 years of history at the NC 4th of July Festival June 24-July 4, 2018. Since 1792 the town has celebrated our nation’s independence in style. The celebration has evolved from colonial times when ships fired their cannons into the harbor to the family-friendly spectacle it is today. The beloved annual festival attracts more than 50,000 people to Southport each year with events including a reading of the Declaration of Independence, concerts, a flag raising ceremony, mobile exhibits, more than 100 arts and craft booths, food vendors, a parade and more.  And it wouldn’t be a true 4th of July festival without fireworks! Cheer the end of another exciting 4th of July Festival with the annual fireworks display in Southport. The fireworks show will take place at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, July 4 over the glistening waterfront.  Come see why Coastal Living named Southport the “Best Beach Town in America for the Fourth of July”.

Oak Island Beach Day

2. NC 4th of July Beach Day

On June 30, 2018 the Brunswick Islands will welcome the return of the annual Beach Day on Oak Island. This day-long coastal jubilee is free to attend and offers the best in family-friendly beach entertainment. Activities include sand sculpture building, volleyball, skate boarding, volleyball, bocce ball contents, dozen of family contents, inflatables, rides, games and more. Swing by from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and see for yourself what makes Beach Day the perfect way to spend a summer day.

Ocean Isle Beach 4th of July Parade

3. Freedom Celebration and 4th of July Parade

For even more ways to experience a true Independence Day spectacular, head to Ocean Isle Beach for a Freedom Celebration. The fun starts with fireworks at the pier on July 3 around 8 p.m. and continues July 4 at 10 a.m. with a special parade. The parade brings creative and spirited families together as decorated floats, golf carts bicycle and walkers flood the streets. Parade participants will be judged and prizes awarded.

4. Calabash Independence Day Celebration and Fireworks

Celebrate Independence Day in Calabash with a fireworks show on the Calabash waterfront Wednesday, July 4th. Festivities will begin around 5 p.m. with food, games, silent auction, family fun, live music, and more. The evening will be capped off with fireworks beginning about 9:15 p.m.

For more information on festivals and activities at North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, please visit www.NCBrunswick.com/events.

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.