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.

The Best Mother’s Day Gifts for Moms that Love the Beach

Spring is here and that means it is time to get ready to celebrate that one very special lady in your life. With Mother’s Day right around the corner, it is never too early to start planning how to show mom just how much you care. For moms that live by the motto “life is better in flip-flops” think beyond flowers this Mother’s Day and get coastal at North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. Check out our list of the perfect gifts for moms who always seem to have the beach on the brain!

Toast to Mom at Silver Coast Winery

Say “cheers” to mom this Mother’s Day with a trip to Silver Coast Winery in Ocean Isle Beach. The Silver Coast Winery story began on Mother’s Day 2002 when owner Maryann Azzato was gifted a half-acre plot of land from her husband, Dr. Bud. A full family affair, Maryann along with her siblings and children planted the very grapes that would grow to become this local gem and Mother’s Day must. The winery offers a vineyard, tasting room and tours daily. Visitors can also enjoy the local art that adorns the walls of the winery’s art gallery.

waterfront dining

Take Mom to Dinner with a View

We all know the sun rises and sets with mom, so this year treat her to a view as spectacular as she is. The beaches and coastal towns of the Brunswick Islands are home to an incredible array of world-class dining experiences featuring both local specialties and global inspiration. Whether mom loves tastes of the Caribbean, signature Southern dishes, flavors of the Mediterranean or a fresh catch of the day, there are countless options to choose from. Our surplus of tranquil and scenic beaches creates seemingly endless opportunities for dinner and a coastal sunset. With multiple magnificent vantage points overlooking the Atlantic or the Intracoastal Waterway, it is easy to find a special dinner spot with a view as perfect as she is.

Traverse the Beach Searching for Shells

North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands’ 45 miles of sandy beaches create an abundant playground for exploring. Take mom back in time to simpler days when summers were spent searching for seashells in the sand. Sift through the sand for some of the popular shells found along our shores. From angelwings to olive shells, true tulips to sand dollars, there is always a hidden gem awaiting your discovery. These little treasures are sure to brighten up mom’s day for years to come and give her a piece of the beach to hold close to her heart all year long.

Trek to the Kindred Spirit Mailbox

For a unique beachgoing experience, take mom to serene Bird Island for a stroll along Sunset Beach to visit the beloved Kindred Spirit Mailbox. For years the mailbox has been a must-visit spot for much-needed reflection. Visitors venture to the secluded mailbox to write their stories and share their love with the universe. Year after year people come by to add their letters, notes, thoughts, poems, prayers and wishes to the growing stack of journals found inside. This Mother’s Day, treat mom to a special spiritual experience and share your story with the Kindred Spirit Mailbox.

Treat Mom to One Unforgettable Beach Experience

NC's Brunswick Islands family vacationThe best way to give back to a beach-loving mom is to treat her to the ultimate beachgoing experience with an unforgettable getaway to North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. Our peaceful beaches, incredible culinary scene, rich history, exciting events and popular attractions make a vacation to our coastal oasis a sure way to put a smile on mom’s face. There is no shortage of ways to show mom how much you love her at North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, so be sure to seas every opportunity to make May 13 a Mother’s Day to remember.

For more information and ways to make a memorable experience at North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, please visit www.NCBrunswick.com.

 

How to Hold a Family Reunion at the Beach

Brunswick Islands

It’s never too early to start planning a family reunion your loved ones will remember for years to come. With the area’s central Mid-Atlantic location, plenty of affordable accommodations, more than 45 miles of beautiful beaches, endless outdoor activities, and fairways as far as the eye can see, it is easy to see why hundreds of families host their annual reunion at North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands each year. There is no better place to get the family together than at the beach, and the Brunswick Islands has offerings suited to every member of the family.

We spoke with Cheryl Summer, an Ohioan who has been visiting North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands for more than 35 years. Cheryl originally started visiting the area with a few couples, and it has now morphed into a 20-person, two-house annual reunion with family and friends traveling from all over the country.

Check out Cheryl’s six tips on making the most of a family reunion, from planning to feeding a crowd:

  1. Find Accommodations That Can Hold Your Entire Family:

The Brunswick Islands has plenty of accommodations and meeting space that can accommodate families of all sizes! One of the most popular accommodations is a vacation rental home. Cheryl recommends booking one or more large houses, with spacious, equipped kitchens, lots of bathrooms, laundry facilities and plenty of areas to gather.

Vacation Beach house

  1. Plan Well in Advance:

Cheryl suggests that families start preparation for each beach reunion at least one year in advance. “We reserve the same two houses for two weeks every September,” she says. “We have families that stay for various lengths of time, and attendees from the current year get first pick on dates for next year’s reunion.”

  1. Organize and Delegate Shopping and Meals:

Feeding the entire family three times a day is no small feat! Cheryl suggests assigning each family a night to provide dinner. “They buy and prepare the main course, dessert and beverages,” says Sumner. Through the years, it’s developed into a friendly competition as each group tries to outdo the other. To save on labor, they use paper plates and cups.  “We don’t come on vacation to do dishes,” she laughs.

For the other meals and staples, Cheryl suggests that every person contribute $30 to the “kitty.”  At the beginning of the trip, Cheryl and her two organizing friends, Rosie and Debbie, make a grocery store run to purchase breakfast and lunch items, paper towels, zip bags, ice and other kitchen items.

“We designate one house for breakfast and lunch,” says Sumner, “and the other for dinner.” This provides the dinner crew a clear kitchen and enough prep time. “But both refrigerators have drinks, snacks and condiments for everyone,” says Sumner.

  1. Themes and Games Make It More Fun:

Perhaps the most fun and memorable part of each reunion is the changing theme. “We have a different theme each year. Once it was Christmas in July, another it was pirates, we vote on the next year’s theme at the end of the reunion” says Sumner.

Tuesday is designated as party night, with everything revolving around the theme, from costumes, décor, quizzes, music and activities. “The year of the pirate we created a treasure hunt throughout the house and onto the beach,” says Sumner. “Participants searched the house for clues, and followed a map onto the sand, where we had placed nine different ‘Xs’ to mark potential treasure.” These fun themed activities bring the family together in a fun and exciting way!

  1. Choose a Location with Many Activities:

Cheryl recommends that families pick a beach that’s not too busy and crowded, such as those in this southernmost corner of North Carolina. Yet the location should have activities for each age group. While each of the beaches of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands – Sunset Beach, Ocean Isle Beach, Holden Beach, Oak Island, Caswell Beach and Bald Head Island – has its own character and charm, they all offer plenty of activities for every age and interest. On the islands and the mainland are mouthwatering dining, museums and shops, boating, kayaking, fishing and championship golf, and riveting maritime and military history.

  1. Book Ahead:

While North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is a well-loved, best-kept secret, it’s best to book a vacation beach rental, especially very large or oceanfront homes, a year ahead or at least by January if visiting from May – August, as many families like Cheryl’s come back year after year to build upon what they call their best vacation memories ever.

Come see why the Brunswick Islands brings families together! To plan your family reunion in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, and to learn more, visit www.NCBrunswick.com

Follow NC’s Brunswick Islands on social media at www.facebook.com/NCBrunswick/ and www.instagram.com/ncbrunswickislands/

 

Upcoming Spring Events & Festivals in NC’s Brunswick Islands

Oak Island Lighthouse Run

Think past the chilly winter months and bulky sweaters forward to basking in the sun in your new bathing suit! Get rid of the winter blues by planning a picturesque coastal getaway this Spring to North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. Springtime in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands means tons of local events to entertain the whole family. The views are breathtaking, the food is exquisite, and the memories will last a lifetime.

Here’s just a taste of everything North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands has to offer this spring:

Spring Art Show

Website: http://www.ncbrunswick.com/event/spring-art-show-southport-nc

When: Monday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.  February 27 – March 18

Where: Franklin Square Gallery, Southport

Contact: 910-457-5450

Southport’s Franklin Square Gallery hosts the annual spring art show featuring paintings, pottery, sculptures, and handmade jewelry by both members of the gallery and local guest artists. The historic building is located near the live oak trees behind Franklin Square Park three blocks from Southport’s waterfront at 130 E. West Street. Over 100 artists will be displaying their work during the exhibit and an award ceremony will be held on Saturday, March 3rd from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. This ongoing event is free and open to all ages.

First Friday Gallery Walks

Website: http://www.ncbrunswick.com/event/first-friday-gallery-walk-southport-nc-mar

When: Every first Friday of the month, ongoing

Where: Downtown Southport

Contact: 910-457-1129

Art enthusiasts of all ages are invited to attend this free event hosted by Franklin Square Gallery, The Ricky Evans Gallery, Lantana’s Gallery, Silver Coast Winery and Tasting Room Gallery to view the beautiful pieces created by some of North Carolina’s finest artists. Wine and appetizers will be served at each of these locations.

Badwater Cape Fear – Ultra Marathon Race

Website: http://www.ncbrunswick.com/event/badwater-cape-fear-bald-head-island-nc

When: March 16, 2018 – 9:00 a.m. – March 18, 2018 – 10:00 a.m.

Where: Old Baldy Lighthouse, Bald Head Island

Contact: 910-477-3122

“The world’s toughest foot race” features a 12-mile warm-up on the peaceful, car-free roads of Bald Head Island and is followed by a 19 or 39 mile run through the beautiful and serene beaches that run between Cape Fear and Fort Fisher. Entry pricing is $195 for the 32-mile race and $225 for 51.4 mile race.

Southport Spring Festival

Website: http://www.ncbrunswick.com/event/southport-spring-festival-nc

When: March 30-31, 2018

Where: Franklin Square Park, Southport

Contact: 910-279-4616 or 910-253-0731

Celebrate Easter weekend with friends and family at one of Southport’s biggest traditions for more than 30 years. Enjoy the 160 vendors of handcrafted home décor, jewelry, goodies and more. It’s not a party unless there is live entertainment for everyone to enjoy! Take walks around the historic waterfront and eat at one of the many restaurants. Admission is free to all.

Oak Island Lighthouse Run/Walk

Website: http://www.ncbrunswick.com/event/oak-island-lighthouse-run-walk-oak-island-nc

When: April 20-21, 2018

Where: Middleton Park, Oak Island

Contact: 910-457-6964

Enjoy the views of North Carolina Coast’s salt marshes, beautiful beaches, foot bridges, and have a lighthouse as your cheerleader as you run or walk this years 5k, 10k and 1-mile run. The festivities start on Friday the 20th from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The next day after the run enjoy the After Run Celebration at Middleton Park extension. Participants will receive drink tokens and be eligible for cash prizes, while the half marathon runners will receive a finisher award. The price of admission ranges from $25-$75 depending on the race.

Days at the Dock Festival

Website: http://www.ncbrunswick.com/event/days-at-the-dock-holden-beach-nc

When: April 28-29, 2018

Where: Jordan Blvd- Under Holden Beach Bridge, Holden Beach, NC 28462

Contact: 910-523-8523

Appreciate the finest arts and craft vendors, eat the delicious foods around the festival or go listen to some awesome bands. Don’t forget to watch the infamous Bopple Race, where you buy “Bopples” from the festival, drop them from the Holden Beach bridge and let the current push them towards the finish line. If your “Bopple” wins or comes in second, then you win a prize! Curious to find out what a “Bopple” is? You’ll have to come to Days at the Dock Festival to find out! With free admission and free parking, come out with your family and partake in this exciting tradition!

Howl at The Moon

Website: http://www.ncbrunswick.com/event/howl-at-the-moon-bald-head-island-nc-april-29-2018

When: April 29, 2018

Where: East Beach Access 39, Bald Head Island, NC 28461

Come grab a spot on the beach and enjoy the largest beach party every month. Watch the full moon rise and “howl!” around a bonfire. Bring food and drinks to share while Maritime Market provides soup and appetizers. After the moon rises head to Mojo’s for “Moonrise to Midnight.” Admission is free to all.

To learn more about these spring events and others in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, and to plan your trip, visit www.NCBrunswick.com  Follow NC’s Brunswick Islands on social media at www.facebook.com/NCBrunswick/ and www.instagram.com/ncbrunswickislands/

Celebrate With A Very Merry “Island-Style” Holiday Getaway in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands

Holiday Flotilla

It’s time again to throw on a sweater, grab a cup of hot chocolate and feel the holiday spirit. North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands provides the perfect backdrop for a holiday getaway this season. From festive decorations to flotillas, the Brunswick Islands’ take on the phrase “’tis the season” is sure to make even Scrooge jolly.

Try something a little different this year and head over to North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands for fun, new memories and stories your loved ones will tell for years to come. These are just some of the exciting must-do seasonal events and experiences happening this year.

Replace Snowmen with Sandmen

Forget the gloves and heavy coats, and create your winter masterpiece with white sands and decorative seashells. Make your holiday getaway memorable by spending it beachside. Take advantage of the mild weather and uncrowded beaches with your loved ones. Beach rental homes are available at great rates this time of year and ready to accommodate families of all sizes.

Enjoy a Different Type of White Christmas

While everyone else might be trying to de-thaw in front of a fireplace, you and your family can take advantage of the better weather and take a stroll on the beaches. Or visit the local costal shops and see why so many birds fly south for the winter. Either way you can’t go wrong by spending your holiday, Island-style.

Upcoming Holiday Events Include:

Ocean Isle Beach Christmas Parade & Tree Lighting

Saturday, November 25th – 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

The seaside celebration begins outside the Museum of Coastal Carolina with the Ocean Isle Beach Holiday Parade at 2:00 p.m., where spectators can view golf carts and other vehicles dressed up for the season, decked with lights, tinsel and garland. Following the parade, attendees are invited to bring their best singing voices and holiday cheer to the annual Tree Lighting and caroling across from the Ocean Isle Beach Fire Department at 4:30 P.M. After the tree lighting, indulge in some sweet treats with Santa at the Ocean Isle Beach Fire Department beginning at 5:00 p.m.

www.ncbrunswick.com/event/ocean-isle-beach-holiday-parade-tree-lighting-nc.

Ocean Isle Beach Flotilla

Saturday, November 25th – 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Take the Christmas celebration dockside to view boats of all sizes dressed up for the holidays. Beginning at 5:30 p.m., spectators can view twinkling Christmas lights in this dazzling over-water parade. From illuminated snowmen to fishing Santas surrounded by festive palm trees, this is a not-to-be-missed beachside tradition. Parade judging and an after party will follow at local favorite Sharky’s Restaurant at 7:00 p.m.

www.ncbrunswick.com/event/ocean-isle-beach-holiday-flotilla-nc.

Southport Winterfest

Friday, December 1st – Sunday, December 10th

Historic Southport goes big for the holidays with its 10-day Winterfest celebration, featuring a range of events and activities for the whole family. The schedule starts off the weekend of December 1st with the Christmas in Song event, followed by the Nutcracker Tea Party on December 2rd. The week’s activities include the Annual Cookie Contest, Costumed History Tour, Winter Craft Festival, Historic Home Tours and much more.

For the full schedule, visit www.ncbrunswick.com/event/winterfest-schedule-southport-nc.

Oak Island Christmas by the Sea Parade

Saturday, December 2nd – 2:00 p.m.

In a celebration of the wonderful weather and the holidays, the Christmas by the Sea Parade steps off at 2:00 p.m. and invites spectators to enjoy floats with festive decorations traveling 2.4 miles through Oak Island. Awards will be given to the floats based on color, the best theme, overall beauty and originality.

www.ncbrunswick.com/event/christmas-by-the-sea-parade-oak-island-nc.

North Carolina Christmas Festival and Parade

Saturday, December 9th -10:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m.

The 25th annual North Carolina Christmas Festival and Parade will take place at Leland Town Hall Park with the goal of inspiring unity within the local towns and communities, and providing family fun to all! The parade kicks off at 10:00 a.m. with the festival beginning immediately after at 12:00 p.m. The event will feature craft and food vendors, along with children’s entertainment, and music and dance performances to celebrate the season.

www.ncbrunswick.com/event/nc-christmas-festival-and-parade-leland.

Southport Christmas Flotilla

Saturday, December 9th –  7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Spectators can cheer on their favorite vessel illuminated in twinkling Christmas lights as the boats travel upriver to Kingsley Park beginning at 7:00 p.m. Boats will illuminate the night all the way “From the North Pole to Southport.” Awards will be given at the end of the evening to vessels with the most creativity and variety of decorations.

www.ncbrunswick.com/event/christmas-flotilla-southport-nc.

Visit www.ncbrunswick.com/events for a complete list of parades, tree lightings and other holiday events. To plan your holiday getaway to North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, visit www.NCBrunswick.com.

You can follow the North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands on social media at www.facebook.com/NCBrunswick/ and www.instagram.com/ncbrunswickislands/.