Top Reasons to Get Up Early in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands

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It can be tempting to hit the snooze button while on vacation, but with plenty of morning activities and scrumptious breakfast dishes to enjoy, early wake up calls have never been more satisfying in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands! From appreciating the soothing sounds of the ocean to perusing the local outdoor markets to sampling delicious breakfast treats, the Brunswick Islands offers several opportunities to make the most out of your mornings.

For one-of-a kind finds, check out our list below for some amazing morning activities and dishes to inspire visitors to rise and shine:

Sunrise on the Beach

The sunset gets its fair share of hype, but choosing to wake up at daybreak is when you find some of the most peaceful sights in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. With 45 miles of beaches, there are plenty of opportunities to sit back and relax while you catch the sunrise. Start your morning off right by taking a scenic beach walk and appreciating the beautiful sunrise in the Brunswick Islands.

Blueberry Pancakes at The Purple Onion Café

Satisfy your sweet tooth with a stack of oversized, hot-off-the griddle pancakes at The Purple Onion Café in Shallotte. The Purple Onion has been a community favorite since 2004, serving visitors and locals breakfast and lunch. Stop in for traditional breakfast items along with blueberry pancakes. These fluffy blueberry pancakes are packed with tart blueberries that are just calling your name!

Fried Chicken and Waffles at Taylor Cuisine and Catering

The historic town of Southport boasts gorgeous scenery, rich heritage and a wide array of culinary options. Taylor Cuisine and Catering has been a Southport staple for 14 years and counting, offering a variety of unique omelets, sweet and savory waffles and much more. Try a southern staple by ordering their impeccable homemade waffles served with crispy fried chicken. It’s sure to leave your taste buds craving more! Taylor Cuisine and Catering invites guests to revel in their timeless, southern breakfasts that resemble Grandma’s old-fashioned home-cooked recipes.

Outdoor Markets

Get a head start on your day and discover the unique treasures featured at any of the Outdoor Markets located in the Brunswick Islands. The Outdoor Markets take place in Southport, Ocean Isle Beach, Sunset Beach, Oak Island and Shallotte. They feature a large variety of fresh baked goods, local produce, handcrafted art and jewelry and much more. Show up ready to shop till you drop and discover all the handcrafted goodies and yummy treats around the Brunswick Islands. The Outdoor Markets are open on different days of the week at various times, so be sure to visit www.ncbrunswick.com/events for additional information.

Sunrise Omelet at Sunrise Pancake House

Nationally known for its seafood, Calabash is also home to one of the best ways to start your day. Boasting some of the tastiest breakfast creations in town, start your day at the Sunrise Pancake House. This family owned spot offers visitors and locals a variety of delicious breakfast and lunch items, including a tasty Sunrise Omelet that consists of ham, potatoes, onions and cheese topped with diced tomatoes.

Sunday Brunch at Shagger Jacks

No Sunday is complete without brunch, and Shagger Jacks in Oak Island is a great place to enjoy a hearty meal with family and friends. Guests can enjoy all the unique offerings like the Hippy Chick Granola, made from a local conveyor, and brunch favorites including the Island Spiced French Toast. This dish invites guests to enjoy spiced rustic white bread topped with coconut rum infused syrup, fried plantains and bacon. Need we say more!

Seashells by the Seashore

Enjoy a peaceful beach walk in the morning as you search for a loads of beautiful seashells. Make your way to the shores early in the morning for first pick of a great variety of shells strewn across the beach. But before you take home your treasures, make sure that there are no living creatures occupying the shell! Some examples of area treasures waiting to be discovered are Angel Wings, Olives, True Tulips, Sand Dollars and Scallops.

scallop shells

Eggs Charleston at the Backstreet Café

Nestled on the southern tip of the Brunswick Islands lies Sunset Beach, home of the Backstreet Café. Visitors can settle in and savor the “Eggs Charleston,” an elevated take on Eggs Benedict. For this dish, Backstreet Café replaces Canadian bacon with authentic crab cakes drizzled in hollandaise sauce, topped with perfectly poached eggs and served over an English muffin. A choice of ground grits, fresh fruit or crispy hash browns completes this breakfast masterpiece.

Classic Combos at Mainstreet Grill

Are you more of a classic breakfast lover? If so, the classic combos at Mainstreet Grill are a must have for your taste buds! Located just minutes from the beach in Holden Beach, the Mainstreet Grill offers locals and visitors a causal dining experience with fresh and local food from farmers and fishermen in the area. Be sure to stop in and try any of the classic combos, served with eggs, toast or a biscuit, your choice of bacon, sausage links or sausage patty and either hash browns, home fries or grits. You also have the option to add buttermilk pancakes.

Avocado Smash at Drift

Millennials may be behind the avocado craze, but with all the health benefits you get from the fruit, there’s no wonder avocado dishes are a crowd favorite! Spoil your taste buds and get your caffeine fix at Drift in Ocean Isle Beach. For an unforgettable breakfast with a healthy twist, try the Matcha Latte and the Avocado Smash. Ripe smashed avocados are served on organic 21-grain toast and topped with crunchy pumpkin seeds, an almond peppercorn blend and extra virgin olive oil. This can’t miss treat is a must for early risers. Drift offers guests unique coffees, fresh fruits and handmade pastries served in a relaxed and friendly environment.

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Now that you have enjoyed the most important meal of the day, spend the rest of your time adventuring around the six barrier islands, 45 miles of beautiful beaches and the quaint coastal towns. Didn’t see your favorite breakfast dish? Check out all the delicious culinary options and waterfront dining experiences in North Carolina’s Brunswick islands! For more information on activities and dishes to experience on your next vacation to the Brunswick Islands, please visit www.ncbrunswick.com.

School’s Out, Summer’s On in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands

Family Vacation

School is out, which means summer family vacations are in! Relax, soak up the sun and spend quality time together in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. Families seeking a summer escape filled with fun experiences and activities need to look no further than these unique islands. With endless coastal adventures, this family vacation spot is the picture-perfect location where everlasting memories are made.

Check out some of our suggestions for planning an exciting, family-friendly summer getaway to North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands:

Reach New Heights at The Swamp Park

Experience unparalleled views from breathtaking perspectives at The Swamp Park in Ocean Isle Beach. Soar through the treetops on an exhilarating 10- line, three bridge zip line tour or test your coordination and agility on the 49 element adventure park. Or if heights aren’t your thing, The Swamp Park also offers an ecological swamp boat tour through the Shallotte River Swamp. Enjoy the sights and sounds of the natural swamp environment, home to many reptiles, birds and other critters. The Swamp Park welcomes all ages of explorers and adrenaline junkies.

Swamp Park

Keep Calm and Paddle On

Set your soul to the current of the water while paddling through the peaceful waterways, marshes and creeks of the Brunswick Islands. Whether stand up paddle boarding, kayaking or canoeing, there is a paddle-sporting adventure awaiting every member of the family. The Brunswick Islands are home to miles of the Intracoastal Waterway, salt marshes and brackish creeks and rivers. While paddling through these waterways, the scenic view point allows for the opportunity to witness some of the wildlife that call the Brunswick Islands home like Ospreys, Eagles, Fox Squirrels and White-Tailed Deer. And if you’re lucky, you may even be able to spot a bottleneck dolphin or two! Whether you are a newcomer, an expert or just looking for a tour with a local guide, the Brunswick Islands have many outfitters that offer rentals, lessons and tours.

Paddleboarding

Sail Away to the Maritime Museum of Southport

Dive into the rich maritime history of the Lower Cape Fear River at North Carolina’s Maritime Museum in Southport. With hands on exhibits featuring everything from the first indigenous mariners to commercial fisheries to the Civil War and World War II, this museum is bound to spark the interest of every member of the family. Admission to the museum is free and it’s open year round on Tuesdays through Saturdays.

maritime museum

Hook, Line, Sinker

As the weather heats up so does the fishing in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. Whether you’re a novice or a pro-angler, there is a prime fishing spot for everyone. The easiest way to get hooked is to start with surf fishing. All you need is a rod, a reel, some tackle and maybe a cooler and a beach chair. But if you are looking to step up your fishing game, then visit one of the five fishing piers in the Brunswick Islands: the Sunset Beach Pier, Ocean Isle Beach Pier, Holden Beach Pier, Ocean Crest Pier and the recently renovated Oak Island Pier, officially open to anglers on July 2, 2019. Or if boating is more your speed, check out out one of the many charter companies in the Brunswick Islands offering everything from inshore fishing to a deep-sea adventure. No matter where you choose to cast your line, fishing means fun in the Brunswick Islands!

Fishing NC's Brunswick Islands

Ready, Set, Blast off into the Ingram Planetarium

Blast off into infinity and beyond and explore the galaxy all while inside the Ingram Planetarium at Sunset Beach. This state-of-the-art, 85-seat SciDome Sky Theater blends entertainment and education in an exciting way that is fun for all ages. Come for an educational and exciting astronomy program or sit back and rock out to one of the laser, music light shows offered at the planetarium. And if the astronomy program isn’t enough science for you, then check out the Paul Dennis Science Hall, complete with hands-on activities and interactive displays. This is one stop you won’t want to miss!

Ingram Planetarium

Get a Bird’s Eye View of the Brunswick Islands

Climb to new heights with a lighthouse tour in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. The Brunswick Islands are home to the oldest and the newest lighthouses in the state. Start your Brunswick Islands lighthouse tour in Caswell Beach with the Oak Island Lighthouse, the last lighthouse to be built in North Carolina. From the top tier outside balcony, on a clear day, you can see all the way down to Holden Beach and Oak Island on one side and across the way to Bald Head Island on the other. Climb up 131 ship ladder steps and witness the epic view for yourself. Then, hop aboard the Bald Head Island ferry to make your way to the oldest lighthouse in the state, Old Baldy. Built in 1817, Old Baldy has long stood as a beacon to the area, marking the mouth of the Cape Fear River.

Old Baldy and Oak Island Lighthouse

Dive into Ocean Fun at the Museum of Coastal Carolina

On the picturesque barrier island of Ocean Isle Beach sits the Museum of Coastal Carolina. This museum has long been a family favorite, entrancing both the young and young at heart. Home to one of the largest dry aquariums on the East Coast, a fossil pit prime for budding archaeologists and a touch tank full of live sea urchins, sea stars and other creatures, this museum is the perfect spot to bring those inquisitive family members.

museum of coastal carolina

Leave those school year worries in the past because summer is on in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands! With six unique barrier islands and a vast range of activities, there is an island vacation suited for every family.

For more information on activities to enjoy during your summer vacation in the Brunswick Islands, please visit www.ncbrunswick.com.

Shelling Tips for North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands Visitors

Shelling on Holden Beach NC

As the Atlantic waters warm up and the sun makes itself a permanent installation, beachgoers will soon flock to the coast for sun, sand and shells. Home to a beautiful array of sparkling shells, North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands features 45 miles of scenic beaches perfect for every kind of shell-hunter. Visitors to the Brunswick Islands have a unique opportunity to discover coastal treasures and collect souvenirs as a reminder of their beach vacation. From sand dollars and scallop shells to true tulips and olive shells, there is sure to be a shell to catch everyone’s eye. Below are some of the top spots in the Brunswick Islands to find natural treasures washed up on the sand as well as a few insider tips to shelling in the area!

Ocean Isle Beach
No shelling adventure would be complete without a stop at Ocean Isle Beach. Home to some of the state’s coolest shells, like the colorful coquina clams or beautiful moon snails, Ocean Isle Beach is sure to delight beachgoers going for a shoreline stroll. But be sure to bring a bucket to hold your best discoveries, you never know what must-keep prizes you’ll find! Shelling tip: Be mindful of the tides when scheduling your excursion! Low tides are among the best times of day to uncover rare treasures that have sunk to the sandy bottom.

moon snails

Bird Island
Sitting on the west end of Sunset Beach is Bird Island, a 1200 plus acre nature reserve. Beachgoers in search of fully intact sand dollars are in luck, Bird Island’s secluded beaches is a great place to find this prized coastal souvenir. Shelling tip: Sand dollars are a species of sea urchin. If you find a sand dollar that appears “furry” and a dark green, red or purplish color, it is likely still alive! Please return it to its home by gently placing it back onto the sea floor a foot or so from the shore.

sanddollar

Holden Beach
Recent beach renourishment has contributed to Holden Beach’s position as a shelling haven. Boasting a non-commercial, laid back vibe, Holden Beach’s nine miles of beach are perfect for shellers on the hunt for a relaxed, family-friendly experience. Beachgoers may discover scallop shells of various colors or find a shimmering lettered olive or two glistening from below the shallow waters. Shelling tip: Don’t be afraid to get your toes wet! Sometimes there are beautiful treasures hiding underneath several inches of water.

scallop shells

The Point
Venture to the far west end of Oak Island and discover “The Point,” a spacious peninsula overlooking the east end of Holden Beach. This large, open beach is a sheller’s paradise! Beachgoers often have a lot of luck finding many ocean gems when hunting at low tide. Shelling tip: If you plan your shelling adventure during the middle of peak vacation season, be sure to get out to the beach early in the day. This will give you first pick of the shells that washed up overnight.

knobbed whelk

Whether you’re an amateur shell-finder or an avid shell connoisseur, North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is the perfect destination to relax and unwind by discovering some of the East Coast’s best hidden treasures. From Sunset Beach to Bald Head Island, every mile of the 45 miles that make up the Brunswick Islands is sure to please the eye of every beachgoer. Grab your bucket and head to the shore, it’s time to get your shell on!

For more information on activities to enjoy during your vacation in the Brunswick Islands, please visit www.ncbrunswick.com.

Island Hopping in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands

Island Hopping

With five unique barrier islands, it’s no wonder that North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands has been a family favorite beach destination for generations. When you are looking to plan your next beach vacation, are you partial to the resort style of Ocean Isle Beach? Do memories of hanging out at the Oak Island Pier draw you back? Is it the family vibe of Holden Beach that has you visiting year after year? Or perhaps it’s the secrets that Sunset Beach holds? Whichever island is your favorite home-base, we encourage you to go island hopping on your next Brunswick Islands visit and discover the unique activities, cuisine and events that await on each of our barrier islands. Who knows, you may just end up with a new favorite beach to stake your umbrella!

Holden Beach
Geographically located in the middle of our string of barrier islands, Holden Beach is easily accessible from anywhere in the Brunswick Islands. Head here for a spectacular shrimp burger at Provision Company! Each nationally-acclaimed shrimp patty is made from fresh-off-the-docks shrimp, lightly fried and topped with lettuce, tomato, onion and a tasty special sauce, all served on a perfectly toasted bun or enjoyed atop a bed of crisp lettuce, cucumbers, crunchy croutons and garden-ripe tomatoes. Even better, your view overlooks the waterway and the many shrimp boats that call Holden Beach home. The reason this shrimp burger is extra good? Many of the area’s shrimp boats dock at Holden Beach and unload their catch directly to the restaurants and seafood purveyors here. Take a walk along the docks to see the shrimp boats and visit Old Ferry Seafood to pick up the latest fresh catch or a made-to-order Low Country Boil.

holden beach

Oak Island
Next, hop on over to Oak Island which features 14 miles of beautiful uncrowded beaches and is home to the towns of Oak Island and Caswell Beach. While there be sure to check out the newly rebuilt Oak Island Pier, the tallest pier in North Carolina! It is complete with a tackle shop, restaurant and plenty of space for pedestrians and anglers.

For a change of perspective head over to the east end of the island to explore Caswell Beach, home of the Oak Island Lighthouse. Get a bird’s eye view of the area with a free tour to the top of the lighthouse, offered on Tuesday, Thursday and some Sunday mornings throughout the summer by reservation only. General, no reservation required, second level tours are available from Memorial Day through Labor Day on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

caswell beach

Ocean Isle Beach
For a hair-raising adventure, visit The Swamp Park at Ocean Isle Beach! This unique attraction will have you soaring through the sky on a zipline course, exploring the lands by ATV tour, spotting marine life on the swamp boat eco-tour, or swinging through the trees on the aerial adventure park.

Be sure to visit this island on Wednesdays to check out the “All hands-on Deck” program at the largest dry aquarium in the southeast at the Museum of Coastal Carolina. This interactive program gives guests an opportunity to learn about the creatures that live in the diverse ecosystem found in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands.

ocean isle beach

Sunset Beach
Located on the southwestern end of the Brunswick Islands, Sunset Beach is one of the most unique beach experiences that can be found on the east coast because the western end of the island is a completely undeveloped nature reserve. Just a mile’s walk from the last public beach access, is the Bird Island Reserve which is home to a variety of birds, wildlife and beautiful sand dunes. Here you can rejuvenate your soul at the Kindred Spirit Mailbox, where visitors find comfort in divulging their wishes, prayers and dreams among the breathtaking beauty of the ocean. Once back from the beach, finish your Sunset Beach hop with a tour of the Old Sunset Bridge Museum, home to the last pontoon swing bridge on the East Coast!

If visiting Sunset Beach on a Thursday, you can explore the Sunset Beach Waterfront Market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. where fresh produce and local goods are sold. Stay for some Thursday night fun and check out the laser light and music show at the Ingram Planetarium.

Kindred Spirit Mailbox

Bald Head Island
Accessible only by boat, jump on board the ferry that leaves from Southport and take the 20 minute ride over to Bald Head Island. There you can tour North Carolina’s oldest lighthouse, Old Baldy. Rising above the trees, looking out over the sea, marsh and harbor, the lighthouse is only a short walk from the ferry landing. Admission to the Smith Island Museum of History allows you to climb Old Baldy’s 108 steps for an incomparable view of the island and tour the museum to learn about Bald Head Island’s seafaring history.

bald head island

Be sure to make North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands your next island hopping getaway this summer! For more information on the Brunswick Islands and other special offers, please visit www.ncbrunswick.com.

10 Scrumptious Shrimp Dishes to Enjoy on National Shrimp Day

National Shrimp Day

Known for its rich shrimping and fishing heritage and abundance of seafood restaurants, there is no better place to celebrate National Shrimp Day than in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands! On National Shrimp Day – or any other day – be sure to try some of these delicious, fresh seafood dishes for yourself.

Check out some of our favorite local shrimp dishes below!

1. Shrimp & Grits – Cape Fear Seafood Company (Leland)

Shrimp and grits is a staple offering at any Southern seafood restaurant and the Cape Fear Seafood Company in Leland takes this classic coastal dish to a new level. With fresh caught Carolina shrimp, applewood bacon, tomatoes, scallions and mushrooms in a low country cream sauce over cheesy grits, Cape Fear’s shrimp and grits is a perfect choice for breakfast, lunch or dinner on National Shrimp Day!

2. Shrimp Burger – Provision Company (Holden Beach)

If you’re looking for a true culinary experience to try on National Shrimp Day, check out the shrimp burger at Provision Company on Holden Beach. This delectable dish puts a spin on your standard burger with a patty made with grilled shrimp and topped with lettuce, tomato, onions and a creole remoulade sauce on the side.

3. Coconut Shrimp – Fishy Fishy Café (Southport)

Take the boat over to Southport and pull up right at the docks of Fishy Fishy Café where you can enjoy some tasty coconut shrimp, lightly battered and fried and topped with an orange Dijon glaze. Fishy Fishy Café offers tasty seafood with an unbeatable view and lively atmosphere that perfectly encompasses the personality of the Brunswick Islands.

4. Stateline Scampi – The Oyster Rock (Calabash)

If pasta is more your speed, head to The Oyster Rock in Calabash for their Stateline Scampi. This tasty shrimp scampi dish features large Carolina white shrimp sautéed in butter with fresh garlic, local diced tomatoes, white wine and fresh lemon tossed in bucatini pasta and comes with garlic bread and grated parmesan cheese. For a perfect mix of Italian cuisine and delicious Carolina seafood, The Oyster Rock is the spot for you.

5. Sweet & Sour Shrimp – The Fish House Restaurant (Oak Island)

For a creative take on classic fried shrimp recipes, head to The Fish House Restaurant in Oak Island and try their sweet & sour shrimp served with a fresh vegetable medley and your choice of starch. These flavorful morsels are deep fried before being tossed with pineapple and sweet and sour sauce, giving them a tangy, citrusy twist.

National Shrimp Day

6. Firecracker Shrimp – The Boundary House (Calabash)

Add some spice to your National Shrimp Day celebration and help yourself to a heaping portion of firecracker shrimp at The Boundary House restaurant in Calabash. These little guys have a bit of bite as they’re lightly fried and coated in a spicy chili sauce.

7. Stuffed Shrimp – Crabby Oddwaters (Sunset Beach)

Let your taste buds run wild this National Shrimp Day with delicious stuffed Shrimp at Crabby Oddwaters on Sunset Beach. These jumbo shrimp are packed with flavor and flaky crab meat and are baked to perfection, making for a great dish to celebrate this holiday.

8. Cheesy Shrimp and Lobster Artichoke Dip – Wing and Fish Company (Shallotte)

What better way to celebrate National Shrimp Day than with cheesy shrimp and lobster artichoke dip found at the Wing and Fish Company in Shallotte. This tasty dish is loaded with delicious shrimp and lobster folded into a blend of cream and parmesan cheese, spinach and artichoke hearts, and served with fresh baked tortilla chips.

9. Shrimp Étouffée – Jinks Creek Waterfront Grille (Ocean Isle Beach)

Indulge in Shrimp Étouffée this National Shrimp Day, a can’t miss treat found at Jinks Creek Waterfront Grille on Ocean Isle Beach. Enjoy locally caught shrimp simmered in spicy country ham and tomato broth topped with pickled red onion and served with buttered rice and scallions.

10. Traditional Calabash Shrimp (Calabash)

You can’t find a better place to celebrate National Shrimp Day than the Brunswick Islands, home of Calabash, North Carolina, the “Seafood Capital of the World.” Calabash’s title was earned thanks to its namesake cooking technique of lightly battering and frying shrimp, giving it a perfectly crispy outer shell while leaving the inside juicy and buttery. Other places can try to imitate it, but nothing beats the original for this tasty dish. There can be no list of must try shrimp dishes that doesn’t include Calabash-style fried shrimp. To find dishes featuring Calabash-style fried shrimp head to any of the delicious seafood restaurants in town for an authentic Calabash dining experience.  As an added bonus, several of the town’s seafood restaurants feature outdoor, waterfront dining.

National Shrimp Day

These are just a sampling of the many great seafood dishes and restaurants found in the Brunswick Islands. For more information on dinning options, visit www.ncbrunswick.com.