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.

Small Town, Big Celebration: 4th of July Fun in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands

4th of July

Summer is the perfect time for celebrations! Home to one of North Carolina’s biggest and oldest 4th of July events, North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is the ideal destination to fly your American flag high and celebrate our nation’s independence. If you’re looking for a small, local celebration, you best look elsewhere because Southport does the 4th of July BIG – and this year the patriotic party will be bigger than ever before. Come and see why Coastal Living named Southport the “Best Beach Town in America for the Fourth of July.”

Since 1795, Southport has celebrated our nation’s Independence Day with grandeur. The NC 4th of July Festival is one of the most historic Fourth of July celebrations of any small town in America and annually draws crowds of 40,000 to 50,000 people. Scheduled for June 23 – July 4, 2019, the festivities commemorate our nation’s freedom with a multitude of events including a grand finale of fireworks over Southport’s iconic waterfront. A full calendar and schedule of events can be found here.

The celebration week continues with Beach Day at Oak Island on July 1. This beach day festival is the ideal event for families of all sizes and ages with live entertainment, inflatables, rides and games. Don your red, white and blue and show off your family’s skills in one of the day’s many family contests and competitions. As the sun sets on the festival, be sure to stick around for the annual Beach Day Concert. This year’s attendees are in for a real treat with a live performance by Steve Owens & Summertime Band, set right in the heart of the Beach Day grounds. Beach Day starts at 8:00 a.m. and ends at 9:00 p.m. with a fireworks show at the Oak Island Pier.

beach day

After a fun day spent in the sand and sun, visitors are invited to join an expected 50,000 people in historic downtown Southport during a festival that remembers the sacrifices made by those who protected our country’s rights and freedoms. This celebration from July 2 – 4 is the crown jewel of Southport’s famed Independence Day celebration. Visitors can browse through more than 100 arts & crafts booths, taste local flavors at dozens of vendors and enjoy the entertainment of live music.

On the last day of the celebration, be sure not to miss the NC 4th of July Parade, an annual crowd favorite at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, July 4 in Southport. This parade is so notorious, colorful and festive that it was even recreated and featured in the movie “Safe Haven.” Live concerts, arts and crafts, concessions and a boat raffle all lead up to the main event, a spectacular fireworks display over the waterfront starting at 9:00 p.m. Southport’s explosive fireworks show is one not to miss so be sure to stake out your spot early, the space fills up quickly with eager spectators!

4th of July

For more information on the NC 4th of July Festival and other Brunswick Islands July 4th events and activities visit our calendar of events.

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.

Brunswick Islands Fun That Won’t Break the Bank

budget

A vacation filled with golden memories doesn’t need to cost its weight in gold. In North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, some of our best attractions are the most wallet-friendly, making it easy for you to enjoy a five-star vacation without the five-star price tag. Learn about the rich history of the area, explore Brunswick Islands’ stunning natural beauty or stroll around on a self-guided walking tour, all without breaking the bank.

Dive into the rich history

From Southport to Calabash, the Brunswick Islands are filled with a rich history, unique ecosystems and interesting animal life. Native American tribes, the Revolutionary War and even pirates have all impacted the area and formed the culture we know today. History buffs can pop into any of the several free or low-priced museums in the area to take a deeper dive into the events that formed the culture of the region today while ocean lovers can visit one of the largest dry aquariums on the East Coast to learn more about our marine and sea plant life.

Maritime Museum of Southport

Stop by the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport and discover all there is to learn about the maritime history of the area. The museum is located along the waterfront where the Cape Fear River, Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean merge, making it an ideal spot to learn about the local seafaring culture. Admission is free so visitors can easily explore exhibits about shipwrecks, piracy, the Civil War, commercial fishing, hurricanes and much more.

maritime museum

Museum of Coastal Carolina

The Museum of Coastal Carolina is a great way to spend an afternoon with your little ones or to simply learn about the diverse ecosystem of Coastal North Carolina. The museum offers many opportunities to experience marine life up close with hands-on activities like a fossil pit with shark teeth that you get to take home, life-sized wildlife dioramas and a Touch Tank with live animals like sea stars, sea urchins and more. You can also learn more about sea turtle nesting in the area with an informative and entertaining video of nesting sea turtles on Ocean Isle Beach! The museum is $9.50 for adults (13-61), $8.50 for seniors (62+), $7.50 for children (3-12) and free for ages 2 and under. The museum also offers a $2.00 discount if you bring your same-week Ingram Planetarium ticket.

museum of coastal carolina

Sunset Swing Bridge & Museum

Take a step back in time at the Sunset Swing Bridge & Museum and learn about the iconic bridge that linked Sunset Beach with the mainland. The bridge was decommissioned after the opening of the Mannon C. Gore Bridge in 2011. The old swing bridge and tender house still serve as a free museum for the public, only now they’re safely sitting on dry land. During your visit to the museum, be sure to check out the artifacts from the Blockade Runner Vesta which ran aground on Sunset Beach during the Civil War.

old swing bridge sunset beach

Outdoor Fun

With the diverse vegetation found throughout the Brunswick Islands, there’s always a new landscape to explore. Whether you’re most comfortable on the mainland, the islands or in the parks, our communities are filled with fun ways to enjoy the great outdoors.

Live Music in All Settings

Keep an ear out for all the amazing free concerts in the area during your stay. Several of our towns and islands put on summer concert series that are free for all to enjoy. Recline in your beach chair while you listen to music when you stop by the concerts happening at Holden Beach, Southport, Ocean Isle Beach, Oak Island, Calabash or Sunset Beach. If an evening in the park sounds like more of your scene, head inland for the Leland Concerts in the Park series, Shallotte SummerFest series or the Boiling Spring Lakes concert series.

OIB concert

Island Farmers and Artisans’ Market

If you’re looking for a unique, locally made souvenir, or just want to sink your teeth into some fresh produce, be sure to check out the many farmer’s markets that take place from late spring to late fall and features vendors offering produce, homemade jams, cakes and a variety artisan goods like jewelry, furniture, rugs, potholders and much more. Chat with locals while you stroll the aisles of goodies.

Oak Island Lighthouse

When visiting Caswell Beach be sure to visit the Oak Island Lighthouse. The lighthouse opened in 1958 to replace the Cape Fear Light, and stands as the newest lighthouse in North Carolina. Climb to the top through a series of ship ladders for a stunning view of the Brunswick Islands. Top tours of the lighthouse are available for free year round by appointment and second level tours are available on Wednesdays and Saturdays from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

oak island lighthouse

Family Tee Time

Spend some quality time on the course with your family.  Many area golf courses such as the Brunswick Plantation Resort and Golf, Rivers Edge Golf Club, Sandpiper Bay Golf Club, Crow Creek Golf Club and Sea Trail Golf Club, offer free golf for juniors while playing with a paying adult. Check their websites or call the pro shop for details.

junior golf

Walking Tours

If you’re looking to get some steps in on your vacation, a walking tour could be just the ticket. There are several guided and self-guided tours in the area highlighting everything from the islands’ rich history to popular movie shooting locations.

Self-Guided Movie Location Tour

Check out the backdrops for some of your favorite movie scenes with a self-guided tour of the movie and TV shooting locations in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands by picking up a map from the Fort Johnston-Southport Museum & Visitor Center. Our charming towns and beaches have been featured in box office hits like Iron Man 3, Weekend at Bernie’s and Safe Haven as well as episodes from popular television shows like Dawson’s Creek, Hart of Dixie and Matlock. See for yourself the familiar homes and beaches that brought these scenes to life!

safe haven

Historical Walking Tour of Southport

Get active and take a self-guided walking tour through historic Southport. The tour will lead you to architecture dating back to the 1800s, as well as several significant landmarks in the area. Grab a map from the Fort Johnston-Southport Museum & Visitor Center and make your way around while learning the history and events that shaped Southport into the town we love today.

fort johnston

Soak Up Some Vitamin Sea

No vacation to North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is complete without a few hours simply relaxing on the sand and soaking up some rays. Take some time to slow down and enjoy the natural beauty of our beaches.

fun

Shelling on the Shore

If you’re looking for an active alternative to sunbathing on the beach, North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands’ 45 miles of breathtaking beaches offer a perfect spot to go hunting for beach gems like the variety of seashells that wash up on the sand. Shelling is a great activity to teach kids about the ocean, or just to take in the scenery. The most abundant types of shells that you might find include Angelwings, Olive Shells, True Tulips, Sand Dollars and Starfish. Take a scenic stroll down the beach and search for these little treasures of the tide!

shells

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