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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Brunswick Islands Fun That Won’t Break the Bank

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

Nine Reasons Golf in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is a Hole in One

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From classic coastal golf courses that offer some of the most scenic views in the Brunswick Islands to challenging links play designed by the masters, North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands earns its reputation as North Carolina’s Golf Coast with every tee shot, fairway drive and perfectly calculated putt. The North Carolina part of Grand Strand golf, the Brunswick Islands, is home to 567 holes of challenging and rewarding golf gold spread across more than 30 championship courses, all in one amazing destination. Exemplifying coastal golf at its finest, each course offers players a one-of-a-kind experience within a one-of-a-kind destination. Need even more reasons to make Brunswick Islands your golf getaway destination? Check out nine reasons golf in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is a hole in one!

1. Layouts Sculpted by Legends
Golf outings in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands place players directly in the footsteps of some of the golf greats. Our championship courses offer some of the best golf on the Grand Strand, with layouts sculpted by legends such as Palmer, Byrd, Maples, Jones, Cate and Couples.

2. Ample Courses for All Skill Levels
Our 30+ top golf courses were each built to accommodate players of all skill levels, including junior golfers and those new to the game. Many courses offer private and group lessons lead by golf professionals who specialize in targeting and improving all aspects of your game. Experienced golf enthusiasts will also enjoy some of our community’s more challenging courses, including the area’s only par 6.

3. Experience Unparalleled Scenic Views
The Brunswick Islands golf experience is about more than a game. Our world-class golf is perfectly paired with unparalleled and sweeping views of our natural coastal North Carolina landscape; it’s why you come to the coast, right? Play alongside the Intracoastal Waterway and amidst long, tree-lined fairways with magnificent, moss-draped live-oaks. With such scenic water views and maritime-forest lined fairways, your golf game will not be the only thing to amaze.

4. Home to Stand Out Holes
With 567 holes of golf, more than 30 championship courses and more than 120 miles of fairways, it is no surprise that North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is home to some pretty stand out holes. Waterfalls, tidal marshland, panoramic river views, the area’s only par 6 and an island green are just some of the features that highlight our courses. Check out our recommendations for some of the top golf holes in the area for even more reasons to take a swing at a golf getaway to the Brunswick Islands.

5. Better Climate and Longer Seasons
The mild coastal climate of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands means you not only get more enjoyable playing weather, but a longer season to play in. A golf getaway to the Brunswick Islands is always a great idea, no mater the time of year, but winter and spring offer an even better reason to visit. Now is the time to play and getaway. While it may be chilly in the north, our average high is 58 degrees in February and 66  in March. Bermuda greens make for exceptional year-round play.

6. Awesome Packages and Specials
A golf getaway to the Brunswick Islands is the total package – literally! Visitors can easily book accommodations and tee times. For the latest in offerings, check out our golf packages and specials, where winter and spring seasonal packages offer 18 holes, cart and range balls starting at $49 and stay-and-play packages beginning at $69 per person.

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7. Stay and Play Availability
Whether a foursome or a group of 20 or more, our extensive accommodation options range from oceanfront vacation homes to course-side condominiums, homes, hotel and resort rooms, all perfect for golf getaways of any size. Several of our golf packages offer exceptional stay and play offers, giving avid golfers the opportunity to see, do and experience more in the Brunswick Islands. A longer stay means more days to enjoy our expansive array of fairways and finds.

8. Trip Planning Resources
Planning the ultimate golf getaway can be overwhelming, but we are here to help you plan the perfect trip. Flip through our Official Guide to Golf in NC’s Brunswick Islands or order a copy to be sent to you directly. In addition to featured golf packages and promotions, trip planners can download our course map and directory for an overview of the golf scene in the Brunswick Islands.

9. Many Ways to Play, One Incredible Destination
An unbeatable golf scene is only the beginning when it comes to enjoying North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. Visitors can get more out of their golf getaway with delicious dining, countless area activities, exciting events, cozy coastal accommodations and more. In North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands there are many ways to play, both on and off the green.

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Each course features its own unique personality and challenges, but all share one enticing promise – a golf getaway or excursion to North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is a hole in one! For more information on how to plan your next golf excursion or getaway, please visit www.ncbrunswickgolf.com.

Find Golf for all Skill Levels in NC’s Brunswick Islands Including Beginning and Junior Golfers

Compass Pointe Golf Course

Known as “North Carolina’s Golf Coast”, North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands features more than 30 top golf courses built to accommodate players of all skill levels including new golfers and junior golfers.  Many of the courses offer private and group lessons from golf professionals who work with every aspect of your swing to improve power, accuracy and consistency. The experience of learning to golf or refining your game in the Brunswick Islands is enhanced by scenic coastal views and more than 45 miles of beach.

Here’s just a few of the courses new golfers may want to include in their Brunswick Islands vacation:

Compass Pointe Golf Club

Located in Leland, Compass Pointe Golf Club is the newest 18 hole course in North Carolina. The Rick Robbins designed course features wide fairways, large Champion Bermuda greens and scenic native Carolina landscaping which creates an exceptional golf experience for players of all skill levels. Multiple sets of tees are offered including a set of “Family Tees” that are great for juniors, older players and new players. Golf instruction for individuals, groups, junior clinics and junior summer golf camps are available. The facility includes a complete short-game area  with an 18-hole putting course, chipping green, sand play green, regular putting green and a large practice range.

Carolina National Golf Club

Located in the Brunswick Islands’ mainland, Carolina National Golf Club is a Fred Couples signature golf facility with new Champion Bermuda greens. It features 27 holes arranged in three nines; Egret, Heron and Ibis, named after the birds that inhabit the Audubon Certified Sanctuary Golf Course. Carolina National Golf Club offers single, multiple or weekly lessons for golfers looking to enhance their game. Carolina National is also home to the Cheryl Brankel Golf Academy that features a 14,000 sq. ft. putting and chipping green, and a 320-yard driving range with its own tee box.

Sea Trail Golf Resort

Located in Sunset Beach, Sea Trail Golf Resort features three 18 hole courses designed by some of the game’s greatest architects – Dan Maples, Rees Jones, and Willard Byrd.  Private lessons are offered by in-house golf professionals providing special golf instruction tailored to all skill levels.  Sea Trail Resort is also home to the Mel Sole Golf School, a program that has been ranked among the “Top 25 USA Golf Schools” since 1999 by Golf Magazine.  Instruction is available year round and includes one- to three-day programs. Sea Trail’s practice facility offers a driving range, practice green for chipping, pitching and bunker practice, and two putting greens.

Oak Island Par Three at South Harbor

Located in Oak Island, Oak Island Par 3 at South Harbour is a public par-3 course offering an excellent setting for those new to the game, juniors, as well as golfers of any skill level. Scenic views and a stunning coastal landscape make learning to golf at the course an enjoyable and exciting experience. This 18 hole par-3 course provides a calm and easy setting for beginners to get the feel of the game and if you enjoy walking that option is available.  No clubs? That’s not a problem as rental clubs are available on site. Visitors can bring their family and friends out for a day of fun at the Oak Island course!

To learn more about the golf offerings in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, and to plan your trip, visit www.NCBrunswick.com

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Choosing the Perfect Accommodations for your Brunswick Islands Vacation

In North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, you don’t have to compromise when it comes to choosing your vacation accommodations. The islands and coastal communities are full of lodging options for every group size and itinerary. Read on to learn more about the benefits of every type of accommodations the Brunswick Islands have to offer and how to find your perfect “home away from home.” You can also visit www.ncbrunswick.com/accommodations for a full listing of the area’s accommodations.

Vacation Rental Homes

Vacationing families who want to be near or on the beach can find the perfect fit for their stay with one of the vacation rentals throughout the Brunswick Islands. Beach vacation rental homes often become a tradition for families, and they return to the same house year after year. Along with easy access to the beach, vacation rentals offer the comforts of home with full kitchens, and gathering space for the entire family to spend time together and relax. Choose from cozy condos and beach cottages to grand oceanfront homes able to accommodate a large family reunion. Vacation rental homes along the Intracoastal Waterway or island canals are also a great option for visitors with boats looking for direct boating access to the water.

If you’re new to the concept of renting a beach house, check out our video page for rental experience videos in which families share why they love renting a beach house for their family’s vacation.

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Hotels and Inns

Don’t need the space provided by a vacation home rental or looking for traditional hotel services? The Brunswick Islands offer a variety of hotels and inns to choose from. Locally-owned inns on the islands offer an intimate experience with an array of amenities, all close to the beach. National brand hotels can be found off the islands, making for an easy drive to sites and attractions beyond the beach. Many hotels and inns feature pools, hot breakfasts, bikes and fitness centers adding even more relaxation to your vacation.

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Golf Resorts

Visitors looking to vacation beyond the beach have two golf resorts to choose from in the Brunswick Islands – Sea Trail Resort and Brunswick Plantation & Golf Resort. Split your days between golf, the on-site pools and the nearby beach, maximizing your vacation fun! Golf resorts offer spacious accommodations (one to three-bedroom villas), many with kitchens, as well as on-property amenities like fitness and activity centers, pro shops and restaurants. 

golf resort vacation

Bed and Breakfasts

For history mixed with southern hospitality, stay at one of the B&Bs in scenic Southport, many dating back to the 1800s. These accommodations offer a unique and romantic experience for couples with charming rooms, several furnished with antiques, and amenities such as delicious breakfasts, and bikes to explore the town and waterfront at your leisure! Southport is an idyllic waterside town and a favorite walking area for many, with Victorian-style homes and live oak trees making for a picturesque stroll. Historic walking and tram tours are also available for those wanting to learn more about the area’s past.

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To begin planning your vacation to North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, visit www.NCBrunswick.com. You can also view current Lodging Specials and Packages at www.ncbrunswick.com/specials.