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.

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.

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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.

Tour the Brunswick Islands by Land, Sea and Air

With five barrier islands, 45 miles of beaches and several charming coastal towns, there’s lots to explore when visiting North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. While self-guided tours are an excellent way to discover the area, let the local experts give you the inside scoop. Guided tours are available throughout the islands and seaside towns, whether you’re a history buff, film buff, nature lover or just enjoying learning more about your favorite vacation destination. Below are some tour options that are sure to help you impress friends and family with your Brunswick Islands knowledge.

On Land
Find a historic Southport tour for all visitors in this quaint and charming town along the Cape Fear River. Tours are led by foot, bike and tram to provide in-depth history and fascinating facts about the town with homes and other architecture dating back to the 1800s. Other landmarks that will captivate those looking to learning about the past include the Old Brunswick Jail, Old Smithville Burial Grounds and the Old Yacht Basin, a popular movie filming location. If you’re looking for a thrill, be sure to check out the lantern-led Ghost Walk Tour to delve into the legends and lore of Southport. Around the holidays, you can also sign up for a home tour to see the beautiful, festive decorations for the winter season.

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During the summer, the Bird Island Preservation Society offers a guided walking tour of Bird Island each Wednesday. Learn about the coastal ecosystem of this beautiful undeveloped 1200 acre nature preserve during the 1 1/2 to 2 hour tour.

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Up in the Clouds
For a boost of adrenaline, take your tour to the skies with helicopter and biplane tours. Ocean Isle Beach Helicopter Tours and High Tide Helicopters offer incredible aerial tours of the Brunswick Islands. You can even sign up for a Discovery Flight with Hide Tide Helicopters where you can take a pilot lesson with their professional flight instructors. For a scenic flight for two, take an open cockpit biplane ride with Suncoast Aviation, or design a custom tour with Brunswick Air. Whether soaring over the waves or taking in the vibrant marshland, helicopter and biplane tours take your visit to a new level.

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On the Water
See the beauty of the Brunswick Islands by water with several types of boat tours. Local outfitters will guide you through the waterways on kayaks or paddleboards, a great opportunity for wildlife spotting along the Intracoastal Waterway or the many area creeks and rivers. Bring your camera for a sail or motor boat tour where you can spot dolphins, enjoy a sunset cruise and see the spectacular views that are unique to being on the water. To get up-close with another type of ecosystem, Shallotte River Swamp Park in Ocean Isle Beach offers swamp boat eco-tours to give guests a “frog’s-eye view” of the park’s cypress swamp.

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To learn more about planning your Brunswick Islands vacation and setting up a tour during your trip, visit http://www.ncbrunswick.com/fun_and_adventure/attractions.