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.

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.

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.

Plan the Perfect Spring Break in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands

holden beach pier

North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands features 45 miles of beautiful, undiscovered and uncrowded beaches that make it the perfect destination for a spring break trip that is both fun-filled and relaxing. The islands offer adventure by land, water and air, as well as world-famous seafood and a winery worth the trip. In addition to a wide range of charming B&Bs and inns, there are plenty of vacation rental homes, ideal for vacationers wanting both privacy and group gathering spaces. With so much to do, see and experience, families find that spending Spring Break in the unspoiled Brunswick Islands offers more beach for your blanket, and for your budget!

Check out some of our tips for planning the best Spring Break in the Brunswick Islands:

Explore by Land, Air and Sea
The Brunswick Islands are an ideal getaway destination promising relaxation and adventure perfectly suited to every member of the family. A beloved spot for annual family vacations and reunions, the Brunswick Islands are a charming and dynamic destination waiting to be explored by land, air and sea. Here are a few of our favorite ways your family can enjoy Spring Break from every perspective!

  • Land
    Enjoy a quintessential seaside experience by renting a bike and exploring charming island towns or coastal communities such as historic Southport. Discover the hidden gems of the Brunswick Islands’ quaint communities and feel like a local while cruising past scenic ocean views and colorful storefronts. During low tide, take a bike ride on any of the beaches and cruise with the ocean breeze.
  • Air
    Take a coastal excursion to new heights and soar above the Carolina marshes on a zip line at The Swamp Park. Built in the canopy of 100-year-old cypress trees, large and small groups alike are welcome to enjoy a bird’s eye view on 1.25 miles of zip line cable. Or, test your limits on the aerial adventure park with over 50 different challenge elements.
  • Sea
    Balance on a paddle board, test your athleticism with SUP yoga, or sit comfortably in a kayak. From a meandering paddle downstream to navigating the ocean tide, there is an island adventure suitable for everyone. Visitors are welcome to bring their own gear or rent equipment from a local outfitter during their stay.

spring break paddle board

Dinner with a View
In Calabash, the “Seafood Capital of the World,” the food—a savory blend of seafood, southern favorites and mouthwatering treats—is only half the experience. The other half is the unique setting! Eateries right on the water, cozy restaurants to share with friends and Southern diners serving up the best home-style dishes, help to make up the unique atmosphere of this coastal town. It is where the world-famous Calabash style of cooking originated. Be sure to stop in at any of the original family-owned restaurants and try it for yourself.

calabash

Drink Like a Local
Since their doors opened in 2002, Silver Coast Winery has prided itself on serving the best “European Style Wines at the Beach.” Owner Maryann Azzato had a dream of opening her own winery since her father made wine throughout her childhood. In 2004, Winemaker Dana Keeler joined the team and dedicates his more than 35 years of wine making experience to Silver Coast, which has won over 300 national and international medals for its wines. Adult family members can also enjoy hand-crafted local libations at any of our three breweries: Check Six Brewing Company, 34° North Experiment Station and Makai Brewing Company.

silver coast winery

Celebrate with the Community
A Brunswick Islands vacation experience goes beyond the beach. It also includes a variety of festivals and events for families, foodies and fun-lovers that will introduce you to the local flavors and customs of the area. Be sure to check out our calendar of events to see what all your family can experience while in town!

Rain Plan? Check!
While tranquil waters, white sandy beaches and glowing sunshine beckon families to our sunny shores each spring, sometimes the cloudy weather sneaks its way into the forecast. Don’t let a little precipitation rain on all your Spring Break fun! While outdoor excitement is often the selling point of a beach vacation, our enticing indoor activities make for unbeatable elements of both foolproof rain plans and clear sky itineraries alike. Be sure to include these popular sites in your travel plans!

fort johnston

North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands offers an endless array of one-of-a-kind sites, bites, activities and experiences, making it easy to craft a Spring Break itinerary guaranteed to please every member of the family. For more Spring Break travel ideas and special offers, please visit www.ncbrunswick.com.

Make Travel Plans for Labor Day Weekend in NC’s Brunswick Islands

Still considering Labor Day travel plans for your family? Make crowded beaches and umbrella mazes a thing of the past with a holiday getaway to North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. Our 45 miles of pristine, uncrowded beaches will take you back to the beach vacations of your childhood. With a uniquely relaxed atmosphere and plenty of beach for your blanket, there is no better place to celebrate the end to a fun-filled summer. Our six island beaches house a collection of family-friendly activities perfect for saying farewell to summer. Be sure to check out these suggestions for ways to make the most out of your long weekend in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands.

Shallotte River Swamp Park

Families can experience the swamp like never before with an action-packed, high flying adventure. The park features a two and a half hour zipline tour, seven course adventure park, 50-foot Pelican Dive jump and more. Park owners did not want to sacrifice the beautiful, natural surroundings for adventure, but rather enhance guest experience by seamlessly weaving the two together. The park is uniquely designed around the landscape and rangers educate guests about the ecological benefits of the natural habitat. With an outdoor adventure perfectly suited for ages four and beyond, there is something for every member of the family.

Shallotte River Swamp Park

Last Turtle Talks of the Year

In North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, summer is sea turtle season. For centuries our beaches have been home to loggerhead sea turtles, and every summer local sea turtle protection organizations offer free weekly family-friendly seminars to share important information about loggerhead sea turtle conservation efforts. These “Turtle Talks” are held late spring through summer, with the last of the popular events scheduled just before and over Labor Day weekend. Be sure to check the calendar of events and see if your family can make one of these fun and educational seminars.

Ingram Planetarium

Looking to expand your family’s horizons this Labor Day holiday? Venture to Sunset Beach to explore the Ingram Planetarium. The state-of-the-art planetarium features an 85-seat SciDome Sky Theater with high definition digital projection and surround-sound system. Families can catch thrilling and educational programs about space exploration and astronomy before wondering through the many interactive exhibits.

Planetarium

Waterfront Dining

The vibrant communities of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands are home to countless culinary hot spots serving up the tastiest coastal creations. Whether families are craving seafood, home-style dishes or international cuisine, there is a dining experience for everyone. Some of the best parts of a beach vacation are the views, and the Brunswick Islands boast beautiful waterfront dining spots with a family friendly atmosphere. There are many great options that offer incredible views, fresh seafood and a friendly atmosphere.

Ice Cream Shops

Everyone loves a sweet treat, and lucky for families the Brunswick Islands have numerous local ice cream shops that serve up smiles every day. Each island and town has several spectacular ice cream choices as unique and individual as the islands that house them. Say cheers to the season with the signature treat of summer.

 For even more family-friendly Labor Day travel ideas, be sure to visit www.NCBrunswick.com.