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.

Seven Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands

Shell-heart

This Valentine’s Day think beyond a box of chocolates or a bouquet of flowers and treat your sweetheart to a romantic beach getaway. The beautiful beaches and charming coastal towns of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands make the ideal destination for a relaxing and romantic weekend. While Valentine’s Day weekend is a wonderful time to sweep your sweetheart away, the enticing variety of restaurants and attractions are perfect for planning a romantic getaway year-round.

Whether you are here for Valentine’s Day, an anniversary celebration, or simply a much-needed vacation, here are seven ways to celebrate with your sweetheart in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands:

Savor the Sunset

There is something inherently romantic about a sunset, particularly over the ocean. During this time of year, visitors to the Brunswick Islands can experience a true natural phenomenon. The east-west orientation of the Brunswick Islands means that you can sit on the beach and watch both the sunrise and sunset over the ocean without having to move your beach chair! Another way to capture unbelievable vistas that are sure to have you feeling sparks, is to take a romantic walk or bike ride along the beach.

sunset

Cozy Up at a B&B

Few things are more charming and romantic than a stay at a cozy bed and breakfast. Due to the location of these accommodations, guests can enjoy short walks to friendly coastal communities and white sand beaches. North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is currently home to a variety of fabulous B&Bs that are sure to be the perfect setting for your romantic getaway.

For more information about inns, hotels, resorts and vacation home rentals in the Brunswick Islands visit  www.ncbrunswick.com/accommodations.

Enjoy a Romantic Dinner for Two

No getaway would be complete without a romantic dinner for two. The area boasts a variety of waterfront dining options set along the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Fear River, Intracoastal Waterway and more. With an abundance of restaurant choices the Brunswick Islands offer guests a plethora of menu items such as fresh seafood, international cuisine and other fan favorites. Not only is the food top notch, but the waterfront views at many area restaurants are impossible to beat!

waterfront dining

Toast to Romance

For a fun break from the beach, couples can stop by our local winery. Located near Ocean Isle Beach, the Silver Coast Winery is the perfect spot for a romantic outing. Enjoy tastings of their award-winning wines, appreciate local artwork or stroll through their gift shop for some unique souvenirs. Or, if a cold brew is more your style, stop by one of the nearby breweries:

winery

Relax and Unwind

Treat yourself and your sweetheart to a relaxing appointment at one of the many day spas located in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. Each spa offers a unique array of specialty services and treatments such as couple’s massages or facials that are sure to leave you and your loved one feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.

Share a Secret

Take a romantic stroll or bike ride to Bird Island in Sunset Beach and discover a secluded little spot with a secret. Tucked away from the public eye is the Kindred Spirit Mailbox. The mailbox houses journals for locals and travelers alike to share their innermost thoughts. These journals have long held the wishes, thoughts, prayers and dreams of many Brunswick Islands visitors. For a truly unique experience, stop by the mailbox to share your love story, secrets or even plans for your future together.

Kindred Spirit Mailbox

Get Your Heart Racing

The Brunswick Islands are a great place to relax, but they are also perfect for sharing a bit of outdoor adventure. Try your hand at stand-up paddle boarding or kayaking along the Intracoastal Waterway. Or for a different perspective, soar through the skies at The Swamp Park. The Swamp Park offers miles of zipline tours, a 49 element 7 course adventure park and a Swamp Boat Eco Tour. In the Brunswick Islands there are plenty of ways for you and your sweetheart to try something new and make memories that will last for years to come.

kayaking in Brunswick Islands

For more ways to plan an unforgettable, romantic Valentine’s Day getaway to North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, visit www.ncbrunswick.com.

New Year’s Resolutions, Brunswick Islands Style!

New Year's Resolutions sand

Welcome the New Year by trading in post-holiday blues for ocean views in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. Those looking to get away while staying on track with their 2019 resolutions can do so with ease in the Brunswick Islands. With countless coastal activities, a vacation to North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is sure to keep you active, stress free and maybe even on the path to learning something new. Take a look at some of these common New Year’s resolutions and figure out how you too can stick to them while on a beach getaway to the Brunswick Islands.

Be More Active

Who says staying active can’t also be fun? Here in the Brunswick Islands we are in no short supply of fun, physical activities that the whole family can enjoy! Start with a fun and challenging climb to the top of one of our lighthouses. At 110 feet tall, Old Baldy stands as the oldest lighthouse in North Carolina and a climb to the top is one of the best ways to view scenic Bald Head Island. Or try climbing up the 131 ship ladder steps to the outside balcony of the Oak Island Lighthouse, located just across the way at Caswell Beach.

How about a little more thrill! Head over to The Swamp Park in Ocean Isle Beach. Whether soaring high above the ground on the 2.5-hour Zipline Tour, traversing the Aerial Adventure Park challenge course or taking a daredevil jump off the 50-foot Pelican Dive, there are plenty of ways to get the heart rate going from not only physical activity but also a healthy dose of adrenaline.

Heights not your thing? Try a simpler way to stay active like taking a long walk on the beach to find copious amounts of beautiful shells. Or, break out that bike and take it for a spin along the shore. Don’t have your bike with you? Not a problem. You can rent one from one of many outfitters in the Brunswick Islands.

Bikes

Learn to Relax

Pull up a beach chair, grab a good book and sink into the sand. There is no better way to relieve stress than by relaxing to the sound of the ocean. Studies show that the sights, sounds and smells of the beach help you to slow down and relax.

Or, try taking a reflective walk on Bird Island and stumble upon one of Brunswick Islands’ hidden gems. About a mile and a half from the nearest public access beach point lies the Kindred Spirit Mailbox. Full of notebooks and pens for passersby to leave their thoughts, the Kindred Spirit Mailbox has united wanderlust souls for decades. This is a great place to leave behind any troubles from the past year and to move forward with the next.

And if all else fails you can always relax with a glass (or bottle) of wine at the Silver Coast Winery. Known for their award winning wines, the Silver Coast Winery has been a Brunswick Islands staple since it’s opening in 2002. There is truly no better place to keep your “less stress” resolution than North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands.

relaxing beach chairs

Pick up a New Hobby

If your New Year’s resolution is to learn a new skill or hobby, well North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is the place for you. Whether you are looking to pick up a new sport or improve on a coastal classic, the Brunswick Islands has it all.

Let’s say your resolution is to take a few strokes off your golf game. With over 30 premier golf courses and countless helpful golf pros, you will be playing like a pro in no time. Or if golf isn’t your thing, try picking up a fishing pole and casting a line. From a boat, shore or pier, you are bound to catch not only dinner, but a love of the craft.

Gnarly dude! Ever look out into the waves and wonder what it would be like to surf like the pros? Well now you don’t have to. With the help of our seasoned professionals you will be hanging ten in no time! Or if you want a tamer option, try stand up paddle boarding or kayaking. Not only is great exercise and relaxing, but it will have you back out on the water time and time again.

surfing resolutions

Don’t let the fear of breaking your New Year’s resolutions stop you from taking a beach vacation! Not only do the Brunswick Islands allow for you to participate in your resolutions, but they let you thrive at them. For more information on the Brunswick Islands, check out www.ncbrunswick.com.

Most Instagrammable Places in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands

Instagrammable Places Sunset Beach

From inspiring generations of beachgoers to renowned authors, North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is no stranger to the social media spotlight. Visitors and locals alike are often seen with their cameras out capturing a small piece of what makes these uniquely charming and beautiful communities of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands such special places. With so much to do and see, the Brunswick Islands are not only photo ready, but photo worthy.

Check out our insider tips on how to seek Instagram inspiration for your next trip as well as our list of some of the top Instagrammable places that are sure to give your followers a serious case of vacation envy.

Tips for using Instagram on your next vacation to the Brunswick Islands:

  • Be sure to follow the official NC Brunswick Islands Instagram account – @NCBrunswickIslands.
  • Explore the area by checking out trending hashtags. Popular area hashtags include #NCBrunswickIslands, #BrunswickIslands, #SouthportNC, #CalabashNC, #BaldHeadIsland, #HoldenBeach, #OakIslandNC, #OceanIsleBeach, #SunsetBeachNC and #CaswellBeachNC.
  • Explore even more by geo-tag. Click the location name above the photo to see other photos people have taken there. Let your fellow beachgoers be your guide!
  • Use the bookmarking feature on Instagram to save posts featuring some of your favorite places or to build your own beach bucket list.

Ready to make some photo magic? These spots are sure to be stunning backdrops for your next Instagram post or story!

Ocean Piers

Few sites are more iconically coastal than a scenic ocean pier. At North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands we have a surplus of picture-perfect piers for watching sunrises and sunsets, casting a line or simply taking a stroll. Each of our ocean piers offer special views that make for an unparalleled photo-op.

@nsqr Instagram contest winner

Kindred Spirit Mailbox

Tucked away in the dunes of beautiful Bird Island is a mailbox full of secrets. The Kindred Spirit Mailbox is a true hidden gem holding small notebooks full of the thoughts, dreams, wishes and prayers of roaming travelers. Take a tranquil stroll along Bird Island to see the mailbox firsthand, soak in the magic and share your story.

Insta_Kindred Spirit Mailbox

Nicholas Sparks in the Brunswick Islands

North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands has been featured in many of Nicholas Sparks’ books and films. Take a Nicholas Sparks tour around the Brunswick Islands to see, and capture for Instagram, the landmarks used to inspire Sparks’ writing or that were featured in his films. See the restaurant where Katie worked in Safe Haven, take a stroll through the graveyard where Jamie and Landon stargaze in A Walk to Remember or visit the coastal town of Sunset Beach where Hope and Tru met in Every Breath.

Ivan's, Safe Haven

Lighthouses

Lighthouses are a longtime enchanting staple of maritime lore, evoking images of welcoming and serene coastal settings. Whether you are seeking an aerial view or a signature coastal shot, the lighthouses of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands are sure to inspire.

Insta_Lighthouse

Dry Aquarium at the Museum of Coastal Carolina

Every vacation needs a rain plan, and your Instagram bucket list is no exception. For a visually stunning indoor experience, visit the Museum of Coastal Carolina. Visitors can learn about North Carolina’s natural history while walking through and capturing images of one of the largest dry aquariums on the East coast.

Museum of Coastal Carolina

Calabash Waterfront

Calabash may be known as the “seafood capital of the world,” but that isn’t the only thing it’s known for. With a beautiful, picturesque waterfront there is no telling as to how many Instagramable opportunities await. Watch a jaw-dropping sunrise or sunset over the water, have dinner at one of many waterfront dinning options or grab a sweet treat at the Calabash Creamery. If Calabash isn’t already on your Instagram bucket list then it needs to be added.

Insta_Calabash

Silver Coast Winery

Nestled among the pine trees and North Carolina foliage near Ocean Isle Beach is a well-kept secret known as the Silver Coast Winery. After touring the winery, stroll through the garden or browse through the local art featured in the gallery. The award-winning wines can also be sampled, and celebratory photos taken, at the Silver Coast Winery Tasting and Taproom located in the heart of picturesque Downtown Southport. This is the perfect location to say “cheers” and test out the boomerang photo feature!

Silver Coast winery Ocean Isle Beach

Craft Brews

For even more ways to toast to a vacation well spent and memories well captured, grab a craft brew from one of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands’ craft breweries. Below is a list of where you can score some local sips and snap some great pics.

Instagrammable Places 0201 Check Six

Southport Yacht Basin

For a quintessential maritime photo-op, add the Southport Yacht Basin to your list of must-visit spots. The beautiful Yacht Basin features the Southport Marina, top notch waterfront dining, and a peaceful gazebo along the Salt Marsh Boardwalk. For an extra bright backdrop, check out Fishy Fishy Café, known for its stellar waterfront dinning and vibrant wall colors. The Yacht Basin is a tranquil site for spending time with loved ones and snapping a shot for the memory books.

Fey winner 2 insta

Old Brunswick Jail Museum

History buffs can venture to the Old Brunswick County Jail Museum in Southport. Constructed in 1904 and used until 1971, the jail has two cells and a runabout on the second floor. Docents offer free tours showing visitors the two cells designed with four bunks, a commode and a wash basin. Visitors can even see graffiti etched by Old Brunswick Jail prisoners. The Brunswick Jail was also the backdrop of the popular film Crimes of the Heart.

Instagrammable Places Old Brunswick County Jail

Holden Beach Waterway

Boasting gorgeous waterfront dining views and fun shots of shrimp boats, the Holden Beach Waterway is a bustling spot for sightseers, diners and social media enthusiasts alike. Great spots to take your shot include the Holden Beach Pavilion and Fishing Pier, Bridgeview Park, and the Provision Company at Holden Beach.

Holden Beach Instagrammable Places

Waterfront Dining

Are you a foodie? Do you love sharing photos of your dinners out while on vacation? Then spice up your food photos by including shots taken at the many waterfront dining options in the Brunswick Islands. The view will be as good as the food!

3796 Ocean Isle Beach Instagrammable Places

Beautiful Beaches

Last but certainly not least are all the beautiful beaches of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. Our 45 miles of pristine sandy beaches make remarkable blank canvases for both memory making and picture taking. Sit back, relax and watch the likes pour in.

@oibmickey Instagammable Places

The vibrant communities of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands are undeniably beautiful and best experienced during an extended stay. To start planning your vacation today, please visit www.ncbrunswick.com or follow us on Instagram at @ncbrunswickislands.

Take a Nicholas Sparks Tour of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands

nicholas sparks, southport, visitor center

Nicholas Sparks has made a name for North Carolina as a place to fall in love. Whether it’s with a significant other, or one of his novels or films, you are destined for romance in the Brunswick Islands. Come to discover the inspiration behind Nicholas Sparks’ masterpieces.

Sparks has stated that setting is a major aspect of his work, both in terms of natural and cultural environments and atmosphere. Every novel he has written since The Notebook has been set in North Carolina. He has claimed that this charming southern state is the inspiration behind his passionate novels.

Named one of USA Today’s “Top 20 Books of the Fall,” Sparks’ latest novel, Every Breath, set in Sunset Beach, North Carolina, explores the whirlwind love story between North Carolinian, Hope Anderson and Zimbabwean safari guide, Tru Walls, through the decades, continents and fate that follow a chance meeting at Sunset Beach.

Every Breath was inspired by Sparks’ fascination with a Brunswick Islands’ hidden treasure, the Kindred Spirit Mailbox. Sparks, like many others, visited Sunset Beach seeking inspiration from this local landmark. Located near the dunes on Bird Island, about a mile from the nearest public beach access point, lies the Kindred Spirit Mailbox. Planted by a Sunset Beach couple over 30 years ago, the mailbox, filled with journals and pens, encourages thousands of visitors each year to share their story with the universe. Readers of his new novel will come to find that this peculiar mailbox is at the center of the story line in Every Breath.

Sparks fanatics can enjoy a Safe Haven of their own by taking a Walk to Remember to the Kindred Spirit Mailbox and other iconic landmarks in the Brunswick Islands that were made famous by Sparks’ work.

Check out our list of some of the can’t miss stops on the Nicholas Sparks Tour of the Brunswick Islands:

Brunswick Islands, North Carolina:

With 45+ miles of pristine beaches and charming coastal communities it is easy to see why a few of Sparks’ novels have been set and/or filmed in the Brunswick Islands. Sunset Beach, Southport, Oak Island and Caswell Beach have served as the backdrop for Every Breath (2018), Safe Haven (2010), A Walk To Remember (1999) and The Longest Ride (2013).

Sunset Beach, Brunswick Islands: Featured in Every Breath.

  • Send a message at the Kindred Spirit Mailbox, the central location in the novel and the destination that Nicholas Sparks’ character in the novel finds the manila envelope detailing the “The Most Amazing Story Ever” of Tru Wallace and Hope Anderson’s romance.
  • Visit the charming town of Sunset Beach where Hope Anderson goes to spend time at her family’s cottage.

Kindred Spirit Mailbox

Southport, Brunswick IslandsFeatured in the film adaptation of A Walk To Remember and in the novel and film adaptation of Safe Haven.

Featured in A Walk to Remember:

  • Stop by the beautiful church where Jamie Sullivan’s dad was a pastor.
  • Stargaze at the Old Smithville Burying Ground where Landon Carter named a star after Jamie.
  • Watch the sunset over the water at the Riverwalk Gazebo where Jamie and Landon shared a kiss.

southport chapel in a walk to remember

Featured in Safe Haven:

  • Have a drink on the dock at Old American Fish Co restaurant, which transformed into Ivan’s Fish Shack where Katie Feldman worked as a waitress.
  • Walk through Downtown Southport to see some of the storefronts and restaurants that made their way into the film as well as housed the crew.
  • While you may not be able to see Ryan’s Port Market, you can still see some of its remains and other Safe Haven memorabilia at the Fort Johnston- Southport Museum and Visitors Center. While you are there be sure to pick up a brochure of all of the Safe Haven film locations.
  • Explore West Moore and Bay Street where the dramatic Fourth of July Festival was recreated in the Fall in order to film this iconic scene.
  • Fans will recognize the West Brunswick Street house where Alex Wheatley lived with his children in the film.
  • Enjoy a meal at Ports of Call restaurant—where Katie and Alex shared their first romantic dinner.
  • See where Alex kept his boat at the Southport Marina.

Ivan's, Safe Haven

Oak Island, Brunswick IslandsFeatured in the film adaptation of Safe Haven.

  • Grab a bite at Wildlife Restaurant & Grill where Katie and Alex escaped the rain and shared a dance, that is until the police interrupted.

safe haven oak island

Caswell Beach, Brunswick IslandsFeatured in the film adaptation of The Longest Ride.

  • Visit the delightful seaside town of Caswell Beach where Ruth’s family spent the summer.

caswell beach

Looking for other things to do while on your Nicholas Sparks trip? Want to discover other movies that were filmed in the Brunswick Islands? Feeling a little peckish along your journey? Check out more information about the Brunswick Islands at ncbrunswick.com.