White Christmas Island-Style: Holiday Events and Traditions

beach christmas tree

Winter days may be shorter, but there is no shortage of things to do in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. This holiday season take Christmas coastal and trade in Santa Claus for “Sandy” Claus. Families that shake up their holiday travel plans with a little bit of sun, sand and surf will be rewarded with the gift of a White Christmas celebrated island-style. The only blanket of white you will see here is that of a long stretch of sand on the beach. At North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, there are countless celebrations, parades, markets and festivities throughout our friendly coastal communities perfect for spreading holiday cheer.

Check out our list of can’t-miss holiday events perfect for every member of the family.

Tree Lightings 
Kick off the holiday season with a spectacular tree lighting ceremony guaranteed to enchant and excite people of all ages. Many of our islands and towns host special tree lighting events, so locals and visitors alike have many chances to capture a magical moment of their own.

Tree Lighting Ceremony – Southport
Nov 23, 2018, 4:30 p.m.

Join Southport revelers in Franklin Square Park as the holiday season kicks off with a countdown to the lighting of our big holiday tree. Sing classic Christmas songs and delight in a reading of The Night Before Christmas. Enjoy a cup of hot cocoa and some holiday cookies that will be provided, under the glow of Southport’s holiday lights. The event is free but donations will be appreciated.

Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony – Holden Beach
Nov 29, 2018, 5:30 p.m.

Gather Thursday, November 29, 2018 at the Holden Beach Pavilion for this family friendly event. Enjoy live entertainment beginning at 5:30 p.m. and the tree lighting at 6:00 p.m. Enjoy chorus entertainment, games and a visit by Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Tree Lighting – Oak Island
Nov 30, 2018, 5:00 – 7:30 p.m.

Celebrate the season with a tree lighting at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, November 30 at Middleton Park. There will be crafts and entertainment before and after the tree lighting. Local musicians will play your favorite Christmas songs as you sip on free hot chocolate. A special visitor from the North Pole will make a visit!

North Carolina Christmas Festival and Parade – Leland
Dec 1, 2018, 4:00 – 9:00 p.m.

The North Carolina Christmas Festival and Parade is back and better than ever! The festival will be on Saturday, December 1 from 4:00 – 9:00 p.m. The parade will begin at 5:00 p.m. and will be followed by a Christmas tree lighting with Santa and Mrs. Claus at 6:30 p.m. Pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus will be available after the tree lighting.

Calabash Tree Lighting – Calabash
Dec 7, 2018, 6:00 p.m.

Help decorate the tree, visit with Santa and enjoy hot chocolate and snacks while seeing the tree light up for the first time of the season.

Parades
Nothing shares the spirit of the season much like a celebratory parade. In North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, holiday parades are in no short supply. By land and by sea, Santa is coming to town and the communities of the Brunswick Islands welcome you and your family to join in some of the maritime merriment.

Ocean Isle Beach Flotilla – Ocean Isle Beach
Nov 24, 2018, 5:30 p.m.

The 15th Annual Ocean Isle Beach Flotilla will take place on Saturday, November 24, 2018. The boat parade lines up at 5:30 p.m. in front of Inlet View Bar & Grill. Once dusk has fallen and all the lights are on and ready to go, they will begin their way down the Intracoastal Waterway, ending at Sharky’s restaurant around 7:00 p.m. for awards and an after party. You will find excellent viewing spots between both restaurants, including the ending point in the commercial canal in front of Sharky’s Restaurant.

OIB flotilla

Christmas by the Sea Parade – Oak Island
Dec 1, 2018, 2:00 p.m.

Christmas is perhaps the best time of year to visit the North Carolina coast. The average air temperature is 59.4 degrees and the sun is warm. In celebration of this wonderful weather and the holidays, the Chamber organizes the Christmas by the Sea Parade. The parade is on Saturday, December 1, 2018 at 2 p.m. on the 2.4-mile parade route from Oak Island Town Hall, traveling Oak Island Drive to McGlamery Street. The parade showcases the businesses and organizations in our community. The hometown feel of the parade makes it a favorite event of locals, second homeowners and visitors.

Shallotte Christmas Parade – Shallotte
Dec 1, 2018, 10:00 a.m.

Shallotte’s Christmas Parade is on Saturday, December 1 at 10:00 a.m. The parade starts from the intersection of Main Street & Whiteville Road and ends at the intersection of Main Street & Smith Avenue. The roads close at 8:00 a.m.

Sandy Paws Parade – Holden Beach
Dec 7, 2018, 10:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Celebrate this holiday season with your pup on our pet-friendly beaches! Bring your dog out for a short stroll in the doggie parade and then have a picture made with Santa. The event will begin at Town Hall at 2:00 p.m. on Friday, December 7. Picture opportunities will take place at the Holden Beach Pavilion after the parade.

Southport Christmas Flotilla – Southport
Dec 8, 2018, Approximately 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.

Come and see a holiday parade on the water. Bring a chair and choose your viewing spot along the historic banks of the Cape Fear River. Boats of all sizes (power, paddle, sail) will be dressed in holiday finery. Witness the lights twinkling on the water and lighting up the night sky. Cheer for your favorite boats judged by guest judges, students from the Southport Elementary School Art Class. Come early and enjoy one of the many activities there is to offer in Southport.

southport flotilla

Markets and Festivities

Kick ordinary beach souvenirs to the curb and stop by a local holiday market to find something unique for that special someone. Who knows, you may even discover a little holiday treat for yourself along the way.

Ocean Isle Beach Holiday Market – Ocean Isle Beach
Nov 23, 2018, 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Come on out to the Ocean Isle Beach Holiday Market on November 23 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Over 60 of our area’s finest artisans will participate to create a unique holiday shopping experience. All items for sale will be handmade, homemade or homegrown.

Sunset Beach Waterfront Holiday Market – Sunset Beach
Dec 1, 2018, 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

This holiday market will include a variety of the area’s finest artisans selling their unique handmade, homemade or homegrown items that will make the perfect holiday gift. Pictures with Santa will be available. There will be food trucks, hot chocolate and treats to enjoy as you shop the various vendors. So come, shop, eat and enjoy the start of a wonderful holiday season.

Holiday Craft Market – Oak Island
Dec 1, 2018, 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Find a unique token from the beach to gift to your loved ones this holiday season. This year’s Holiday Craft Market will offer both indoor and outdoor shopping.

Winterfest – Southport
Dec 1, 2018 – Dec 9, 2018, Daytime and Nighttime Holiday Events

Kick off the holiday season with a week of celebration and events throughout the downtown area. Guests of all ages may enjoy live theater, a WinterFest Tea Party, cookie contest, supper with Santa’s elves, a viewing of the Polar Expressa costumed history tour, Christmas fire engine parade, Winter Craft Festival, book sale, performing arts, Santa’s workshop, historic jail tour, Christmas Tour of Homes, and to wrap up the week with the Christmas Flotilla.

Shallotte Christmas Village – Shallotte
Dec 15, 2018, 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

The Shallotte Christmas Village will take place on Saturday, December 15 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in Mulberry Park. Local farmers and vendors will be in attendance.

merry christmas

This winter, swap snow for sand and start a new holiday tradition with your family and loved ones at North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. For a full list of holiday happenings, please visit ncbrunswick.com/events.

Top reasons to visit North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands right now

The math is a no-brainer!


Five barrier islands + four charming coastal towns + six separate beach communities = 45 miles of wide, stunning beaches! This southernmost corner of North Carolina is one of the South’s best kept secrets! Sunset Beach, Ocean Isle Beach, Holden Beach, Oak Island, Caswell Beach and Bald Head Island rank among North Carolina’s best beaches with uncrowded sand, surf and fun, and the picturesque Southern towns of Southport, Calabash, Shallotte and Leland draw visitors with family-owned, one-of-a-kind restaurants, galleries and shops.

Full-Moon Fever

The beach vacation isn’t just for daytime anymore!  North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is also the place to explore by the light of the moon for a new perspective on this pristiIMG_6444 b_edited-1ne coastal getaway. August 10, 2014 and September 8, 2014 are the last two full moons of the summer vacation season and the perfect times to join one of our outdoor adventure outfitters for a moonlight kayak trip to take to the marsh under the twinkling stars. Twilight kayak tours are also available for those that prefer to paddle during the last light of the day.

Purple Feet

For those who need one last blast of summer (and, don’t we all?!), North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands offers fun and quirky summer festivals and events  for a last great beach vacation including the Purple Feet Festival at Silver Coast Winery where, you guessed it, a grape stomp is part of the festivities!

Phlock to the Beach “A Buffett Style Beach Bash”

  • Aug 22, 2014 – Aug 23, 2014
  • Oak Island

25th Annual Oak Island Art Guild Arts & Craft Festival

  • Aug 30, 2014 – Aug 30, 2014, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
  • Oak Island

Purple Feet Festival

  • Sep 6, 2014 – Sep 6, 2014, 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • Silver Coast Winery; Ocean Isle Beach

Back to school – NOT!

When kids head to school, that’s your signal to head to any of our five barrier islands as the already secluded beaches of Brunswick Islands will become even more serene. For a peaceful back to nature experience, visit Sunset Beach where all that separates you from the surf and marsh is a wide stretch of beach and dunes. Connect with nature on Bird Island and take a quiet stroll to the Kindred Spirit Mailbox and get in touch with and share your innermost thoughts.

Tomatoes, blackberries and peaches, oh my!

The flavors of summer are calling from North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. Where ever you are staying for your beach vacation, be sure to get your hands on fresh, locally-sourced produce from the Shallotte, Oak Island, and Southport farmer’s markets. For great coastal dining, spruce up a family cookout with the fresh corn, green beans, tomatoes, watermelon, peaches and more. Oak Island Farmer’s Market even has honey, while Shallotte has handcrafted items such as pottery, jewelry, glassware and homemade bread, cakes and cookies. For a truly unique farmer’s market experience, stop by Southport Waterfront Market for local produce, baked goods, handcrafted items spread under ancient live oak trees and even live music. See the below dates and times for the markets as many close mid-September.

Oak Island FaIMG_0110rmer’s Market, Saturdays through Sep 8, 2014, 7:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Shallotte Farmer’s Market, Mondays through- Sep 13, 2014, 8 a.m. -12 p.m.

Southport Waterfront Market, Wednesdays through Sep 25, 2014, 8 a.m. 1 p.m.

Of course, if you want a night off from the kitchen, our restaurants offer great coastal and waterfront dining!

Turtle Tracks

Turtle alert – the loggerhead turtle nests that have been laid on our North Carolina beaches will begin to hatch in July and go through October! There is probably no experience more powerful than watching baby sea turtles boiling out of the nest and racing to the water line. Sea turtle conservation is conducted across North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands beaches, and, if you see folks camped out on the beach around sundown, stop by for a look. Chances are they are a group of volunteers on “turtle watch” waiting for the hatchlings to emerge and make their way to the ocean. View a video here to see what all the fuss is about!