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.

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.

Check Off Your Beach Bucket List in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands

Beach Bucket

A beach vacation in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands offers a chance for some rest and relaxation and also opportunities to create lifelong memories with loved ones.  Across the destination’s five islands, you’ll find all the activities that make for the best beach vacation memories, along with a few unexpected surprises.

Here are seven Brunswick Islands’ beach bucket list activities sure to make your vacation memorable for the whole family:

Build a Sandcastle

Sandcastle

Opportunities abound to try your hand at sandcastle artistry, or relaxing in the sun and strolling alongside the ocean. With 45 miles of idyllic beaches and six separate beach communities over five barrier islands, fun in the sun awaits travelers in need of a relaxing escape or an adventure-packed getaway.  Sandcastle building tip: create a good strong packed foundation for your sandcastle and be sure to keep your sand wet while building!

Get a Sweet Treat

Satisfy your sweet tooth and stop by one of the many locally-owned ice cream shops and creameries sprinkled throughout the destination. With unique flavors and quality ingredients, you’ll be in for a treat. Each shop offers something special, whether it’s homemade recipes, specialty cones, or a welcoming environment with rocking chairs to sit and enjoy some dessert.

Savor Local Seafood

Calabash seafood

Fulfill your craving for fresh seafood with famous Calabash-style cuisine in the town where it was created. Calabash, the “Seafood Capital of the World,” is home to several locally-owned restaurants serving up lightly-battered, perfectly prepared seafood. Numerous restaurants throughout the islands – many with outdoor waterfront dining – feature menus with fresh, locally-caught seafood and home-style sides.

Discover a Coastal Secret

Venture one mile down the coast on foot or by bike from the last beach access on Sunset Beach and take a serene journey to the Kindred Spirit Mailbox, an unexpected sight among the dunes of Bird Island. Take a seat on a nearby bench and write down your innermost thoughts and dreams on one of the notebooks inside the mailbox, or read notes left by other visitors.

See an East Coast Phenomenon

With the beaches of the Brunswick Islands’ unique positioning toward the South, you can set up your chair on the beach to watch the sunrise over the Atlantic and stay put in the same spot to catch a breath-taking sunset over the ocean. You can see this phenomenon for yourself beginning in the fall and continuing through the winter months.

Be on Turtle Watch

Witness the incredible sight of 250-pound Loggerhead sea turtles laying their eggs on the beach, followed by their babies making their first journey from their nest to the sea. From May to August, you might spot the mother laying her eggs in the dunes, and from July to October the babies hatching and venturing toward the ocean.  Local Sea Turtle Protection Organization volunteers monitor the nests throughout the season to answer questions about the process and can tell you when nests may be ready to hatch. Also, several of the Sea Turtle Protection Organizations offer free “Turtle Talks” throughout the summer. See the events calendar for details.

Go Beyond the Beach

Paddleboarding

Looking to get your toes out of the sand and into a marsh or inland adventure? Explore the beautiful marshes, creeks and estuaries along the Intracoastal Waterway by paddle board, kayak and boat. Channel your adventurous side with some fishing or climb the Oak Island Lighthouse or Old Baldy for a stunning aerial view of the ocean and the marshland. Go ziplining over a swamp or explore nature preserves for carnivorous plants.

To begin planning your bucket list-worthy beach vacation to North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, visit www.NCBrunswick.com.