Best Beach Books: 7 of our Favorite Beach Reads Set or Filmed in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands

beach reads

Life is better at the beach, especially when you have a good book! North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is one of the best places to stick your toes in the sand and jump into a classic beach read. With six beautiful beaches and an array of charming coastal communities filled with rich history, literature and romance, it is easy to see why the Brunswick Islands has inspired many authors and film makers alike.

Check out some of the best beach books that were either set in the Brunswick Islands or filmed scenes here for the movie adaptation of the novel:

Safe Haven
An iconic love story by Nicholas Sparks, Safe Haven, was set and filmed in the town of Southport. This dramatic thriller is about a young woman, Katie, who moves to a quaint southern town and begins a relationship with Alex, a widowed store owner. Just as their relationship starts to develop, dark secrets from Katie’s past begin to intrude on her new life.

Explore the charming southern town of Southport to see the various filming locations in Safe Haven like West Moore and Bay Streets where the dramatic NC 4th of July Festival was recreated for the movie, Ports of Call where Katie and Alex shared their first romantic dinner or grab a cocktail at Old American Fish Co., known in Safe Haven as Ivan’s, where Katie worked as a waitress. And for a more in depth look at some filming memorabilia, visit Fort Johnston – Southport Museum and Visitors Center.

Safe Haven

The Old Man and the Boy
The Old Man and the Boy, written by Robert Ruark, is a novel created out of a series of columns Ruark wrote for Field and Stream. Based on his own childhood memories of visiting his grandparents’ house in Southport, the book is about a young boy named Bobby who learns the value of hunting, fishing and becoming a gentleman from his grandfather, the Old Man. A perfect place to pick up this novel when visiting Southport, is the Robert Ruark Inn, a Victorian style B&B once owned by Ruark’s grandparents.

Robert Ruark Inn

Every Breath
Nicholas Sparks’ latest romance novel, Every Breath is about Hope Anderson, an ER trauma nurse, taking a break from her worries at her family’s vacation cottage in Sunset Beach, and Tru Walls, a safari guide from Zimbabwe, on a quest to discover his past. The novel is centered around the Kindred Spirit Mailbox, a truly unique landmark awaiting wanderers from far and wide. This one-of-a-kind mailbox sits about 1.5 miles from the nearest public access point on Bird Island, full of notebooks and pens just waiting for explorers to come divulge their secrets and leave messages of hope and inspiration for the next adventurer.

Kindred Spirit Mailbox

I Know What You Did Last Summer
I Know What You Did Last Summer is a spooky tale about four friends that run over a fisherman and dump his body in the water. A year later, they receive a frightening letter telling them that their crime was seen. Throughout the tale, the suspense increases as the killer stalks members of the group. Visitors to Southport will recognize iconic landmarks like the Amuzu Theatre and the Southport Riverwalk that were featured in the film adaptation of the novel.

Amuzu

Under the Dome
Under the Dome, filmed in Southport, is a book by Stephen King that was adapted as a TV series. The novel tells the story of the residents of a fictional small town that are cut off from the rest of the world by an enormous, indestructible dome. If you visit the town of Southport during your trip to the Brunswick Islands, you will be able to recognize the two-story house located on East Bay Street and the pilots tower on the Southport Waterfront, both featured in the series.

Under the Dome

A Walk to Remember
One of Nicholas Sparks’ most iconic novels, A Walk to Remember follows a popular high school senior, Landon Carter, as he falls in love with the local minister’s daughter, Jamie Sullivan. The two develop a powerful and romantic relationship in which they discover deep truths about one another. Visitors can stop by the beautiful church in Southport where Jamie’s dad worked as a minister or for a more romantic experience, visitors can watch the sunset over the Yacht Basin at the Riverwalk Gazebo where Landon told Jamie that he loved her for the first time.

reads

The Longest Ride
The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks is a tale of two separate love affairs, intertwined into one fate-driven novel. The first pair of star-crossed lovers is Luke, a former champion bull rider looking to make a comeback and Sophia, a college student who is about to head to New York City to start her dream job. As fate would have it, they have a chance encounter with Ira, a ninety-one year old man who shares with them the epic story of his relationship with his late wife Ruth. Be sure to pull up a beach chair and break out this novel when visiting the charming seaside town of Caswell Beach that served as the filming location for where Ruth’s family spent the summer in the film adaptation.

caswell beach

The Wedding
The Wedding by Dorothy West is set in the 1950s in a small New England enclave that consists of the finest of the East Coast’s black bourgeoisie. The novel tells the story of a family gathering for their daughter’s wedding to a white jazz musician. The movie adaptation of the novel was turned into a television miniseries by Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films that features several Southport’s landmarks including The Brunswick Inn, Bay Street and Southport City Pier.

Brunswick Inn

No matter what book is on your summer reading list, all of the beaches and towns in the Brunswick Islands serve as a serene backdrop for diving into your favorite beach read. Take “A Walk to Remember” through these iconic film and book locations or forge your own path through the Brunswick Islands. Regardless of the itinerary, the Brunswick Islands is a “Safe Haven” for book worms and travelers alike.

For more information on North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands or to plan your next beach vacation, 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.

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 that served as the location for 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.