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.

10 Scrumptious Shrimp Dishes to Enjoy on National Shrimp Day

National Shrimp Day

Known for its rich shrimping and fishing heritage and abundance of seafood restaurants, there is no better place to celebrate National Shrimp Day than in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands! On National Shrimp Day – or any other day – be sure to try some of these delicious, fresh seafood dishes for yourself.

Check out some of our favorite local shrimp dishes below!

1. Shrimp & Grits – Cape Fear Seafood Company (Leland)

Shrimp and grits is a staple offering at any Southern seafood restaurant and the Cape Fear Seafood Company in Leland takes this classic coastal dish to a new level. With fresh caught Carolina shrimp, applewood bacon, tomatoes, scallions and mushrooms in a low country cream sauce over cheesy grits, Cape Fear’s shrimp and grits is a perfect choice for breakfast, lunch or dinner on National Shrimp Day!

2. Shrimp Burger – Provision Company (Holden Beach)

If you’re looking for a true culinary experience to try on National Shrimp Day, check out the shrimp burger at Provision Company on Holden Beach. This delectable dish puts a spin on your standard burger with a patty made with grilled shrimp and topped with lettuce, tomato, onions and a creole remoulade sauce on the side.

3. Coconut Shrimp – Fishy Fishy Café (Southport)

Take the boat over to Southport and pull up right at the docks of Fishy Fishy Café where you can enjoy some tasty coconut shrimp, lightly battered and fried and topped with an orange Dijon glaze. Fishy Fishy Café offers tasty seafood with an unbeatable view and lively atmosphere that perfectly encompasses the personality of the Brunswick Islands.

4. Stateline Scampi – The Oyster Rock (Calabash)

If pasta is more your speed, head to The Oyster Rock in Calabash for their Stateline Scampi. This tasty shrimp scampi dish features large Carolina white shrimp sautéed in butter with fresh garlic, local diced tomatoes, white wine and fresh lemon tossed in bucatini pasta and comes with garlic bread and grated parmesan cheese. For a perfect mix of Italian cuisine and delicious Carolina seafood, The Oyster Rock is the spot for you.

5. Sweet & Sour Shrimp – The Fish House Restaurant (Oak Island)

For a creative take on classic fried shrimp recipes, head to The Fish House Restaurant in Oak Island and try their sweet & sour shrimp served with a fresh vegetable medley and your choice of starch. These flavorful morsels are deep fried before being tossed with pineapple and sweet and sour sauce, giving them a tangy, citrusy twist.

National Shrimp Day

6. Firecracker Shrimp – The Boundary House (Calabash)

Add some spice to your National Shrimp Day celebration and help yourself to a heaping portion of firecracker shrimp at The Boundary House restaurant in Calabash. These little guys have a bit of bite as they’re lightly fried and coated in a spicy chili sauce.

7. Stuffed Shrimp – Crabby Oddwaters (Sunset Beach)

Let your taste buds run wild this National Shrimp Day with delicious stuffed Shrimp at Crabby Oddwaters on Sunset Beach. These jumbo shrimp are packed with flavor and flaky crab meat and are baked to perfection, making for a great dish to celebrate this holiday.

8. Cheesy Shrimp and Lobster Artichoke Dip – Wing and Fish Company (Shallotte)

What better way to celebrate National Shrimp Day than with cheesy shrimp and lobster artichoke dip found at the Wing and Fish Company in Shallotte. This tasty dish is loaded with delicious shrimp and lobster folded into a blend of cream and parmesan cheese, spinach and artichoke hearts, and served with fresh baked tortilla chips.

9. Shrimp Étouffée – Jinks Creek Waterfront Grille (Ocean Isle Beach)

Indulge in Shrimp Étouffée this National Shrimp Day, a can’t miss treat found at Jinks Creek Waterfront Grille on Ocean Isle Beach. Enjoy locally caught shrimp simmered in spicy country ham and tomato broth topped with pickled red onion and served with buttered rice and scallions.

10. Traditional Calabash Shrimp (Calabash)

You can’t find a better place to celebrate National Shrimp Day than the Brunswick Islands, home of Calabash, North Carolina, the “Seafood Capital of the World.” Calabash’s title was earned thanks to its namesake cooking technique of lightly battering and frying shrimp, giving it a perfectly crispy outer shell while leaving the inside juicy and buttery. Other places can try to imitate it, but nothing beats the original for this tasty dish. There can be no list of must try shrimp dishes that doesn’t include Calabash-style fried shrimp. To find dishes featuring Calabash-style fried shrimp head to any of the delicious seafood restaurants in town for an authentic Calabash dining experience.  As an added bonus, several of the town’s seafood restaurants feature outdoor, waterfront dining.

National Shrimp Day

These are just a sampling of the many great seafood dishes and restaurants found in the Brunswick Islands. For more information on dinning options, 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 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.

Bottoms Up at these Brunswick Islands Breweries

brewery

Sun, sand and suds have always been the perfect pairing. Coastal breweries have been emerging at a rapid pace in the United States, and in the Brunswick Islands the craft brew scene has surfaced to quench travelers’ cravings. In addition to 45+ miles of uncrowded and unspoiled beaches, the Brunswick Islands have a thriving and unique craft beer scene that is inspired by the unusual elements found along North Carolina’s Coast. Since 2015, three breweries have opened in this idyllic destination each equipped with a unique vision and brews for every taste, palate and preference.

Just in time for National Beer Day on April 7, take a tour of the best Brunswick Islands Brews:

Take Flight at Check Six Brewing Company

The Brunswick Islands’ first brewery, Check Six Brewing Company opened in Southport in 2015. Veterans, Tim Hassel and Noah Goldman opened this family owned and operated aviation themed brewery in 2015. Check Six is a phrase used by fighter pilots to indicate the need to look behind them for enemy aircraft during flight. The Army, Navy and Coast Guard use the phrase “I’ve got your six” to indicate their backup. Hassel and Goldman chose this name to show visitors that they have all guests’ refreshment needs covered.

The brewery features 10 to 12 of Check Six’s own craft beers on tap and offers an array of varieties to please every beer aficionado’s taste preferences, ranging from blonde ales to stouts to IPAs. All labels coincide with the aviation theme, and each brew celebrates America’s rich fighter pilot history. Be sure to check out the Curtiss Jenny Brown Ale. This hoppier American interpretation of Northern English Brown Ales is named after the very popular American trainer airplane that ninety-five percent of all allied pilots learned to fly in WWI. This medium body malty and rich ale has a slightly nutty, toffee-like quality, with hints of chocolate, and a fresh dry-hoped aroma that perfectly complements a long day of fun in the sun.

brews

Get Funky at 34° North Experiment Station

The founders of the Marietta, Georgia based Red Hare Brewery opened their second craft brewery in Shallotte, North Carolina in April 2018. The founders Roger Davis and Bobby Thomas were intrigued by beers created through wild, spontaneous fermentation. According to Brewbound, “Roger set out to meet the Van Roys of the famed Brasserie Cantillon in Brussels, and to tour the inner-workings of the historic Belgian brewery. Roger was impressed and wanted to capture some the age-old spontaneous fermentation techniques of Cantillon, famous for producing Geuzes, Lambics, and Krieks, which are typical Belgian-style sours.”

After deepening their understanding of these unique brewing methods, they decided to open a second brewery where wild yeast could be captured from the surrounding environment, critical to the sour-brewing method. They found the location that they had been searching for in a 120-year-old historic drug store in the Brunswick Islands! This building off of the Atlantic shore allows for wild yeast and bacteria to float into the brewery off the cool ocean air. This brewery experiments with barrel aging and blending in a variety of fermenting vessels to concoct some radical brews. The 34° North Experiment Station also just happens to be on the same line of longitude as the original brewery in Marietta, Georgia!

red hare brewery

Hang Loose at Makai Brewing Company

Makai Brewing Company is a Hawaiian themed brewery located in Ocean Isle Beach. “Makai” is a Hawaiian word meaning “toward the sea”. Even if you’ve never been to Hawaii, you will still find the spirit of aloha at Makai Brewing. The brewery serves an ever-changing menu of craft beer brewed on premise, such as the popular Carolina Tropical IPA brewed with pineapple and mango, and the Nightingale Coffee Porter brewed with real Kona coffee beans. They even have a board where you can purchase a beer in advance for a friend, stranger or serviceman to enjoy during their next visit to Makai. Adding to the experience, the brewery is uniquely situated beside an Italian market, where you can order a sandwich to enjoy while you sip on your flight or pint!

makai brewing company

Whether you are a craft beer aficionado or new to the local libation scene, the breweries in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands are creating special sips that are sure to help visitors relax, recharge and celebrate during their coastal getaway.

For more information on libations in the Brunswick Islands, please visit www.ncbrunswick.com/fun-and-adventure/attractions.

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.