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.

Top Spots to Catch Breathtaking Sunrises and Sunsets in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands

Boasting more than 45 miles of unspoiled beaches, North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is the ultimate beach getaway destination. Few natural phenomena give Brunswick Islands beachgoers a better sense of place than watching the sun paint the sky in signature hues of orange, pink and purple over the ocean or the area’s waterways at sunrise and sunset. Our charming coastal towns and beach communities offer countless ways to witness spectacular sunrises and sunsets during your stay, but check out our suggestions of great spots for scoring a seat to the sun’s daily feat.

On the Beach

No matter what time of year you come to the Brunswick Islands, prepare to be wowed. Not only do the pristine sand and surf create a peaceful atmosphere for sunrise and sunset chasers, but in the fall and winter the uniquely south facing beaches in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands provide a remarkable sunrise/sunset viewing experience. Named one of “10 Incredible Phenomena You Have to See in Fall” by Weather.com, beginning in late fall, 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!

Sunrise on Oak Island

Ocean Piers

Few settings offer a classic beach feel like an oceanfront pier. North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is home to five ocean piers, perfect for both starting and ending your day with a front row seat to the sun’s daily pilgrimage across the sky. Ocean pier viewing spots include:

Sunrise Sunset Beach Pier

Seize the Sunset by the Waterway

The stunning Brunswick Islands sunsets can also be seen off-shore with serene sunset kayak trips in the area’s marshes and waterways. Individual kayak rentals and guided tours are available to give visitors the equipment and expertise they need to observe some of the best views of the Brunswick Islands. To make an even bigger splash, boat rentals and sunset cruises are a sure way to enjoy beautiful scenic views.

Dinner and a Show

Who doesn’t love dinner and a show? A nature show that is! In North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands there is an impressive array of waterfront dining options that are guaranteed to not only serve up tasty coastal cuisine, but also a stunning view of the sun making its daily descent. One great spot to grab a bite and watch the summer sun set over the marsh is Jinks Creek Waterfront Grille. Located on Jinks Creek on the Intracoastal Waterway side of Ocean Isle Beach, Jinks Creek Waterfront Grille offers great seafood dishes as well as an amazing view.  Another local hotspot for scrumptious food and scenic views is the Yacht Basin in Southport. With restaurants like the Provision Company, Fishy Fishy Cafe and the Yacht Basin Eatery, it has some of the best outdoor waterfront dining in Southport. Lucky diners may even score a little live music to accompany their dinner and nature show. For more wonderful waterfront dining spots throughout Brunswick Islands, please visit blog.ncbrunswick.com/waterfront-dining-ncs-brunswick-islands/.

Southport Sunset

The Point at Oak Island

North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is full of quiet stretches of beach that almost seem like you are on your own private island. The western tip of Oak Island, at the inlet that separates Oak Island from Holden Beach, is just one example. Affectionately known as The Point, this section of beach offers unique sunrise and sunset views over both land and sea. Like many of our pristine beaches, The Point is a tranquil spot for enjoying nature and quality time with family and loved ones.

Other Favorite Spots

There are so many places to find breathtaking sunrises and sunsets in the Brunswick Islands that it can be hard to choose. To make the decision a little harder here are some other amazing viewing spots.

Sunset Holden Beach

We may all watch the same sunrise and sunset each day, but at North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands the view is as grand as the ocean is wide. For more tips and tricks to planning your next spectacular beach vacation, please visit www.ncbrunswick.com.

2018 Brunswick Islands Landmarks Photo Contest Winners

insta winner

North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is excited to announce the winners of the #BrunswickIslandsLandmarks photo contest! We invited you to share your best Brunswick Islands landmarks photographs on Instagram and Facebook using #BrunswickIslandsLandmarks and we were amazed at the breathtaking entries we received!

With over 175 entries, it was difficult to choose only a couple of winners from each platform, but we are happy to announce that we have chosen our favorite photos from the submissions for a first and second place winner on both platforms as well as two random drawing winners. These lucky winners will receive a variety of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands rolling coolers, beach towels and hats. Our first place winners will also receive a $100 gift card. We would like to thank everyone who participated in the contest. It was great to see everyone loving the Brunswick Islands and our favorite landmarks as much as we do!

And now, here are the winners, along with some information about what inspired their photography and why they think the Brunswick Islands are so special.

1st Place on Facebook: Dwayne Schmidt

 Photograph of the Oak Island Lighthouse

Schmidt photo contest facebook winner

Dwayne Schmidt takes first place with his magnificent photo of the Oak Island Lighthouse in Caswell Beach. As a frequent visitor to the area, he has begun to see the Brunswick Islands as his second home. When asked what his favorite landmark in the area is, he stated that, “there are so many good landmarks that it’s hard to have just one favorite. Calabash is on the list because he “loves the sunsets and the boats, [he also enjoys] walking to the mailbox, sunset beach pier and its uniqueness of the compass painted on pier, the sign with miles and directions, all the bridges, Old Baldy, Oak Island Lighthouse and Southport.”

Regarding his inspiration for the winning shot, Dwayne mentioned that he, “always tries to visit Oak Island,” while he is in the Brunswick Islands. He was interested in getting a shot of the Oak Island Lighthouse at sunset. He said, “I could see down the beach line the pelicans flying and getting closer. I was like man, if they come through here it would be an awesome shot and they did. I timed it as the light turned.”

To Dwyane it’s more than just the beauty of the Brunswick Islands that makes it such a special destination. “People in this part of our state are always so friendly and kind. [They] quickly tell ya all the good things to see.”

2nd Place on Facebook: Wendy Wood Brumagin

Photograph of the Oak Island Lighthouse

Brumagin photo contest facebook winner 2

Wendy Wood Brumagin takes second place on Facebook for her stunning photo of the Oak Island Lighthouse. She expressed that her favorite landmark is the Oak Island Lighthouse. Wendy states that she has, “always been inspired by the beauty the lighthouse represents! She is always standing tall with her light to guide us safely home, whether in calm seas or churning oceans.”

Regarding her inspiration for the winning shot, Wendy told us that, “the way the sunset and the cloud formation that surrounded the lighthouse that evening made for the perfect picture!”

1st Place on Instagram: John Bracey; Instagram Handle: @dukebracey

Photo of the Calabash Waterfront 

John Bracey takes first place on Instagram for his captivating photo of the Calabash waterfront! John let us know that he always has his camera with him. While he was at dinner with his wife at Capt. John’s in Calabash, he was inspired by how the sky looked. John told us that on their way down the waterfront, “[they] could see that the sky looked like it was on fire.” Before he could even ask his wife for permission she looked at him and said, “go ahead” because she knew what was on his mind.

We asked John what he thought made the Brunswick Islands a great place to visit and he told us, “as beautiful as the Brunswick Islands are, and they are beautiful, it’s the people. The wonderful conversations that I have with people as we watch the sun rise or set are priceless.” We couldn’t agree more with John’s sentiment. As for his favorite landmark in the area, John told us that it is “Sunset Beach Pier by far.” He would dare to say that he has at least a 1000 or more pictures of the pier.

2nd Place on Instagram: Claus Fey; Instagram Handle: Feyusa

Photo of Southport Yacht Basin

Fey winner 2 insta

Claus Fey takes second place on Instagram for his magnificent shot of the Southport Yacht Basin! Claus shared with us that he was inspired by Southport’s immense beauty. He let us know that, “it was a beautiful day in December and the colors were perfect…then I saw a boat and its mirror image in the calm yacht basin and I knew I had a wonderful shot.”

We asked Claus what his favorite landmark in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is and he told us that, “the Oak Island Lighthouse is my favorite landmark. It towers over the beautiful beaches of Caswell Beach and is still active.” He also suggests taking one of the Oak Island Lighthouse tours to appreciate the “unmatched” and “overwhelmingly beautiful” views. We love his suggestion!

In addition to our winners on both platforms, we also selected two random winners and some honorable mentions. Thanks again to everyone who participated in our contest!

Random Drawing Winners:

Susan Wiman with her photo of Old Baldy

Wiman random winner

Shannon Carpenter with her photo of the Sunset Beach Pier

Carpenter random winner 2

Honorable Mentions:

@noahj_or and his photo of Old Baldy

honorable mention

@rosemarybarron  and her photo of the Holden Beach Pier

honorable mention 2

Sonia Ford and her photo of the Southport Yacht Basin

honorable mention 3

Be sure to visit #BrunswickIslandsLandmarks on both platforms to see all the incredible entries. On Facebook look for entries under public posts and in the comments of the contest announcements.  You can follow North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands on social media at facebook.com/NCBrunswick and instagram.com/ncbrunswickislands.

To learn more about North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, and to plan your trip, visit ncbrunswick.com.

Plan Your Visit to the 37th Annual North Carolina Oyster Festival

North Carolina Oyster Festival

October is the start of North Carolina’s oyster season, and the magnificent mollusk has been revered in the state for centuries as an important source of food in the coastal areas.  The 37th Annual North Carolina Oyster Festival, returning on Saturday, October 21, 2017 from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Sunday, October 22, 2017 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., is the state’s official celebration of the oyster.  During the Festival, North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands will celebrate all things oyster as a section of Ocean Isle Beach is transformed into a walking district, filled with a variety of foods, crafts, music and more.

North Carolina Oyster FestivalAt this year’s celebration, test your oyster shucking skills in the North Carolina Oyster Shucking Championship where the area’s fastest shucker will earn a cash prize, as well as the opportunity to compete in the National Oyster Shucking Contest in Maryland.  Not up to competing against the professional shuckers?  You can enter the amateur division.  If you are an advocate of the motto “you can never have too much of a good thing?” Put on your stretchy pants and participate in the Oyster Eating Contest! Continue to delight your taste buds at the Oyster Stew Cookoff, featuring delicious samples from some of Brunswick Islands’ best restaurants. Work off some of the calories you have consumed on the dance floor and compete for the top spot in the Shag Dance Competition, whether you’re an amateur or more experienced dancer.

In addition to copious amounts of fried and steamed oysters, festival-goers will have the opportunity to sample an array of foods for every palate, from crab cakes and BBQ, to pizza and sweet treats. Visitors can also admire a wide variety of crafts and artwork available throughout the festival grounds, including handmade furniture, stained glass, wood carvings, sculpture, pottery, leather goods, and jewelry. Don’t miss out on the live music, bring your chairs and enjoy the lineup featuring popular beach bands, cover bands, and everything in between.

Admission is $5.00 for adults and free for children under 12, so bring your family and experience a not-to-be-missed tradition in the Brunswick Islands!

To learn more about attending the 37th Annual North Carolina Oyster Festival, visit http://www.ncbrunswick.com/event/north-carolina-oyster-festival-ocean-isle-beach-nc.

 

Tim Cate: The FORE Father of Golfing the North Carolina Coast

north Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is known as North Carolina’s Golf Coast, where championship courses have been designed by such greats as Arnold Palmer, Rees Jones, Fred Couples, Dan Maples, Willard Byrd and Hale Irwin.  Each offers a wide range of settings, from marsh to maritime forests, to lakes, streams, beaches and the Intracoastal Waterway, and each is unique in its design and playability.

One designer, Tim Cate, who may be lesser-known outside of our area is worth noting. In fact, he is quite renowned along the coast for his sustainable golf course design that completely incorporates the natural terrain, providing an artful challenge for golf enthusiasts.

We like to think he’s a best-kept secret, just like our area.

Cate says this, “Unlike the South Carolina courses, this is a unique region with a bit of a roll to the land, which provides some wind break off the water and opportunities for interesting layouts. We have beautiful beaches and low-rise development, so the area has been left in a more natural state.”

In 2010, Golf Digest named a golf course in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands “Best design by an architect you’ve never heard of.” Golf course architect Tim Cate, a resident of Sunset Beach, attended West Virginia University and the University of Georgia, graduating with a degree in Landscape Architecture. He then spent eight years under the tutelage of course design greats like Willard Byrd.  According to Jamie Roderick, General Manager of The Thistle Golf Club, “Cate doesn’t just move earth. He carefully designs his courses, then supervises like a virtuoso, taking advantage of the lay of the land as it is being sculpted by the construction crew.”

For your next North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands’ vacation, consider one of these several award-winning, Tim Cate-designed courses…

Cape Fear National 

Cape Fear National in Leland is the newest golf course in Brunswick County. Among its prestigious awards, Cape Fear was named among the top “11 best courses you can play in NC” as named by Golfweek magazine. Expect to see ornate grasses, drive-through waste bunkers, two waterfalls and over 1,500 linear feet of bridges as you weave through 18 holes of exceptionally conditioned golf.

Cape Fear National, No. 13According to Director of Sales and Marketing, Brad Walker, “There’s really a wow factor here at Cape Fear National. Week after week, we receive rave reviews on the overall conditioning of the golf course, the surrounding natural landscape and the quality of our A1/A4 Bentgrass greens. Tim Cate’s attention to detail is impressive and he is an expert when it comes to local landscape in Coastal North Carolina.”

The “Big Cats” Courses 

Ocean Ridge Plantation in Sunset Beach offers four championship “Big Cats” golf courses – three designed by Tim Cate.  The three Tim Cate courses each has it’s own unique character and feel, but with the unifying Tim Cate signature design features incorporated into their layouts for the thrill of the hunt.

Two courses of note are Tiger’s Eye and Leopard’s Chase. Tiger’s Eye is distinguished by dramatic 60-foot elevation changes reminiscent DSC_0718_LC 4 smallof the North Carolina sand hills and a stunning combination of natural waste areas, native grasses, wildflowers, pine and oak trees and water, including Carolina bays, two waterfalls and marshland typical of a coastal environment. Leopard’s Chase offers stunning natural beauty playing along expansive natural wetlands and features dramatic elevation changes heretofore unseen along the coast.

Thistle Golf Club

The clubhouse at the venerable Thistle Golf Club in Sunset Beach is of traditional Scottish design, filled with the antiquitClubhouse-Twlght[1] smallies, original documents, trophies, ledgers and other memorabilia from the original 1815 Thistle club on Edinburgh’s revered Links of Leith. In similar Scottish tradition, architect Tim Cate provided windswept fairways, heather-covered hillsides and generous rolling Bentgrass greens, earning a 4 ½-star rating by Golf Digest.

With 120 miles of fairways and 45 miles of wide, un-crowded beaches, free from high-rise Microsoft Word - Document1development, dedicated golfers as well as families can all find their paradise. With over 30 golf courses in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, you could stay for a month and play one course each day. Perks to golfing in Brunswick Islands include more than 30 hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts and golf resorts, as well as countless seaside and inland vacation rental homes and condos for every style and budget.  If golf is your vacation focus, our local golf packagers can arrange for the perfect visit. View a video here about Brunswick Islands’ golf.

The North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands’ Golf Guide is the perfect tool to get your dream golf vacation started.  To order a printed copy of the Golf Guide and/or to sign up for emails click here.