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.

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.

Get Active During Your Beach Getaway To North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands

kayaking in Brunswick Islands

Get Active Along the Coast at North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands

Who says beach getaways are just for lounging? Sun, sand and scenic ocean views are undoubtedly a well-deserved treat, but those looking for a little adventure on their next vacation will find it in no short supply at North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. While the Brunswick Islands offer 45 miles of scenic, sandy beaches just beckoning for you to plant a plush towel or beach chair, there are plenty of exciting ways to get up and get active on your next vacation.

Decompress and Destress

Treat yourself by treating your body with a beachside yoga session. Feel the tension and stress from home slowly slip away with every move and stretch. Many visitors come to the Brunswick Islands looking for some quality relaxation, and there are few activities better suited to test your fitness in a tranquil setting than a yoga session along one of our pristine beaches. Area instructors offer classes all summer long to ease your stress and keep you toned. Be sure to see if any classes are scheduled for when you are in town!

SUP NC's Brunswick Islands

Check Out What’s SUP

Check out “what’s SUP” during your stay in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. The smooth waters of the Intracoastal Waterway, creeks and island canals are perfect for stand-up paddle boarding (SUP). Stop by one of the many local outfitters to rent a board and take to the peaceful waters for a breathtaking and active aquatic adventure. Visitors can even take their beachside yoga experience up a notch with a SUP yoga class. Carolina School of Surf offers SUP yoga classes for all skill levels from beginner to seasoned SUP pros.

Tour by Water

There are countless ways to get out and explore the beautiful North Carolina scenery and vibrant communities of the Brunswick Islands. Active beachgoers can take to the water to tour their coastal home away from home. With miles of salt mash creek and rivers as well as the Intercoastal Waterway, there are plenty of picturesque paths to explore. Individual kayak rentals and guided tours are available to give visitors the equipment and expertise they need to enjoy a fun-filled day on the water. From nature watching to exploring and sunsets to stargazing, guided tours are available to help visitors capture the best of the Brunswick Islands.

Old Baldy and Oak Island Lighthouse

Take a Climb  

For many, lighthouses evoke images of serene and magical coastal settings. While maritime magic and serenity perfectly describe the Brunswick Island lighthouses, journeys to the top are not as whimsical. To reach the top of Old Baldy, North Carolina’s oldest lighthouse located on Bald Head Island, visitors must climb 108 steps but at the top one is rewarded with stunning views of the Cape Fear River and Atlantic Ocean. Across the way on Caswell Beach is the 153-foot Oak Island Lighthouse, the last lighthouse built in the state. The top of the 15-story lighthouse can only be reached through a series of ship’s ladders. While many find the climb a challenge, visitors agree that the spectacular views are worth every step.

For more information on attractions, activities and ways to stay active at North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, please visit www.NCBrunswick.com.

Eight Free Things To Do in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands

Caswell Beach Oak Island Lighthouse

Sometimes the best things in life are free, and that is no exception in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. This summer discover just how easy it is to go big on a budget in the Brunswick Islands. When you’re visiting, be sure to check out the below eight free activities that are sure to bring on the smiles without breaking the bank or sacrificing the fun factor.

1. Oak Island Lighthouse

Located on Caswell Beach, the Oak Island Lighthouse is a must-visit spot that proves it is possible to elevate your vacation experience at no added cost. The 153-foot structure is the last lighthouse built in North Carolina. While tours to the top of this 15-story beauty are free, friendly donations from visitors are always appreciated and help ensure that future travelers to the area will enjoy the scenic views awaiting atop the 131-step series of ships ladders.

Kindred Spirit Mailbox

 2. Kindred Spirit Mailbox

While walks along the beach are always a priceless perk of a coastal getaway, at the Brunswick Islands you can take a tranquil stroll to a tucked away mailbox full of secrets. Standing in the sands of beautiful Bird Island is the Kindred Spirit Mailbox. This mailbox to nowhere is a true hidden gem holding small notebooks full of the thoughts, dreams, wishes and prayers of wayward travelers. Walk along Bird Island and see the mailbox firsthand to soak in the magic and add your own musings to the ever-growing collection.

 

3. North Carolina Maritime Museum

Venture to Southport to visit one of the three maritime museums sponsored by the state of North Carolina. Visitors to the museum can dive into the rich history of the Cape Fear River region. The museum’s well curated collection tells the story of the region and covers shipwrecks, piracy, the Civil War, and other nautical adventures. While admission to the Maritime Museum is free, donations are appreciated.

Southport tour

 4. Self-Guided Tour of Southport

One authentic and charming way to explore the area is by foot. Spend less and see more with a self-guided tour starting at the Fort Johnston – Southport Museum & Visitors Center. Here maps and brochures that will lead your journey through historic Southport can be found. Stops include churches and homes dating back to the 1800s as well as landmarks like City Hall, the Old Brunswick Jail, Old Smithville Burial Grounds and River Pilots Tower. Southport, “American’s Happiest Seaside Town” as noted by Coastal Living, has been a beloved Brunswick Islands destination since the late 1700s. No stranger to the spotlight, Southport’s innately picturesque scenery has served as the backdrop to many popular films and TV shows such as Safe Haven, A Walk to Remember and The Secret Life of Bees.

Brunswick Town

5. Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson

History buffs will delight in a day trip to the Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson Historic Site. Admission is free and grants visitors access to tour and roam what is left of old Brunswick, a major pre-Revolutionary port on North Carolina’s Cape Fear River. Brunswick Town was razed by British troops in 1776. While the town was never rebuilt, during the Civil War, Fort Anderson was constructed on the old town grounds and functioned until the fall of the Confederacy. Today notable sites include the hulk of what was once Brunswick’s St. Philip’s Anglican Church and remains of a sea captain’s house used by royal governors.

sea turtle

 6. Turtle Talks

North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is home to unforgettable and wonderful wildlife experiences. Loggerhead sea turtles are known to frequent the area, and sometimes lucky visitors are able to catch a glimpse of a magnificent sea turtle gliding through the ocean waves or watch in awe as baby sea turtles make their way toward the sea. Many of the local sea turtle protection organizations offer free seminars, designed for the whole family, to share important information about protecting loggerhead sea turtles. These “Turtle Talks” can are held late spring through summer. See our calendar of events for details.

7. Summer Concerts

The ways to enjoy some free fun in the sun continue with summer concerts at North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. Starting in May through Labor Day week each of our beach communities hold live music performances that are free to enjoy and perfect for family members of all ages. Each community has their own schedule and performing artists change every week, so be sure to check out our calendar of events for more information on who will be playing during your stay.

Farmers Market

8. Farmers Market

In North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, it is easy to live like a local with summer outdoor farmers markets starting up in May. Many of our friendly beach communities host their own outdoor market, some located along the waterfront, offering fine artisanal goods, locally grown produce, baked goods, photography, pottery and other handcrafted items. While the fresh and local goodies are for sale, a stroll through one of our quaint farmers markets is a relaxing way to enjoy a morning at the beach.  See our calendar of events for locations and times.

For more information on things to do at North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, please visit www.NCBrunswick.com.

Island Hop without a Passport in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands

Ocean Isle Beach NC

with five barrier islands, island hopping is a must when exploring North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands this summer! Located in the southernmost corner of North Carolina, the islands of Brunswick County are strung together with forty-five miles of silken coastline.

Graced with sunny, secluded beaches away from high-rises and crowds, each island provides its own unique character, charm and activities. Here, beaches are perfect for family vacations, reunions, weddings, surfers, nature enthusiasts, and golf getaways, and each island has something different to offer its visitors. It is impossible to pick a favorite, so vacationers should visit them all!

Sunset Beach

Old BridgeStart your island hop on the southernmost island at Sunset Beach for a peaceful and relaxing experience. You will find this island top of the list for a quiet and quintessential beach town as residents are passionate about preservation. Take a mile walk from the last beach access south to Bird Island and the Kindred Spirit Mailbox to learn about sand dune wildlife and experience the habitats of the beautiful coastal preserve. Don’t forget to also tour the Old Sunset Bridge Museum, home to the last pontoon swing bridge on the East Coast!

Ocean Isle

Next hop over to the seven miles of Ocean Isle Beach, where you will find something for every generation! Stroll along the shoreline, scan for signs of sea turtles or catch a wave with private or group surf lessons. To experience sea life with a life-size diorama and touch tank make a visit to The Museum of Coastal Carolina. If you are feeling adventurous, try ziplining through a 300-year-old swamp cypress canopy at The Shallotte River Swamp Park, which is a challenging and thrilling adventure for all ages!

Holden Beach

DSC_7135_HOLDEN BEACH BRIDGENamed one of the best family beaches in the U.S. by National Geographic Traveler magazine and voted one of the top 10 beaches by USA Today readers, Holden Beach is your ideal destination for small town charm. Cruise along the Intracoastal Waterway by kayak and enjoy a day “downtown” with lunch at one of the several restaurant decks overlooking the waterway and the many shrimp boats that call Holden Beach home. In this wildlife haven, your family will enjoy spotting dolphins and playfully chasing ghost crabs with flashlights in the evening.

Oak Island

Ten miles of uncrowded beaches with more than 60 access points, two fishing piers, two marinas and three public boat and canoe ramps makes the town of Oak Island a perfect stop. You will have just as much fun touring the town on bicycles with bells DSC_2743_CASWELL_LRand baskets while eating ice-cream as you will in the water! Include your four-legged family members as Oak Island is one of the top dog friendly beaches in the country according to Dog Fancy magazine.  Sharing the same island, Caswell Beach is a quiet, laid-back beach that is also convenient to the shops and restaurants of Oak Island.  Standing sentinel over its uncrowded mostly residential shores is the Oak Island Lighthouse, a tri-colored beacon reaching about 16 nautical miles offshore. Make an appointment in advance to schedule a climb to the top.

Bald Head Island

Finish off your island hop by secluding yourself from reality at Brunswick’s resort-style, no-cars-allowed, Bald Head Island, only reachable by ferry. Explore the unspoiled natural surroundings hiking, biking or by golf-cart. Bald Head Island is an eco-lover’s paradise with 10,000 acres of nature preserves and extraordinary wildlife. North Carolina’s oldest lighthouse, “Old Baldy,” and Smith Island Museum are favorite attractions for the vacationers!

There are a variety of accommodations for every stop on your island hopping adventure, so start booking your vacation today!