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.

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.

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!

Spotlight on Lighthouses in the Brunswick Islands

Caswell Beach Oak Island Lighthouse

along the coast of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is a beach activity perfect for any family looking for adventure or an educational experience. This year, why not add an exhilarating item to your bucket list and discover an elevated, 360-degree scenic view of the Atlantic Ocean and inland waters of the Cape Fear River? The Oak Island Lighthouse, standing just over 150 feet, offers the perfect opportunity to see some amazing coastal views. Venture up the unique 131 steps to the observation platform and capture exceptional aerial photos of Oak Island and the seemingly endless ocean of Caswell Beach. But this isn’t your normal lighthouse excursion – within the Oak Island Lighthouse, the steps leading to the observation platform are ships’ ladders, not the typical spiral staircase found in most lighthouses.DSC_7872_LR

The Oak Island Lighthouse, located on Caswell Beach, is the newest of the North Carolina lighthouses, with construction completed in 1958. For the first five years of the lighthouse’s operation, the lights projected to sailors were the brightest in the United States and second brightest in the world. The lighthouse used carbon-arc mercury lamps that generated 70 million candle power. Now, the lighthouse is powered by four 1,000-watt halogen bulbs that produce 2.5 million candle power. The Oak Island Lighthouse light can be seen for 16 miles out to sea and is still one of the most powerful lighthouses in existence.

Tours to the top of the lighthouse are available all year long by appointment for climbers nine years of age and older. Tour appointments must be made through the Oak Island Lighthouse website, at least two weeks in advance.  The Oak Island Lighthouse is located at 300 Caswell Beach Rd, Caswell Beach, NC 28465.

 Just across the waters of the Cape Fear River from the Oak Island Lighthouse stands the oldest lighthouse in North Carolina, Old Baldy. The lighthouse, located on Bald Head Island, was built in 1817 and haIMG_3589 blogs maintained its original form and location for over 187 years. This historic landmark has 108 steps, five landings and is 110 feet tall.

While no longer an active lighthouse, Old Baldy is open for visitors to enjoy and climb to the top for a breathtaking view of the area’s natural beauty. Take an in-depth island tour with a knowledgeable guide or purchase a ticket to climb to the top. Reservations can be made in advance by calling Deep Point Marina at 910-457-5003 or visiting their website.  Old Baldy Lighthouse is located at 101 Lighthouse Wynd, just a short walk from the island’s ferry landing.

Learn more about the Oak Island Lighthouse and Old Baldy by watching this short video on Brunswick Islands’ Lighthouses
.