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.

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.

Seven Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands

Shell-heart

This Valentine’s Day think beyond a box of chocolates or a bouquet of flowers and treat your sweetheart to a romantic beach getaway. The beautiful beaches and charming coastal towns of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands make the ideal destination for a relaxing and romantic weekend. While Valentine’s Day weekend is a wonderful time to sweep your sweetheart away, the enticing variety of restaurants and attractions are perfect for planning a romantic getaway year-round.

Whether you are here for Valentine’s Day, an anniversary celebration, or simply a much-needed vacation, here are seven ways to celebrate with your sweetheart in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands:

Savor the Sunset

There is something inherently romantic about a sunset, particularly over the ocean. During this time of year, visitors to the Brunswick Islands can experience a true natural phenomenon. 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! Another way to capture unbelievable vistas that are sure to have you feeling sparks, is to take a romantic walk or bike ride along the beach.

sunset

Cozy Up at a B&B

Few things are more charming and romantic than a stay at a cozy bed and breakfast. Due to the location of these accommodations, guests can enjoy short walks to friendly coastal communities and white sand beaches. North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is currently home to a variety of fabulous B&Bs that are sure to be the perfect setting for your romantic getaway.

For more information about inns, hotels, resorts and vacation home rentals in the Brunswick Islands visit  www.ncbrunswick.com/accommodations.

Enjoy a Romantic Dinner for Two

No getaway would be complete without a romantic dinner for two. The area boasts a variety of waterfront dining options set along the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Fear River, Intracoastal Waterway and more. With an abundance of restaurant choices the Brunswick Islands offer guests a plethora of menu items such as fresh seafood, international cuisine and other fan favorites. Not only is the food top notch, but the waterfront views at many area restaurants are impossible to beat!

waterfront dining

Toast to Romance

For a fun break from the beach, couples can stop by our local winery. Located near Ocean Isle Beach, the Silver Coast Winery is the perfect spot for a romantic outing. Enjoy tastings of their award-winning wines, appreciate local artwork or stroll through their gift shop for some unique souvenirs. Or, if a cold brew is more your style, stop by one of the nearby breweries:

winery

Relax and Unwind

Treat yourself and your sweetheart to a relaxing appointment at one of the many day spas located in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. Each spa offers a unique array of specialty services and treatments such as couple’s massages or facials that are sure to leave you and your loved one feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.

Share a Secret

Take a romantic stroll or bike ride to Bird Island in Sunset Beach and discover a secluded little spot with a secret. Tucked away from the public eye is the Kindred Spirit Mailbox. The mailbox houses journals for locals and travelers alike to share their innermost thoughts. These journals have long held the wishes, thoughts, prayers and dreams of many Brunswick Islands visitors. For a truly unique experience, stop by the mailbox to share your love story, secrets or even plans for your future together.

Kindred Spirit Mailbox

Get Your Heart Racing

The Brunswick Islands are a great place to relax, but they are also perfect for sharing a bit of outdoor adventure. Try your hand at stand-up paddle boarding or kayaking along the Intracoastal Waterway. Or for a different perspective, soar through the skies at The Swamp Park. The Swamp Park offers miles of zipline tours, a 49 element 7 course adventure park and a Swamp Boat Eco Tour. In the Brunswick Islands there are plenty of ways for you and your sweetheart to try something new and make memories that will last for years to come.

kayaking in Brunswick Islands

For more ways to plan an unforgettable, romantic Valentine’s Day getaway to North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, visit www.ncbrunswick.com.

Most Instagrammable Places in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands

Instagrammable Places Sunset Beach

From inspiring generations of beachgoers to renowned authors, North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is no stranger to the social media spotlight. Visitors and locals alike are often seen with their cameras out capturing a small piece of what makes these uniquely charming and beautiful communities of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands such special places. With so much to do and see, the Brunswick Islands are not only photo ready, but photo worthy.

Check out our insider tips on how to seek Instagram inspiration for your next trip as well as our list of some of the top Instagrammable places that are sure to give your followers a serious case of vacation envy.

Tips for using Instagram on your next vacation to the Brunswick Islands:

  • Be sure to follow the official NC Brunswick Islands Instagram account – @NCBrunswickIslands.
  • Explore the area by checking out trending hashtags. Popular area hashtags include #NCBrunswickIslands, #BrunswickIslands, #SouthportNC, #CalabashNC, #BaldHeadIsland, #HoldenBeach, #OakIslandNC, #OceanIsleBeach, #SunsetBeachNC and #CaswellBeachNC.
  • Explore even more by geo-tag. Click the location name above the photo to see other photos people have taken there. Let your fellow beachgoers be your guide!
  • Use the bookmarking feature on Instagram to save posts featuring some of your favorite places or to build your own beach bucket list.

Ready to make some photo magic? These spots are sure to be stunning backdrops for your next Instagram post or story!

Ocean Piers

Few sites are more iconically coastal than a scenic ocean pier. At North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands we have a surplus of picture-perfect piers for watching sunrises and sunsets, casting a line or simply taking a stroll. Each of our ocean piers offer special views that make for an unparalleled photo-op.

@nsqr Instagram contest winner

Kindred Spirit Mailbox

Tucked away in the dunes of beautiful Bird Island is a mailbox full of secrets. The Kindred Spirit Mailbox is a true hidden gem holding small notebooks full of the thoughts, dreams, wishes and prayers of roaming travelers. Take a tranquil stroll along Bird Island to see the mailbox firsthand, soak in the magic and share your story.

Insta_Kindred Spirit Mailbox

Nicholas Sparks in the Brunswick Islands

North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands has been featured in many of Nicholas Sparks’ books and films. Take a Nicholas Sparks tour around the Brunswick Islands to see, and capture for Instagram, the landmarks used to inspire Sparks’ writing or that were featured in his films. See the restaurant where Katie worked in Safe Haven, take a stroll through the graveyard where Jamie and Landon stargaze in A Walk to Remember or visit the coastal town of Sunset Beach where Hope and Tru met in Every Breath.

Ivan's, Safe Haven

Lighthouses

Lighthouses are a longtime enchanting staple of maritime lore, evoking images of welcoming and serene coastal settings. Whether you are seeking an aerial view or a signature coastal shot, the lighthouses of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands are sure to inspire.

Insta_Lighthouse

Dry Aquarium at the Museum of Coastal Carolina

Every vacation needs a rain plan, and your Instagram bucket list is no exception. For a visually stunning indoor experience, visit the Museum of Coastal Carolina. Visitors can learn about North Carolina’s natural history while walking through and capturing images of one of the largest dry aquariums on the East coast.

Museum of Coastal Carolina

Calabash Waterfront

Calabash may be known as the “seafood capital of the world,” but that isn’t the only thing it’s known for. With a beautiful, picturesque waterfront there is no telling as to how many Instagramable opportunities await. Watch a jaw-dropping sunrise or sunset over the water, have dinner at one of many waterfront dinning options or grab a sweet treat at the Calabash Creamery. If Calabash isn’t already on your Instagram bucket list then it needs to be added.

Insta_Calabash

Silver Coast Winery

Nestled among the pine trees and North Carolina foliage near Ocean Isle Beach is a well-kept secret known as the Silver Coast Winery. After touring the winery, stroll through the garden or browse through the local art featured in the gallery. The award-winning wines can also be sampled, and celebratory photos taken, at the Silver Coast Winery Tasting and Taproom located in the heart of picturesque Downtown Southport. This is the perfect location to say “cheers” and test out the boomerang photo feature!

Silver Coast winery Ocean Isle Beach

Craft Brews

For even more ways to toast to a vacation well spent and memories well captured, grab a craft brew from one of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands’ craft breweries. Below is a list of where you can score some local sips and snap some great pics.

Instagrammable Places 0201 Check Six

Southport Yacht Basin

For a quintessential maritime photo-op, add the Southport Yacht Basin to your list of must-visit spots. The beautiful Yacht Basin features the Southport Marina, top notch waterfront dining, and a peaceful gazebo along the Salt Marsh Boardwalk. For an extra bright backdrop, check out Fishy Fishy Café, known for its stellar waterfront dinning and vibrant wall colors. The Yacht Basin is a tranquil site for spending time with loved ones and snapping a shot for the memory books.

Fey winner 2 insta

Old Brunswick Jail Museum

History buffs can venture to the Old Brunswick County Jail Museum in Southport. Constructed in 1904 and used until 1971, the jail has two cells and a runabout on the second floor. Docents offer free tours showing visitors the two cells designed with four bunks, a commode and a wash basin. Visitors can even see graffiti etched by Old Brunswick Jail prisoners. The Brunswick Jail was also the backdrop of the popular film Crimes of the Heart.

Instagrammable Places Old Brunswick County Jail

Holden Beach Waterway

Boasting gorgeous waterfront dining views and fun shots of shrimp boats, the Holden Beach Waterway is a bustling spot for sightseers, diners and social media enthusiasts alike. Great spots to take your shot include the Holden Beach Pavilion and Fishing Pier, Bridgeview Park, and the Provision Company at Holden Beach.

Holden Beach Instagrammable Places

Waterfront Dining

Are you a foodie? Do you love sharing photos of your dinners out while on vacation? Then spice up your food photos by including shots taken at the many waterfront dining options in the Brunswick Islands. The view will be as good as the food!

3796 Ocean Isle Beach Instagrammable Places

Beautiful Beaches

Last but certainly not least are all the beautiful beaches of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. Our 45 miles of pristine sandy beaches make remarkable blank canvases for both memory making and picture taking. Sit back, relax and watch the likes pour in.

@oibmickey Instagammable Places

The vibrant communities of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands are undeniably beautiful and best experienced during an extended stay. To start planning your vacation today, please visit www.ncbrunswick.com or follow us on Instagram at @ncbrunswickislands.