Brunswick Islands Fun That Won’t Break the Bank

budget

A vacation filled with golden memories doesn’t need to cost its weight in gold. In North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, some of our best attractions are the most wallet-friendly, making it easy for you to enjoy a five-star vacation without the five-star price tag. Learn about the rich history of the area, explore Brunswick Islands’ stunning natural beauty or stroll around on a self-guided walking tour, all without breaking the bank.

Dive into the rich history

From Southport to Calabash, the Brunswick Islands are filled with a rich history, unique ecosystems and interesting animal life. Native American tribes, the Revolutionary War and even pirates have all impacted the area and formed the culture we know today. History buffs can pop into any of the several free or low-priced museums in the area to take a deeper dive into the events that formed the culture of the region today while ocean lovers can visit one of the largest dry aquariums on the East Coast to learn more about our marine and sea plant life.

Maritime Museum of Southport

Stop by the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport and discover all there is to learn about the maritime history of the area. The museum is located along the waterfront where the Cape Fear River, Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean merge, making it an ideal spot to learn about the local seafaring culture. Admission is free so visitors can easily explore exhibits about shipwrecks, piracy, the Civil War, commercial fishing, hurricanes and much more.

maritime museum

Museum of Coastal Carolina

The Museum of Coastal Carolina is a great way to spend an afternoon with your little ones or to simply learn about the diverse ecosystem of Coastal North Carolina. The museum offers many opportunities to experience marine life up close with hands-on activities like a fossil pit with shark teeth that you get to take home, life-sized wildlife dioramas and a Touch Tank with live animals like sea stars, sea urchins and more. You can also learn more about sea turtle nesting in the area with an informative and entertaining video of nesting sea turtles on Ocean Isle Beach! The museum is $9.50 for adults (13-61), $8.50 for seniors (62+), $7.50 for children (3-12) and free for ages 2 and under. The museum also offers a $2.00 discount if you bring your same-week Ingram Planetarium ticket.

museum of coastal carolina

Sunset Swing Bridge & Museum

Take a step back in time at the Sunset Swing Bridge & Museum and learn about the iconic bridge that linked Sunset Beach with the mainland. The bridge was decommissioned after the opening of the Mannon C. Gore Bridge in 2011. The old swing bridge and tender house still serve as a free museum for the public, only now they’re safely sitting on dry land. During your visit to the museum, be sure to check out the artifacts from the Blockade Runner Vesta which ran aground on Sunset Beach during the Civil War.

old swing bridge sunset beach

Outdoor Fun

With the diverse vegetation found throughout the Brunswick Islands, there’s always a new landscape to explore. Whether you’re most comfortable on the mainland, the islands or in the parks, our communities are filled with fun ways to enjoy the great outdoors.

Live Music in All Settings

Keep an ear out for all the amazing free concerts in the area during your stay. Several of our towns and islands put on summer concert series that are free for all to enjoy. Recline in your beach chair while you listen to music when you stop by the concerts happening at Holden Beach, Southport, Ocean Isle Beach, Oak Island, Calabash or Sunset Beach. If an evening in the park sounds like more of your scene, head inland for the Leland Concerts in the Park series, Shallotte SummerFest series or the Boiling Spring Lakes concert series.

OIB concert

Island Farmers and Artisans’ Market

If you’re looking for a unique, locally made souvenir, or just want to sink your teeth into some fresh produce, be sure to check out the many farmer’s markets that take place from late spring to late fall and features vendors offering produce, homemade jams, cakes and a variety artisan goods like jewelry, furniture, rugs, potholders and much more. Chat with locals while you stroll the aisles of goodies.

Oak Island Lighthouse

When visiting Caswell Beach be sure to visit the Oak Island Lighthouse. The lighthouse opened in 1958 to replace the Cape Fear Light, and stands as the newest lighthouse in North Carolina. Climb to the top through a series of ship ladders for a stunning view of the Brunswick Islands. Top tours of the lighthouse are available for free year round by appointment and second level tours are available on Wednesdays and Saturdays from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

oak island lighthouse

Family Tee Time

Spend some quality time on the course with your family.  Many area golf courses such as the Brunswick Plantation Resort and Golf, Rivers Edge Golf Club, Sandpiper Bay Golf Club, Crow Creek Golf Club and Sea Trail Golf Club, offer free golf for juniors while playing with a paying adult. Check their websites or call the pro shop for details.

junior golf

Walking Tours

If you’re looking to get some steps in on your vacation, a walking tour could be just the ticket. There are several guided and self-guided tours in the area highlighting everything from the islands’ rich history to popular movie shooting locations.

Self-Guided Movie Location Tour

Check out the backdrops for some of your favorite movie scenes with a self-guided tour of the movie and TV shooting locations in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands by picking up a map from the Fort Johnston-Southport Museum & Visitor Center. Our charming towns and beaches have been featured in box office hits like Iron Man 3, Weekend at Bernie’s and Safe Haven as well as episodes from popular television shows like Dawson’s Creek, Hart of Dixie and Matlock. See for yourself the familiar homes and beaches that brought these scenes to life!

safe haven

Historical Walking Tour of Southport

Get active and take a self-guided walking tour through historic Southport. The tour will lead you to architecture dating back to the 1800s, as well as several significant landmarks in the area. Grab a map from the Fort Johnston-Southport Museum & Visitor Center and make your way around while learning the history and events that shaped Southport into the town we love today.

fort johnston

Soak Up Some Vitamin Sea

No vacation to North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is complete without a few hours simply relaxing on the sand and soaking up some rays. Take some time to slow down and enjoy the natural beauty of our beaches.

fun

Shelling on the Shore

If you’re looking for an active alternative to sunbathing on the beach, North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands’ 45 miles of breathtaking beaches offer a perfect spot to go hunting for beach gems like the variety of seashells that wash up on the sand. Shelling is a great activity to teach kids about the ocean, or just to take in the scenery. The most abundant types of shells that you might find include Angelwings, Olive Shells, True Tulips, Sand Dollars and Starfish. Take a scenic stroll down the beach and search for these little treasures of the tide!

shells

For more information on activities to enjoy during your vacation in the Brunswick Islands, please visit www.ncbrunswick.com.

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 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. Outdoor Markets

In North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, it is easy to live like a local with summer outdoor farmers and artisans 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 colorful outdoor 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.