White Christmas Island-Style: Holiday Events and Traditions

beach christmas tree

Winter days may be shorter, but there is no shortage of things to do in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. This holiday season take Christmas coastal and trade in Santa Claus for “Sandy” Claus. Families that shake up their holiday travel plans with a little bit of sun, sand and surf will be rewarded with the gift of a White Christmas celebrated island-style. The only blanket of white you will see here is that of a long stretch of sand on the beach. At North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, there are countless celebrations, parades, markets and festivities throughout our friendly coastal communities perfect for spreading holiday cheer.

Check out our list of can’t-miss holiday events perfect for every member of the family.

Tree Lightings 
Kick off the holiday season with a spectacular tree lighting ceremony guaranteed to enchant and excite people of all ages. Many of our islands and towns host special tree lighting events, so locals and visitors alike have many chances to capture a magical moment of their own.

Tree Lighting Ceremony – Southport
Nov 23, 2018, 4:30 p.m.

Join Southport revelers in Franklin Square Park as the holiday season kicks off with a countdown to the lighting of our big holiday tree. Sing classic Christmas songs and delight in a reading of The Night Before Christmas. Enjoy a cup of hot cocoa and some holiday cookies that will be provided, under the glow of Southport’s holiday lights. The event is free but donations will be appreciated.

Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony – Holden Beach
Nov 29, 2018, 5:30 p.m.

Gather Thursday, November 29, 2018 at the Holden Beach Pavilion for this family friendly event. Enjoy live entertainment beginning at 5:30 p.m. and the tree lighting at 6:00 p.m. Enjoy chorus entertainment, games and a visit by Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Tree Lighting – Oak Island
Nov 30, 2018, 5:00 – 7:30 p.m.

Celebrate the season with a tree lighting at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, November 30 at Middleton Park. There will be crafts and entertainment before and after the tree lighting. Local musicians will play your favorite Christmas songs as you sip on free hot chocolate. A special visitor from the North Pole will make a visit!

North Carolina Christmas Festival and Parade – Leland
Dec 1, 2018, 4:00 – 9:00 p.m.

The North Carolina Christmas Festival and Parade is back and better than ever! The festival will be on Saturday, December 1 from 4:00 – 9:00 p.m. The parade will begin at 5:00 p.m. and will be followed by a Christmas tree lighting with Santa and Mrs. Claus at 6:30 p.m. Pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus will be available after the tree lighting.

Calabash Tree Lighting – Calabash
Dec 7, 2018, 6:00 p.m.

Help decorate the tree, visit with Santa and enjoy hot chocolate and snacks while seeing the tree light up for the first time of the season.

Parades
Nothing shares the spirit of the season much like a celebratory parade. In North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, holiday parades are in no short supply. By land and by sea, Santa is coming to town and the communities of the Brunswick Islands welcome you and your family to join in some of the maritime merriment.

Ocean Isle Beach Flotilla – Ocean Isle Beach
Nov 24, 2018, 5:30 p.m.

The 15th Annual Ocean Isle Beach Flotilla will take place on Saturday, November 24, 2018. The boat parade lines up at 5:30 p.m. in front of Inlet View Bar & Grill. Once dusk has fallen and all the lights are on and ready to go, they will begin their way down the Intracoastal Waterway, ending at Sharky’s restaurant around 7:00 p.m. for awards and an after party. You will find excellent viewing spots between both restaurants, including the ending point in the commercial canal in front of Sharky’s Restaurant.

OIB flotilla

Christmas by the Sea Parade – Oak Island
Dec 1, 2018, 2:00 p.m.

Christmas is perhaps the best time of year to visit the North Carolina coast. The average air temperature is 59.4 degrees and the sun is warm. In celebration of this wonderful weather and the holidays, the Chamber organizes the Christmas by the Sea Parade. The parade is on Saturday, December 1, 2018 at 2 p.m. on the 2.4-mile parade route from Oak Island Town Hall, traveling Oak Island Drive to McGlamery Street. The parade showcases the businesses and organizations in our community. The hometown feel of the parade makes it a favorite event of locals, second homeowners and visitors.

Shallotte Christmas Parade – Shallotte
Dec 1, 2018, 10:00 a.m.

Shallotte’s Christmas Parade is on Saturday, December 1 at 10:00 a.m. The parade starts from the intersection of Main Street & Whiteville Road and ends at the intersection of Main Street & Smith Avenue. The roads close at 8:00 a.m.

Sandy Paws Parade – Holden Beach
Dec 7, 2018, 10:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Celebrate this holiday season with your pup on our pet-friendly beaches! Bring your dog out for a short stroll in the doggie parade and then have a picture made with Santa. The event will begin at Town Hall at 2:00 p.m. on Friday, December 7. Picture opportunities will take place at the Holden Beach Pavilion after the parade.

Southport Christmas Flotilla – Southport
Dec 8, 2018, Approximately 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.

Come and see a holiday parade on the water. Bring a chair and choose your viewing spot along the historic banks of the Cape Fear River. Boats of all sizes (power, paddle, sail) will be dressed in holiday finery. Witness the lights twinkling on the water and lighting up the night sky. Cheer for your favorite boats judged by guest judges, students from the Southport Elementary School Art Class. Come early and enjoy one of the many activities there is to offer in Southport.

southport flotilla

Markets and Festivities

Kick ordinary beach souvenirs to the curb and stop by a local holiday market to find something unique for that special someone. Who knows, you may even discover a little holiday treat for yourself along the way.

Ocean Isle Beach Holiday Market – Ocean Isle Beach
Nov 23, 2018, 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Come on out to the Ocean Isle Beach Holiday Market on November 23 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Over 60 of our area’s finest artisans will participate to create a unique holiday shopping experience. All items for sale will be handmade, homemade or homegrown.

Sunset Beach Waterfront Holiday Market – Sunset Beach
Dec 1, 2018, 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

This holiday market will include a variety of the area’s finest artisans selling their unique handmade, homemade or homegrown items that will make the perfect holiday gift. Pictures with Santa will be available. There will be food trucks, hot chocolate and treats to enjoy as you shop the various vendors. So come, shop, eat and enjoy the start of a wonderful holiday season.

Holiday Craft Market – Oak Island
Dec 1, 2018, 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Find a unique token from the beach to gift to your loved ones this holiday season. This year’s Holiday Craft Market will offer both indoor and outdoor shopping.

Winterfest – Southport
Dec 1, 2018 – Dec 9, 2018, Daytime and Nighttime Holiday Events

Kick off the holiday season with a week of celebration and events throughout the downtown area. Guests of all ages may enjoy live theater, a WinterFest Tea Party, cookie contest, supper with Santa’s elves, a viewing of the Polar Expressa costumed history tour, Christmas fire engine parade, Winter Craft Festival, book sale, performing arts, Santa’s workshop, historic jail tour, Christmas Tour of Homes, and to wrap up the week with the Christmas Flotilla.

Shallotte Christmas Village – Shallotte
Dec 15, 2018, 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

The Shallotte Christmas Village will take place on Saturday, December 15 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in Mulberry Park. Local farmers and vendors will be in attendance.

merry christmas

This winter, swap snow for sand and start a new holiday tradition with your family and loved ones at North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. For a full list of holiday happenings, please visit ncbrunswick.com/events.

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.

Secrets of the Kindred Spirit Mailbox

Kindred Spirit Mailbox

On a secluded stretch of beach far from the nearest public access point and nestled between sand dunes is an unlikely sight – a mailbox…with a bench next to it. The bench is where you sit to pen your innermost thoughts; the mailbox is where you place the journal when you are done. More than just a receptacle for pieces of paper, the Kindred Spirit Mailbox on Bird Island holds the wishes, thoughts, prayers and dreams of those who walk the 30 minutes to share and bare their soul and draw comfort from the act of doing so while enjoying the soothing sounds and sights of undeveloped beach, ocean and horizon.

This mysterious mailbox is the inspiration behind Nicholas Sparks’ latest novel Every Breath. Sunset Beach and the Kindred Spirit Mailbox feature heavily in the novel.

To learn the secrets behind the Kindred Spirit Mailbox view this brief CBS news clip.

The serene walk from the last public access on Sunset Beach to Bird Island and the Kindred Spirit Mailbox will be sure to give you time to reconnect with self and spirit. Are you willing to share your deepest thoughts?

Insider Tip: The trip to Kindred Spirit is two miles roundtrip. Save more time for writing and reading and rent a bike on Sunset Beach for the journey.

Learn more about NC’s Brunswick Islands, home of Bird Island and the Kindred Spirit Mailbox at www.ncbrunswick.com.