If you are dreaming of wide-open beaches, pristine nature, and guilt-free relaxation, North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is the perfect place for your sustainable vacation. From getting your fill of sunshine while riding on two wheels to learning about the invaluable species that call this place home, there is so much to do. Read on for recommendations for the ultimate eco-friendly escape in the Brunswick Islands and what you can do to be a respectful and responsible visitor.

Tandem Kayaking in Intracoastal Waterway

Try a New Form of Transportation:

Leave your car behind and opt for greener transportation options when you arrive. Walk the wide-open shores along any of our 45 miles of beaches or trade four wheels for two and hop on a bike to take in the ocean views. Our charming coastal towns and island side streets are also great places to feel the sun on your back and the salt breeze on your face as you cruise along, but no matter where your two wheels take you there is fun to be had. Feel like taking to the water? Consider a kayak and absorb the peaceful melodies of beautiful marshes and creeks or grab a paddleboard and make your way down the calm Intracoastal Waterway.

Learn About the Locals:

Many incredible plants and animals call the Brunswick Islands home. From majestic sea turtles to busy birds and the endangered Venus-flytrap, learning about these species and their key roles in the diverse ecosystems of the Brunswick Islands is all part of a memorable trip.

A newly-hatched baby sea turtle scurries towards the beach to begin a life in the open ocean

Each year, between May and August, hundreds of loggerhead sea turtles return to our beaches to lay their eggs. Come July, thousands of sea turtle hatchlings begin appearing from their sandy nests to embark on their own long journeys. In accordance with conservation practices the nests are monitored and managed by local sea turtle protection organizations. These groups understand what an extraordinary privilege it is to catch a glimpse of these special creatures, and many offer free “Turtle Talks” during the summer to educate locals and visitors alike on what can be done to protect the endangered loggerhead species.

two children touching starfish in a touchtank

The Museum of Coastal Carolina is also a must-visit for those looking to learn more about creatures that call the waters of the Brunswick Islands home. Located on the island of Ocean Isle Beach, this fun for the whole family museum boasts the Southeast’s largest “dry aquarium” and an impressive collection of marine treasures. They even offer chances for visitors to get up close and touch the likes of sea stars, horseshoe crabs, and sea urchins on select days during their “Touch Tank Feedings.”

If learning about the natural beauty and biomes of the Brunswick Islands by immersion sounds like something you cannot pass up, try hopping on board for a swamp boat tour at The Swamp Park in Ocean Isle Beach. This river tour invites visitors to learn about the region’s natural history and ecological importance while they enjoy floating past ancient trees and listening to the sounds of the swamp.

When your Brunswick Islands adventure puts you back on dry land. Head to Sunset Beach for a guided educational walk to Bird Island hosted by the Bird Island Preservation Society Stewards. This over 1,000-acre reserve, home to the Kindred Spirit Mailbox, is also a sanctuary for many species of birds and is used as an outdoor laboratory for scientists and students to study influences on our coastal ecosystem.

Take to Nature (And Be Respectful):

The Brunswick Islands offer a plethora of eco-friendly activities for every type of outdoor enthusiast. Explore the longleaf pine forest of the Green Swamp Preserve for a look at an insectivorous plant or hike through Boiling Spring Lakes Preserve, a stop along the North Carolina Birding Trail, for the chance to spot any number of bird species. If you are searching for a little more adventure on your nature expenditure, try the 5 miles of marked and maintained mountain bike trails at Brunswick Nature Park. With each of the three paths offering a varying level of difficulty, there is a route to match every kind of rider.

Brunswick Nature Park Biking Trail

With all the fun to be had, it is important to remember how to remain a respectful hiker or biker when visiting these crucial ecosystems.

  • Always remember to take home what you brought with you, including all equipment.
  • Dispose of all your waste, including your pet’s, in dedicated bins, or bring your own bag in case one is not available on site.
  • Watch where you walk and stick to marked pathways to prevent disturbing the environment and the plants and animals who call it home.

It wouldn’t be an outdoor adventure in the Brunswick Islands without a little sand and surf, but before heading out to soak up the sunshine there are a couple things to keep in mind.

  • As you make your way to the ocean, stick to marked beach accesses and do not climb on the sand dunes.
  • Clean up your site before leaving, including all waste, and fill in any holes left in the sand.
  • Dispose of waste in dedicated bins or bring your own trash bag in case bins are not available on the beach.
  • Opt for reef-safe mineral sunscreens to protect your skin without harming fragile coral ecosystems.
  • While they may be eyeing that picnic you brought along, avoid feeding the birds. This alters their natural behavior and puts them at risk.
  • Before taking any shells from the beach make sure they aren’t someone’s home and return them to the surf if you notice an occupant.

By doing your part you are ensuring the health and safety of yourself and the creatures you come across. 

woman walking dog in the surf

If Fido is joining the family remember to pick up after him and keep an eye on him. During nesting season, nesting shore birds lay their eggs directly on the sand making them hard to spot and easy to step on. Many species of migratory birds also call this area home while storing energy for long trips ahead. Make sure shore birds' nests and migratory birds' stays remain undisturbed by a wandering nose and wagging tail.

Ready to Plan a Trip?

There is an eco-friendly escape awaiting every kind of traveler in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. On behalf of the area’s pristine landscapes and beloved local creatures, thank you for doing your part to ensure the Brunswick Islands remain a place for everyone to enjoy for generations to come. For more information on planning your trip visit: https://www.ncbrunswick.com/.