Pristine beaches and amazing, fresh-off-the-coast seafood draw visitors to North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands year-round, and, during fall, the moderate climate and uncrowded shoreline make our five barrier islands and coastal towns the perfect place to spend the holidays. This Thanksgiving, replace roasted turkey with fresh seafood and make new traditions with family and friends. From remarkable waterfront dining to beautiful sunsets over the ocean to a variety of other one-of-a-kind experiences, there are so many reasons to celebrate this Thanksgiving in the Brunswick Islands.  

thanksgiving beach photo

Home Away from Home

The Brunswick Islands offer a wide selection of accommodations with enough space for the entire family to gather. Best of all, the off-season is a great time to take advantage of discounted rates on vacation rentals. Choose from a variety of hotels and inns, bed and breakfasts, or private beachfront rental homes that are ideal for families of all sizes, with spacious kitchens and stunning coastal views. And, when we say the entire family, we mean it! Don't leave your dog at home this holiday. During fall and winter, the Brunswick Islands’ beaches offer relaxed pet regulations, with some even allowing off-leash time. Book a special pet-friendly rental home so your furry friends can tag along and enjoy the holiday by your side.

With the family gathered you’ll have plenty of room on our spacious beaches for fun activities, such as the traditional family football game or sandcastle building. Daily temperatures in the Brunswick Islands average in the high 60s in November, so it's still mild enough to enjoy the outdoors. Whether you reel in a fish, search for washed-up shells, or just sit back and relax to the sound of the sea, you can do it all without breaking a sweat. 

The Perfect Homemade Holiday

The traditional Thanksgiving feast is thought to be oven-roasted turkey surrounded by all the trimmings. What most people don't know is that culinary historians believe that much of the original Thanksgiving meal consisted of seafood. With that in mind, we invite you to dive in and celebrate the holidays as the early settlers did – with an abundance of fresh, local seafood. Don't worry, there is still plenty of roasted turkey, stuffing, squash, and green bean casserole to go around as well!

Get inspired by our area's chefs and restaurants who have shared their favorite ways to enjoy the flavors of the Brunswick Islands with their very own Thanksgiving-inspired menu ideas:

Begin with a first course from one of North Carolina’s first seaport towns, Southport, at the iconic Ports of Call restaurant. Featured on their Thanksgiving Menu, the Pumpkin and Apple Bisque celebrates the flavors of fall by blending pumpkin, cinnamon, and crisp gala apples and then topping it off with candied walnuts and a dollop of crème Fraiche.

From Sunset Beach, turn to the pages of the Old Bridge Historical Society’s cookbook for some favorite local recipes. Oven Fried Scallops and Coconut (un)Fried Shrimp feature the freshest seafood and offer healthier versions of usual deep-fried favorites that are light enough to leave room for helpings of all the scrumptious side dishes!  

Speaking of sides, in Calabash, a town long celebrated for its abundance of seafood restaurants and signature cooking style, The Oyster Rock offers a bountiful dine-in Thanksgiving dinner along the banks of the Calabash River, as well as tasty take-out options. If you are doing the cooking, they graciously shared their secret recipe to make traditional Carolina Oyster & Sausage Cornbread Dressing (Stuffing) at home! Satisfy the Thanksgiving traditionalist with Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Crumbled Bacon from The Purple Onion Cafe in Shallotte. Make it at home or stop by and pick it up as part of a full Thanksgiving feast to-go.

For a crowd-pleasing dish that will steal the show, replace the roast turkey with a Calabash Steam Pot, a low country boil recipe provided by the Waterfront Seafood Shack. Loaded with shrimp, crab, potatoes, corn, and sausage this seafood extravaganza will convert even the hard-core turkey traditionalists in your household.

Every Thanksgiving feast needs the perfect pairing of libations. Choose from award-winning reds, whites, and sparking wines from Silver Coast Winery. Looking to toast the holiday with a cocktail? Shake up a Bridgtini, a popular recipe in the Old Bridge Historical Society’s cookbook, which combines vodka, cranberry juice, peach schnapps, and a dash of bubbly for a festive toast to the holiday season.

Enjoy your peachy beverage with another recipe from the Old Bridge Historical Society’s cookbook and try your hand at a Cranberry Apple Casserole, a delicious seasonal dessert that pairs perfectly with the Calabash Moscato from Silver Coast Winery. Make sure to check the hours for both Silver Coast before heading to pick up libations as hours are likely to change the week of Thanksgiving!

Silver Coast Winery

Dine-in or Takeout on Thanksgiving in the Brunswick Islands

If you’d rather ditch the pots and pans, NC’s Brunswick Islands offers delicious options for a delectable takeout Thanksgiving meal! Traditionally, The Boundary House, Ports of Call, The Oyster Rock, Salt64, The Purple Onion CafeCalabash Deli, Castaway Grill, and Shagger Jacks all either serve, offer to-go, or have catering options for a fabulous Thanksgiving meal without the fuss (check back for updates to this list). There are plenty of options for traditional Thanksgiving fixings of green bean amandine and buttered whole kernel corn, as well as additional options like tangy shrimp skewers and crab dip you can find only in the Brunswick Islands. Anything you get is sure to fill your heart and your stomach over the joyous holiday weekend.

An After-Dinner Adventure

Want to walk off that Thanksgiving feast? There is nowhere better for a stroll than the Brunswick Islands’ 45 miles of pristine beaches, and fall brings with it a special treat. Due to the earth’s rotation and the unique east-west orientation of the Brunswick islands, the sun both sets and rises over the ocean this time of year. This special “fall-nomenon” is a rarity on the East Coast and makes for a beautiful after-meal stroll along the shoreline. And as captivating as the sunset is, don’t forget to look down while out on the beach. The shells are bountiful this time of year, and with moderate water temperatures, you can still stick your toes in the ocean without getting cold before heading back home to hopefully find that someone finished the dishes while you were out.

Sunset at Oak Island

Whether celebrating time-honored holiday traditions or starting new ones, NC’s Brunswick Islands has something special to make your Thanksgiving memorable. For more information on North Carolina's Brunswick Islands and to start planning your next getaway, visit here.