in the southernmost corner of North Carolina is one of the South’s best kept secrets. There is definitely delightful life between the more well-known Wilmington and livelier, busy Myrtle Beach, and here it is serene and scenic. From the Cape Fear River, reaching down to the South Carolina border, North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands beckons softly. Five barrier islands – Sunset Beach, Ocean Isle Beach, Holden Beach, Oak Island and Bald Head Island – shelter the coast from the Atlantic and provide 45 miles of wide, stunning beaches. Picturesque Southern towns like Southport, Calabash, Shallotte and Leland draw visitors with family-owned, one-of-a-kind restaurants, galleries and shops. Adding a temperate climate ideal for year-round sports, dining, tournaments and festivals along with fun forts, lighthouses and historic architecture, the stage is set for a perfect coastal getaway. Toss in boating, fishing and golfing, and the trip is instantly reminiscent of yesteryear’s beach vacation. Families fall so in love with North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands that they return year after year, generation after generation.

The six wide, uncrowded beaches on the barrier islands of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands are a haven far away from high-rise condominiums, hotels and overdevelopment. It’s hard to pick a favorite. Here there are beaches for families, reunions, small children, surfers, nature adventure, girlfriends and golf getaways. Several beaches have received accolades by the renowned “Dr. Beach,” a local television station’s viewers, by readers of National Geographic Traveler and USA today. Here you can still find deer roaming the dunes, and the old-time fishing piers and public access points so rare these days. With the exception of Bald Head Island, the beaches of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands wind east-west, providing spectacular sunrises and sunsets several months of the year.

With its dramatic views of the Cape Fear River, ancient live oaks drizzled with Spanish moss, and Victorian homes on flower-edged lanes, the picture-perfect village of Southport charms residents, visitors and even Hollywood. The rich history of Native Americans, pirates, Revolutionary War and blockade runners makes the town, so full of southern coastal appeal, one of the loveliest on the Atlantic coast. Brimming with antique stores, cafes offering locally caught seafood, and unusual boutiques and shops, it’s a Norman Rockwell painting come to life. The extraordinary waterfront and early 19th century architecture also draws Hollywood and the television industry. More than 40 productions have filmed here, most recently “Safe Haven” and “Under the Dome.” Design your own walking tour or contact The Adventure Company, Southport Tours, Southport Fun Tours or Old South Tour Company.

Numerous annual events invite exploration of the sights, sounds and flavors of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands.

  • Days at the Docks – April
  • Southport Spring Festival – April
  • NC Fourth of July Festival – July
  • Southport Wooden Boat Show – September
  • NC Oyster Festival – October
  • NC Festival by the Sea – October
  • Annual U.S. Open King Mackerel Tournament – October
  • Holiday Flotillas and Festivals – November and December