There are plenty of places to set up your beach chair during a trip to North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, but for those looking for that perfect nostalgic oceanside vacation with plenty of outdoor activities to fill the days, there is no better destination than Oak Island. Comprised of the town of Oak Island and the town of Caswell Beach, Oak Island is a scenic retreat from the hustle and bustle of daily life and the largest and longest of the five barrier islands that comprise North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. Since the 1930s, Oak Island has welcomed visitors looking for an idyllic vacation at the beach, as well as adventurers looking to explore the island’s unique natural wonders.

A Picture-Perfect Beach Getaway

Of course, the most popular activity in NC’s Brunswick Islands is lounging on the pristine beaches, and Caswell Beach and Oak Island are no exception. The beaches of Oak Island are a great spot to relax with your favorite beach read, take a long walk, or simply sit back and enjoy the soundtrack of crashing waves. You can even use your peaceful walk along the beach as a chance to discover some of the stunning shells on Oak Island. The Brunswick Islands’ location on the Atlantic Coast gives the shoreline an abundance of diverse shells just waiting to be found.

Oak Island is super pet friendly! Pets are welcome on leashes all year long on Oak Island beaches as well as off-leash from October 15 to March 15, so you can bring your four-legged fur-babies along to take part in the fun. 

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Inland Fun on Oak Island

For those looking to explore the off-beach offerings of Oak Island, the Oak Island Nature Center (open April to September) is a perfect spot for adults and children alike to learn about the diverse salt marsh ecosystem that can be found in the area. The park features plenty of activities and exhibits including a Talking Trees Walking Trail, fossil exhibits, animal displays, binoculars, and fishing T-dock and floating dock. 

A visit to the Oak Island Lighthouse is an essential addition to any Oak Island itinerary. Completed in 1958 on Caswell Beach, the Oak Island Lighthouse was the last lighthouse in North Carolina to be constructed, giving the Brunswick Islands the unique distinction of being home to the oldest lighthouse, Old Baldy, and the newest in North Carolina. Visitors ages 9 and older can take a guided tour to the top of the lighthouse all year long and experience the stunning, panoramic views from the balcony. Manned by volunteers, be sure to check online to make an appointment to climb the 131 ship ladder steps to the outside balcony for views of Southport, the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean.

For history buffs and shopaholics, the nearby town of Southport offers an experience like no other. Named one of the “Best Coastal Small Towns” by USA Today, Southport is home to a charming downtown area lined with locally owned shops and art galleries, as well as several history museums including the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport, Fort Johnston Southport Museum and Visitor Center, and the Old Brunswick County Jail Museum. For anyone visiting NC’s Brunswick Islands, Southport is a must-visit. 

Oak Island Lighthouse

Take to the Seas

Oak Island is one of the top fishing locales in the Brunswick Islands, in part due to the Oak Island Pier and the Ocean Crest Pier, both of which can be found on the Atlantic side of the island and are popular fishing spots for locals and visitors alike. There are also several fishing charter companies located on Oak Island that ensure visitors find the best spots in the area for dropping a line and reeling in a great catch for in-shore, near-shore and off-shore fishing!

Oak Island’s unique and diverse ecosystem includes several bodies of water that are ripe for exploration via paddleboard, canoe or kayak, particularly on the island’s west end. The area’s miles of brackish creeks and rivers, salt marshes, and the Intracoastal Waterway all give this unique barrier island its reputation as a paddler’s haven. The natural surroundings of the waterways also give explorers the opportunity to glimpse some of the wildlife that can be found throughout the area like osprey, eagles, and even white-tailed deer. Visitors can rent equipment on the island, so there’s no need to travel with gear in order to experience the area’s amazing paddling opportunities.

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Refuel After Exploring

Nothing is better after a day of exploring than refueling with a delicious meal, and Oak Island has plenty of places to choose from. The island is home to a variety of cuisines – from fresh seafood to tasty Southern barbecue– so everyone in your group will find something to suit their palate.  

This is just a sampling of the adventures that await in Oak Island and Caswell Beach. For more information on what to see and do in Oak Island and the rest of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, please visit www.ncbrunswick.com