If you’re looking for a beach vacation, there are plenty of options along the East Coast of the United States. When it comes to a beach vacation, many people automatically think of Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. While it’s undoubtedly a popular destination and a fantastic place to visit, there are plenty of other great options. An often-overlooked beach area is the Brunswick Islands of North Carolina.
The Brunswick Islands consist of five barrier islands and six beaches located on the southernmost coast of North Carolina and situated between Myrtle Beach and Wilmington. It is about an hour’s drive from Myrtle Beach.
With 45 miles of wide-open barrier island beaches, North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, with its unspoiled beauty, is a hidden gem among beach destinations.
My husband and I visited in October and found this charming area perfect for a relaxing beach getaway. We fell in love with the quiet, secluded beaches. If you haven’t yet visited this charming coastal area, here are a few reasons to consider the Brunswick Islands in North Carolina for your next beach vacation.
The Brunswick Islands hosted our visit. All opinions are my own.
There Are Beautiful Beaches
Of course, the sand and surf are the main draws of any beach vacation. Brunswick Islands has some of the most beautiful and unspoiled beaches on the East Coast, with miles of pristine shoreline to explore.
I was impressed by the wide beaches; many were flat. As we walked on Sunset Beach, people rode bikes in the sand.
We didn’t fight crowds for a spot along the NC’s Brunswick Islands shore. You will be happy if you’re looking for a quiet spot to relax or catch some waves.
Oak Island Beach was named one of the best beaches in North Carolina by both USA Today’s 10Best and US News & World Report.
If you enjoy searching for shells, Holden Beach is the place to go. We were there at low tide and found many shells and a few sea biscuits.
It’s Quiet and Uncrowded
While some people love the hustle and bustle of neighboring Myrtle Beach, others may find it overwhelming. The Brunswick Islands are a fantastic choice if you’re looking for a quieter, more secluded beach getaway.
Plus, there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking, swimming, fishing, bicycle riding, and kayaking. Without the need to compete with the crowds, you won’t wait in long lines for popular attractions.
The small-town feel and welcoming locals will make you feel right at home. It’s the perfect opportunity to break away from the hustle and bustle of modern life and connect with the beauty of nature.
The Brunswick Islands Are More Affordable
Another great reason to choose the Brunswick Islands over Myrtle Beach is the reduced cost to your wallet. Brunswick Islands offers excellent value for your money with beautiful rental homes, fresh seafood, and local attractions.
There Are Unique Attractions
When you visit Brunswick Islands, you’ll have the chance to explore the local nature reserve areas, the sandy beaches, and the many charming small towns lining the coast.
Kayaking through the salt marshes to spot dolphins and other wildlife, riding the waves, or simply enjoying a sunset walk with the ocean breeze in your hair are just a few of the many activities you can enjoy in Brunswick Islands.
There are also plenty of local shops and restaurants where you can discover delicious, fresh seafood dishes. There are events and festivals throughout the year, offering families and friends plenty to do throughout their stay in Brunswick Islands.
A few can’t-miss attractions include:
Kindred Spirit Mailbox
If you have read Nicholas Spark’s novel Every Breath, you might be familiar with the Kindred Spirit Mailbox, which was his inspiration for the book. The mailbox lies on a secluded stretch of beach in Bird Island, connected to Sunset Beach. In the mailbox are notebooks and pens for visitors to record their thoughts, wishes, dreams, and prayers. People from around the world have visited and left notes.
The walk to the Kindred Spirit Mailbox is over a mile, but it is on a flat sand surface and is worth the trek.
This fishing village is famous for its lightly breaded and fried Calabash-style seafood. (Yes, it was named after the town.)
We enjoyed visiting this little town and ate lunch on the waterfront at Captain Nance’s Seafood. Other recommended places to eat in Calabash include the Waterfront Seafood Shack, and if you are seeking a high-end dining experience, visit the Boundary House.
If you are craving ice cream for dessert, visit the Calabash Creamery, where they make ice cream with only the freshest ingredients.
Silver Coast Winery
The Silver Coast Winery on Ocean Isle Beach offers wines modeled after traditional European styles. They offer daily wine tastings and full tours of the production facility. The winery also features local art and a gift shop.
After touring the facility and checking out the artwork, we enjoyed our tasting on the patio. It was a delightful way to spend the afternoon.
Named one of the “Best Coastal Small Towns” by USA Today and one of “America’s Happiest Seaside Towns” by Coastal Living, Southport is steeped in history and picturesque beauty. This town has appeared in numerous motion pictures and has a long relationship with Hollywood.
Waterfront dining options, great boutique shops, and local galleries dot the waterfront.
We took a two-hour sunset cruise from the Southport Marina with Southport by Seaside Boat Tours when we visited. It was a scenic cruise as we viewed lighthouses, Bald Head Island, various birds, a few dolphins, and a fantastic sunset.
Fantastic Sunrise and Sunset Viewing
The sunrises in the Brunswick Islands are spectacular. I highly recommend waking early to walk on the beach and catch a sunrise.
You can catch beautiful sunsets, too. From some places on the islands, you can see both a sunrise and a sunset over the ocean from late fall until early spring.
Many of the restaurants offer sunset views over the ocean while dining.
If you’re traveling with kids, you’ll appreciate the family-friendly atmosphere of Brunswick Islands. There are plenty of fun things to do, from playing on the beach to exploring local attractions like the NC Maritime Museum and the Museum of Coastal Carolina.
Many of the accommodations are pet-friendly as well.
There’s Great Food
The Brunswick Islands are famous for seafood. From fresh-caught shrimp to delicious seafood platters, you’ll find plenty of options to satisfy your cravings. Many other local dining options exist, from casual beachfront cafes to upscale restaurants with ocean views.
Aside from the Calabash restaurants mentioned previously, we enjoyed a few others: Sharkey’s Restaurant in Ocean Isle, Koko Cabana on the Oak Island Pier, Holden Beach Provision Company, and Fish Fishy Cafe in Southport.
Where to Stay in Brunswick Islands
There are vacation rental properties on all the islands to fit groups and budgets of all sizes.
Hotels are also available. We stayed at the Sunset Inn Bed & Breakfast on Sunset Beach. It is a boutique inn a few blocks from the beach. It is one of two hotels on the island.
Brunswick Islands offers a unique and tranquil experience without sacrificing amenities. The small-town charm, natural attractions, and great value for your money are just a few of the many reasons to choose the Brunswick Islands over more popular destinations like Myrtle Beach. Whether traveling with your family, friends, or partner, you’ll find Brunswick Islands the perfect spot to escape, unwind, and experience the very best of coastal living.