Oak Island is a part of the Brunswick Islands, found along the southern edge of the North Carolina coast between Wilmington and Myrtle Beach. While the area has a long and rich history, the city’s story only stretches back to 1990 when two towns merged to form the seaside town. No matter what you call it, the beaches and scenery are top notch on Oak Island.
With ten miles of unspoiled Oak Island beaches, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to leave behind the hassle of the everyday world. Along the way, there are more than 60 public access points, making it easy to find a parking spot and a starting point for your beach adventure. You’ll also find two fishing piers and marinas at different points along the beach, along with three boat launches.
No matter which spot you choose, chances are good you’ll be able to spot the Oak Island Lighthouse. Built in 1958, the lighthouse towers 169 feet from sand to sky. Its light, which blinks every ten seconds, can be seen some 25 nautical miles away on the waters of the Atlantic. In the summertime, volunteers from the local friends organization offer tours. All year round, visitors can make appointments to climb to the top, provided volunteers can be there and that visitors can handle the narrow stairs.
Even if you’re not interested in all those stairs, you likely will be interested in the scenery. The lighthouse looks simply fantastic in photos as does another nearby lighthouse—the Old Baldly Lighthouse. It’s strategically located at the mouth of the Cape Fear River on neighboring Bald Head Island. Lighthouse buffs may want to the trip to the Hatteras Island and Rodanthe, where more lighthouses are open to tour.
Many of the island’s visitors enjoy the scenery from the Oak Island beaches. These wide stretches of sand and gently rolling surf are a natural place for swimming and other typical beach pursuits. Along with sandcastle building and strolling on the beach, island visitors will find a long list of things to do. Recreational trails wind through the island’s wild areas, while a skateboard park is a favorite of young visitors. Plenty of people spend some time off the shore in kayaks and canoes.
Back on land, plenty of people plan time to visit the Oak Island Nature Center, which nicely complements time at the beach. Peeking inside, you’ll find live animals and interesting exhibits that explain the local ecosystem and more about estuaries. Of course, you can see the landscape up close when you hit one of the nature trails that winds around the center or you drop a line off the fishing pier.
While Oak Island is smaller than some of the other barrier islands, like Cape Hatteras or Topsail Island, that doesn’t mean that the community has nothing to offer. Beyond the beach access, the island has plenty of places that can keep your vacation going long after the sun has set. You’ll find plenty of restaurants serving up snacks, seafood, or other treats. The island also offers its share of charming boutiques and shops that aren’t found anywhere else.
If you’ve had a late night or you want to get an early jump on the beach the next morning, it makes sense to spend the night. In and around the island, there are a number of hotels and motor inns offer standard style accommodations. Beach rentals and condo options are another option for overnight accommodations on this charming island.