Oak Island is home to just under 8000 people and is a small, quaint seaside town, found on the coast of North Carolina, in Brunswick County. It is connected to the mainland by the island’s bridge to the north. Oak Island may not be North Carolina’s most popular beach destination but it is wonderfully quiet and has a great community feel. If you’re looking for a real American town with good beaches and some good seafood to match then Oak Island is the place to go.
You may think that this little town is sleepy and sedate with little action, but you’d be wrong! There are a great many things to do in Oak Island and the surrounding areas! Oak Island is just a short, one hour drive to world famous Myrtle Beach, in South Carolina. Hop onto the 211 Interstate and you’ll be there in no time at all!
1. Oak Island Light
The Oak Island Light is the most iconic landmark of Oak Island and raises high into the sky, piercing through the Oak Island landscape. It is the most newly constructed of all the lighthouses around Oak Island and certainly stands most proudly. The tower is not painted the traditional red and white of a lighthouse, but instead in hues of grey, so on a foggy day, the Oak Island Light blends right in!
The wooden boarded walkway talks you right beneath the Oak Island Light. From this angle, you can look up and take in its magnitude! The Oak Island Light can be found at Caswell Beach.
Oak Island Light
Address: Oak Island, Cape Fear River, North Carolina
Website: Oak Island Light
2. Ocean Crest Fishing Pier
The Ocean Crest Fishing Pier is Oak Island’s premier fishing pier. Loved by seasoned and weathered fishermen, along with the children who like to fish off the pier at weekends, no trip to Oak Island would be complete without a visit to Ocean Crest Fishing Pier. The pier looks especially lovely during a midsummer sunset!
The Ocean Crest Fishing Pier is proud to be the longest fishing pier on the Southern Cape Fear Coast. It has produced some impressive catches over the years, including Spanish Mackerel and King Mackerel too! The pier has a really friendly atmosphere and is a great way to meet local people too!
Ocean Crest Fishing Pier
Address: 1409 E Beach Dr, Oak Island, NC 28465
Website: Ocean Crest Fishing Pier
3. Oak Island Beaches
Oak Island has some lovely little beaches that are true, hidden gems of North Carolina. Whether you head to the beach as a family with a picnic or with your partner for a romantic stroll, you will not be disappointed. The beaches of Oak Island are virtually litter free, for the local people are very proud of their environment.
The most popular beach is Caswell Beach, very close to the Oak Island Light. Caswell Beach is also close to Oak Island Golf Club that boasts a full 18-hole course. Since the 1990s, the community has invested a lot into protecting the beach as coastal erosion became a big issue.
Address: Caswell Beach, Oak Island, 28465, NC
Website: Caswell Beach
4. Stand Up Paddleboarding and Jet Skiing
Carolina Waters Sports, in Oak Island, offers a great way to explore Oak Island and get out on the water! There’s nothing like the sea breeze to help you get a good night’s sleep, either! There are a wide range of water sports on offer here, including stand up paddle boarding, which is fast becoming their most popular activity!
For the true adrenaline junkies amongst you, hire a jet ski and tear up the water, leaving more than just little ripples in your wake! You can rent a jet ski for half an hour, an hour or even two hours; likewise with the stand up paddle boards. Carolina Water Sports provides you with all the safety equipment you may need!
Stand Up Paddleboarding
Address: 5710, 57th Place West, Oak Island, NC 28465
Website: Stand Up Paddleboarding
5. Helicopter Tours
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
Once you have explored Oak Island on the ground, it’s time to head to the skies and see the island from a different angle - the hawk-eye angle! High Tide Helicopter tours are the most reputable way to see Oak Island from above. You can even learn to fly a helicopter, if you’re feeling really daring!
The tours last for up to 90 minutes and each aircraft can hold up to three guests, plus the pilot. If you love seeing geography in action then opt for the ‘Beach Lovers’ tour, which offers amazing views of the coast. The ‘Lighthouse Tour’ takes you over North Carolina’s oldest and best lighthouses, on a short but sweet 15-minute adventure.
Address: Cape Fear Regional Jetport - Oak Island, NC
Website: Helicopter Tours
6. Oak Island Fishing Charters
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
Oak Island Fishing Charters is another great way to see as much of Oak Island as possible, including its surrounding waters, and understand the importance of fishing in this small port town. Oak Island Fishing Charters runs private and group fishing expeditions, throughout the year. You can opt for an offshore trip, that takes you far from land or a near shore trip, that keeps you close to the coastline.
On an offshore trip, you can expect to catch Wahoo, Mahi-Mahi and Groupers - if you’re lucky, Snappers and Amberjacks too! Oak Island Fishing Charters are proud to offer a custom experience, so, although their trip usually lasts 7-10 hours, you can arrange an hourly rate for shorter trips. If you’re travelling with children, think about booking one of their ‘Kids Catch’ trips, too!
Oak Island Fishing Charters
Address: Oak Island, NC 28465
Website: Oak Island Fishing Charters
7. Oak Island Pier
Oak Island Pier is more of a photo opportunity than a real day-long trip. It is nice to visit Oak Island Pier to get a sense of the industrious fishing port that it once was. Although the pier no longer functions at full capacity, the Flying Fish Cafe is still open daily for main meals and snacks. A great spot to breathe in some fresh sea air and just relax!
Oak Island Pier Restaurant
Address: 705 Ocean Dr, Oak Island, NC 28465
Website: Oak Island Pier
8. Hunt down something whimsical or collectible at The Hoarders
Browsing for gifts and collectibles is so much fun and The Hoarders is an ideal venue to satisfy your curiosity. Whether you enjoy metal sculpture, art, or antiques, the large collection should keep you engrossed for hours. Unique items are stacked everywhere and some of them you may not have ever seen before. If you have a good time there, check back again as they often restock items.
The shop is not one of those second-hand places full of old junk and you’re likely to find something to treasure. It’s usefully located next door to an ice cream shop.
Address: 8600 E Oak Island Dr, Suite 5, Oak Island, NC 28465-8068
Website: The Hoarders
9. Discover a hidden gem at the Environmental Overlook Trail
The Environmental Overlook Trail may be passed over as it’s hidden away at the end of 31st Steet behind the Recreation Center at the base of the water tower. The trail allows you to cross the Davis Canal from the Oak Island Drive. Walk into nature in a natural swamp area where you will spot birds and wildlife. Take a half hour stroll across boardwalk bridges. Pass through a wooded area and reach the wooden bridge over Davis Canal. Look out for herons, egrets, and loons. From there, it’s just a short walk to the beach.
Environmental Overlook Trail
Address: 100 Caswell Beach Rd, Oak Island, NC 28465-8439
10. Bask in the Ingram Planetarium's amazing exhibit
Discovering new things about science and seeing local science exhibits is a great way to spend the day with your kids when visiting Sunset Beach. The Ingram Planetarium was built back in 2002 inspired by Stuart Ingram’s fascination for the night sky and its nightly bodies. Today, it’s a center for learning and discovery, with the Paul Dennis Science Hall, Sky Theatre Library, and programs like laser light and music shows are visited by several tourists from various parts of the world. This is a must-see when traveling with kids as it has an incredible array of activities and shows to come to see inside the planetarium itself. Free admission to members of the planetarium itself, where guests can gain more knowledge and fun facts on the earth, sun, and moon, as well as the geological history of the world from the times of Pangea to many other historic evolutions people of science, are fascinated with.
Address: Ingram Planetarium, 7625 High Market Street, Sunset Beach, NC 28468
Website: Ingram Planetarium
Opening hours: 11:30 am to 4 pm, Thurs-Fri; 10:30 am to 4pm; Sat
Price: 9.50 USD (adults); 7.50 USD (children 3-12 yearsold)
All about Oak Island
Oak Island is certainly worth a day trip if you are staying in the bigger and busier Myrtle Beach, just over the state border. It’s safe to say that there are plenty of ways to explore Oak lsland, whether on foot, by boat or high in the skies above!
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Frequently asked questions about best things to do in Oak Island, NC
1. What are the top attractions to visit in Oak Island?
There are plenty of beautiful points of interest in Oak Island, but if you have limited time and only want to visit the best, then you should see Oak Island Lighthouse, Ocean Crest Fishing Pier, and the Oak Island beaches.
2. What are the best outdoor activities in Oak Island?
For Oak Island is boasting of many beautiful beaches, many of its must-try outdoor activities are watersports, including jet skiing and stand-up paddleboarding with the help of Carolina Waters Sports, fishing at Ocean Crest Fishing Pier, and swimming at Caswell Beach. If you’re tired of the waters, you can join a helicopter tour or explore the Environmental Overlook Trail.
3. What are the most popular things to do in Oak Island with kids?
One of the best things to do with your child that both of you will surely enjoy is joining a fishing trip for kids offered by Oak Island Fishing Charters. Other kid-friendly activities you can try here include exploring the Ingram Planetarium, picnicking at Casswell Beach, and wildlife sightseeing at Environmental Overlook Trail.
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