Published by Carl Hedinger. Last Updated on October 28, 2023.
We’ve been exploring the best Brunswick County beaches along North Carolina‘s southernmost coastline for years. Each patch of sand will transport you from the nine-to-five grind occupying your mind to relaxation and a true getaway.
More than a handful of lovely beaches in Brunswick County await, starting with the immaculate Bald Head Island, just a ferry boat away from Southport. Any of these places is perfect for anything from a short weekend getaway to a weeklong beach vacation—or longer!
Our guide dives into them all and includes the following sections to help you plan:
- Map of Brunswick County Beaches
- Beaches Listed and Descriptions
- More Brunswick County NC Travel Guides
You can skip ahead to any of these sections or visually plan your trip. No matter what, we hope you enjoy your trip to the beautiful beaches in Brunswick County, North Carolina.
Map of Brunswick County Beaches (and More NC Beaches)
You can visually plan your next adventure at these Brunswick County NC beaches with the following maps:
List of Beaches in Brunswick County NC
These Brunswick County beaches are listed from east to west, from Bald Head Island to Sunset Beach near the South Carolina border.
- Bald Head Island Beaches
- South Beach
- East Beach
- Oak Island Beaches
- Caswell Beach
- Long Beach
- The Point
- South Brunswick Islands
- Holden Beach
- Ocean Isle Beach
- Sunset Beach
Bald Head Island Beaches
The state’s oldest lighthouse, nicknamed Old Baldy, stands tall over Bald Head Island, which is accessible via passenger ferry.
Old Baldy’s presence is so iconic to the area because it sticks out of an otherwise natural island. Ten thousand of Bald Head Island’s 12,000 acres are protected nature preserves. That makes for a whole lot of beautiful beachfront.
The ferry departs from Southport at Deep Point Marina. Here are a few things to know about taking the ferry to Bald Head Island:
- Expect to pay $9/day for parking in addition to the ferry.
- Tickets for the ferry are $23 round trip for adults and $12 for children. Tickets are sold on a first-come first-served basis.
- Any luggage you plan to bring with you must be tagged. It is a good idea to list your address on Bald Head Island.
There are plenty of access points and parking spaces next to this oceanfront slice of heaven. If you take the scenic route, the road to this beach can wind through oak trees and cool breezes from the unique canopy climate on the South side of Bald Head.
Once you take the ferry ride, you’ll be getting around via a golf cart. The village takes its car-free pledge so seriously that you cannot drive gas-powered golf carts downtown.
Early islanders were extremely creative with their beach naming. Locals nicknamed Eeery splash of sand after the direction it faces, the two most famous beaches being ‘South’ and ‘East’ beach.
South Beach’s greatest strength is its ease of access to an island without much combustion.
- On the other side of this beach is the Bald Head Woods Maritime Forest Preserve, a collection of oak trees that thrive nearby the coast.
- South Beach’s calm waters are a great spot to get your feet wet and get comfortable with new water sports.
- This beach is the closest stretch of sand to most of Bald Head’s best restaurants and nightlife.
The road ends in a cul-de-sac, and East Beach stretches out with preserved wilderness all the way until Fort Fisher. Spend the day walking along this beach, and eventually, you will come across your own private waterfront.
Buzzard bay lies in wait along the sound side of East Beach. The waters here stay warmer during winter, making them an angler’s paradise. You can wade and play around East Beach year-round, along the shores and in the water.
- The beach goes from Bald Head Island Natural Area through Zeke’s Island Reserve. By the way, you can paddle to Zeke’s Island from Fort Fisher (near Kure Beach and Carolina Beach).
- Buzzard bay stays warm through winter, but East Beach is usually a few degrees colder than the rest of the island.
- Strong winds on East Beach make it a solid kite-surfing destination.
- This part of Bald Head Island is nothing but natural playgrounds.
- The addition of the Shoal’s Club invites a wealth of new activities to this section of the beach.
Oak Island Beaches
Two main bridges onto Oak Island split from NC state highway 211. Swain’s Cut bridge breaks East and West beach road in the south, and the Barbee Bridge marks the end of town in the north.
Both cross over the intercoastal highway, which works with The Cape Fear and Elizabeth rivers to create brackish playgrounds on the island’s backside.
The waterways on the backside of oak island connect naturally with the intercoastal in a maze of great day paddles, and the charming Oak Island ambiance takes care of the rest.
Four-mile Caswell beach is a well-preserved slab of scenic coastland. Most of the area’s action coalesces around the Oak Island Lighthouse, the last beacon built in NC.
The lighthouse’s modernity means there is no long, spiraling staircase to reach the top, instead using 131 steps in the form of ‘ships ladders.’
You don’t need to climb the lighthouse and see for 25 nautical miles to enjoy Caswell’s quiet stretches of sand:
- There are two Public Access points: one on Caswell beach drive with bathrooms and parking and one around the Oak Island Lighthouse.
- Time your trips with turtle season. Volunteers counted almost 10,000 eggs on the Caswell beach shores in 2022.
- A Baptist Assembly accepts reservations for vacationers when not in use, but otherwise, there are only 100 or so vacation homes available for rent, so book early.
- During the off-season, dogs can roam off-leash across the entire beach.
Also known as East Beach, this area has the island’s major grocery stores, restaurants, and places to stay.
The beach starts near the Oak Island Pier. It’s free to access, relatively easy to get to, and open every day of the year, making it a grand old time. From there, the beach stretches south as the Montgomery Slough splits town:
- Middleton Park is home to the Oak Island Farmer’s market. You’ll find more souvenirs and boiled peanuts than fresh fruits and vegetables at this vacationer-friendly tradeshow.
- Halfway down the beach is Ocean Crest Fishing pier, a slightly quieter spot more focused on serious angling.
- If you don’t feel like getting wet, that same body of water is littered with scenic walkways that allow you to roam freely at the water’s edge.
- After the deviation of 1954’s Hurricane Hazel, only five of the 357 buildings in the Long Beach area were left standing. The neighborhood has been built back better and now encompasses the liveliest section of Oak Island.
- Long Beach covers the stretch of land between Caswell Beach and The Point with uniform public access options.
- The Beach Pantry is a charming, locally-owned and operated convenience store that carries a wide range of beach day essentials—and plenty of cold ice.
Long Beach turns slowly into West Beach until Oak Island ends at The Point, also a great spot to end the day. Lockwoods Folly inlet has carved out a unique channel that rises and falls with the tides.
There are several famous ‘points’ along North and South Carolina beaches. This particular inlet doesn’t boast the same shell variety of Emerald Isle’s ‘The Point,’ or the same Eastern-most historical significance as ‘Cape Point,’ but it has charm and offers epic sunset views.
And there’s more to this part of town than solitude and marshland:
- Oak Island is incredibly kayak friendly. A kayak launch in the center of town winds through smooth waters that connect to the Intercoastal Waterway near the Point.
- On the left of the bridge, Oak Island narrows down to one or two vertical blocks between the sound and the coast.
- The only restaurant on this side of the beach is the Lone Rider at Oak Island.
- Bring old shoes to march through the muck of Folly inlet at low tide.
- West Beach’s wooden walkway ends in some of the best views on Oak Island.
South Brunswick Islands NC Beaches
These three beach towns (Holden Beach, Ocean Isle Beach, and Sunset Beach) are the last in Brunswick County and North Carolina. Their proximity to the border helps bring fireworks to your next vacation.
Beaches at this end of the county face more east to west than the vertical orientation you may be used to, inviting more sunshine. Many local vacation rentals feature decks strategically located to bring sunrise and sunset views.
When you’re at Holden Beach, you’re family. This town is proud of its long-term community, and you can feel the familiarity across Ocean Blvd. Make sure you’re driving down with the bike rack or find a vacation home with a few rentals waiting.
The Intracoastal intermingles with Ocean Blvd, forking its way right through the center of town. The water snakes through neighborhoods creating blocks with boat-in and boat-out access to the Intercoastal Waterway.
Holden Beach a quiet town with one general store and a few restaurants, but it’s still a quick drive away from some of the coast’s most beautiful beach towns. You can get to the action quickly when you feel it and still enjoy plenty of privacy.
- Main Street is best explored on a bike or in an early morning stroll before the day’s heat pushes you towards the beach.
- You know you’ve reached the end when you find the Holden Golden Mailboxes.
- The Olden Holden Tour is a bike and walking path best done at golden hour.
- In the South of town is Big Beach, where you might see more baby sea turtles than people depending on the time of year.
- The Holden Fishing Pier sells daily, seasonal, and weekend fishing passes.
Ocean Isle Beach
Things can get groovy at Ocean Isle Beach. Catch free summertime shows on Fridays at The Peggy Hughes Summer Concert Series. Great local food, beach music, and microbrews mix Daylight Savings time to make the days last all night.
You can drift through 23 public beach offerings, find a home that backs up to your entrance, or stay on the sound side, all within a quick bike ride of the action.
Plenty of vacation homes in Ocean Isle also have backyard boat access to Jink’s Creek and the Intracoastal.
- This wonderful small town caters to a mature nightlife that stays family-friendly.
- The shift in geometry around this beach makes the water warmer and the surf calmer.
- Ocean Isle Beach Fishing Pier is one of the oldest in North Carolina, and it’s got soft serve.
- North Carolina Oyster Fest ends the high season at Ocean Isle with an Oster Stew cook-off.
- Spend rainy days wandering the Museum of Coastal Carolina’s historical and living exhibits.
Read More: The NC Tripping Events Calendar
Sunset Beach’s orientation sets it above the crowd. The beach is Brunswick’s most eastern to western shoreline, which is a great spot to beat the county’s sunrise/sunset challenge.
Perhaps you could wait for sunset to brainstorm your contribution to the Kindred Spirit Mailbox. The unique project awaits past Bird Island, accepting anonymous poetry, prose, letters, and confessions for a UNC-Wilmington collection.
Ready to Explore these Brunswick County NC Beaches?
Our personal favorite of these beaches in Brunswick County is always changing. Essentially, it’s whatever beach we’ve been to most recently.
As you’ll see, each of these beaches is special to us. If you’re familiar with the area, which is your favorite and why?
More Things to Do (Beyond Brunswick County Beaches)
We’ve created many more travel guides that include these amazing beaches in Brunswick County. Here are a few of them.