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14 Things to Do in Holden Beach and Nearby (The Family Beach Of North Carolina)

Published by Carl Hedinger. Last Updated on June 22, 2024.

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Thinking about visiting Holden Beach, North Carolina?

When you first cross the Holden Beach Bridge, it may feel like you’re returning home, even if you don’t live there. With cozy houses lining the one main road and all the side streets, this community feels like one big neighborhood full of friends and families.

We’re absolutely hooked on this Brunswick County town and can’t wait to share more with you about North Carolina’s “family beach.” In this guide, we’ll list our favorite things to do in Holden Beach, nearby areas, and more!

Here’s how we’ve organized this guide, in case you’re looking for something specific:

  • 7 Fun Facts about Holden Beach (Geography, History, and More)
  • 7 of the Best Things to Do in Holden Beach (The Beach, Restaurants, Fishing)
  • 7 Things to Do Nearby (Brunswick County, Lake Waccamaw, Wilmington)

Read More: 20+ of the Best Beaches in North Carolina (+ Our Personal Tips)

Holden Beach Fun Facts

a small inlet near Holden Beach with personal docks and a jet skier cruising down the river
  • Holden Beach was originally established and developed as a plantation by the Holden family in 1756.
  • Holden Beach lies between Oak Island and Ocean Isle Beach. It’s also about 45 minutes west of Wilmington and an hour east of Myrtle Beach. It’s far enough away from the two to be a peaceful haven but close enough for a city day trip.
  • This barrier island is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the south, the Intracoastal Waterway to the north, Lockwoods Folly Inlet to the east, and Shallotte Inlet to the west.
  • Roughly 900 residents call Holden Beach home. During the warmer, busier months, it’s estimated that the town’s population swells to about 10,000.
  • Holden Beach’s motto is “The Family Beach,” which is a truly perfect way to describe this wonderful place.
  • Holden Beach is also a breeding ground for sea turtles. Between May and October, residents can witness “hatching season,” where hundreds of small sea turtles march to the ocean.

Read More: The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center (History + How to Visit)

Public Parking Info

If you’re not staying at Holden Beach, there’s parking available at the following locations:

  • 131 Jordan Blvd and 172 State Rd 1116 near the bridge.
  • 220 Ocean Blvd E, 250 State Rd 1116, 317 Ocean Blvd E, and 343 Ocean Blvd E at the island’s eastern end.

With the massive number of day-trippers who venture to Holden Beach each day during peak season, I’d recommend arriving as early as possible to guarantee yourself a spot.

Read More: 30+ Amazing NC Coastal Towns (+ Things to Do in Each One!)

Things to Do in Holden Beach NC

If you’re planning a beach vacation in North Carolina, you might be wondering what to do in Holden Beach. Here are a few of our favorite ways to spend time at NC’s best Family Beach

Fly Kites at Holden Beach

Whether you travel with your friends, family, or just yourself, Holden Beach is the perfect place to kick back and relax. We personally love to bring our kites to the beach because there is a lot of empty space!

Known as “The Family Beach,” the town’s mostly residential makeup is what keeps people coming back, even if they don’t own property here.

There’s only one main road in town (Ocean Blvd), with houses lining it and the side streets throughout.

Read More: Eastern North Carolina (and 100+ Awesome Places to Visit)

Hang Out at the Beach

the surf and waves crashing on the shore of Holden Beach

There are 23 public access points to the beach, with a few private access points scattered along the island’s western end. If you’re staying at Holden Beach, there will almost certainly be a public beach access near your house or rental property.

Bring a picnic blanket, a book, a kite, and your favorite sand toys for a day of beach fun. Be aware that no glass is allowed on the beach. If you forgot anything, the Holden Beach General Store has shelves stocked with pretty much anything you’d need, especially for the beach.

Keep an eye out for birds as they hunt for fish in the water. We mentioned sea turtles, but we’ve also seen dolphins on our visits here.

Read More: 50+ Easy Day Trips from Fayetteville (Great Getaways!)


Holden Beach has a lot of great opportunities for boating on the Intracoastal Waterway side, with plenty of creeks, canals, wetlands, rivers, and estuaries to explore.

You can go fishing (NC license required), find a spot to chill for the day, or ride around and admire the scenery.

One of our all-time favorite things to do in Holden Beach is to rent jet skis and zoom along the Intracoastal Waterway. Holden Beach Jet Ski (1305 Cedar Landing Road Southwest, Supply, NC) is the company we’ve used, and they’re great for any level of rider, including beginners.

Read More: 100+ Unique Things to Do In North Carolina (Your NC Bucket List)

Run or Bike Along Ocean Blvd

our daughter getting on her bike in front of some vacation homes in North Carolina

Walkers and joggers can soak in the refreshing vibe of Ocean Blvd with the many sidewalks here. You can always take walks on the beach or run alongside it, too.

For those with bikes, hop onto Ocean Blvd or the side streets for a look at the Intracoastal Waterway side of Holden Beach. If you have fat tires made for the sand or an electric bike, you can also ride on the beach.

The “Olden” Holden Bike Tour

a small speedboat cruising along the river near Holden Beach

The numbered “Olden” Holden Bike Tour leads you to 23 stops of scenic and historical significance. Within this tour, three different routes have been mapped out, including the following:

  • The Pink Route (3.5-mile loop): This section is on the east end of the island and includes many of the tour’s historic spots.
  • The Blue Route (5-mile loop): This scenic loop runs through the middle of Holden Beach, with views of the waterway and marshlands.
  • The Orange Route (10-mile loop): Holden Beach’s west end is on display along this bike tour. You’ll pass scenic parks, fishing spots, and bicycle access to the beach.

Holden Beach Restaurants (for Seafood and Land-lovers’ Food)

You’ll likely enjoy many of your meals at home, but there are some great Holden Beach restaurants worth mentioning, too. Two great dining options are Dock House Seafood by the Intracoastal Waterway and Castaways by the bridge.

If you’d like a sweet treat, then Sunset Slush is delicious! Our recommendation is to get a chocolate-chocolate gelati (half Blue Bell ice cream and half chocolate gelato!).

If you visit during the offseason, many of the restaurants in Holden Beach will be closed. Luckily, you can drive over the bridge into Supply and find some lovely places to eat. Make sure to check out Beaches and Cream for house-made ice cream and a fun vibe!

the dining area from Surfer's cafe with a man sitting at the bar area and a rustic atmosphere

Surfer’s Cafe (great burgers!) and the Hot Buffalo (delicious wings!) are two options we always come back to whenever we’re in the area. Stay tuned as we continue eating our way through Holden Beach and its surroundings!

Read More: Excellent Day Trips from Wilmington Within 2 Hours

Ready to Enjoy a Trip to Holden Beach?

We’ve fallen in love with Holden Beach and always look forward to our next family trip out there. If you’ve visited this wonderful spot in Brunswick County, we’d love to know about your experiences here.

In case you’re about to visit, feel free to share your experiences afterward! You can also share photos and videos from your trip in our Facebook Group.

Things to Do Near Holden Beach North Carolina

Whether you’re enjoying a lengthy stay at Holden Beach or spending just a weekend here, don’t forget that there are quite a few places nearby to explore.

Each of the following 7 locations is within a one-hour drive and offers a mix of food, outdoor options, and even more beaches.

We’ve kept the list to only places in North Carolina, but you can also cross state lines to find more things to do. For instance, the distance from North Myrtle Beach to Holden Beach is less than an hour!


Supply is the first and last town you’ll meet before and after the Holden Beach Bridge. There are a variety of shops and restaurants here, which come in handy for groceries (Food Lion is here!) and dining options if you visit during the off-season.

It’s also just south of the Green Swamp Preserve, shared by Brunswick and Columbus counties. The Venus flytrap is native to this preserve, along with other unique and endangered species.


fried seafood and fries from Calabash Restaurant

About 40 minutes west of Holden Beach is Calabash, located at the southeast edge of the state. Its signature style of fried seafood has been drawing folks from all over for a long time.

We’ve found that Captain Nance’s has some of the best seafood we’ve ever had, but the Dockside Seafood House next door is another great option.

Oak Island

a couple of tacos and side of rice & black beans with a cup of soda

If you’re craving a new beach, check out Oak Island. This area offers beautiful views accessible from the Point on the west end. A couple of nice piers await in the center.

Have fresh island-inspired fare at Shagger Jacks, and then check out the N 42 Street Beach Access, where there is a splash pad and playground.

a distant view of a lighthouse with surrounding vacation homes and buildings

For sweeping views of Caswell Beach and Bald Head Island, make advanced reservations to visit Oak Island Lighthouse. If you can’t go up, the lighthouse is cool enough to stare up at on its own.

Read More: 7 Awesome Coastal NC Lighthouses (+ How to Visit Them All!)


a long pier stretching out into the ocean with a rocky shoreline

Southport is the home of North Carolina’s Fourth of July Festival and has also served as the backdrop for quite a few TV shows and films.

You can hang out by the waterfront all day long and visit one of the North Carolina Maritime Museum locations. Find a chair to sit in front of Fort Johnston or the nearby park and enjoy the water and surrounding islands’ beautiful views.

Speaking of which, Southport is where you go to reach Bald Head Island via ferry.

Read More: The NC Museum of History in Raleigh (+7 Things We Love About It!)

Bald Head Island

a lighthouse among the trees on Bald Head Island

Take the ferry from Southport to Bald Head Island, and you might never want to return. There are so many incredible locations on this island, with Old Baldy Lighthouse only a 5 to 10-minute walk from the ferry.

Of course, you’ll have plenty of time if you’re lucky enough to have a house or rental here. Along with beautiful beaches, you can enjoy the many nature trails on the island, including Kent Mitchell.

Read More: 8 Beautiful Brunswick County Beaches to Explore

Lake Waccamaw State Park

a small dock on Lake Waccamaw in North Carolina

Lake Waccamaw, one of our favorite outdoor spots in Eastern North Carolina, sits about 45 minutes north of Holden Beach. A Columbus County attraction, Lake Waccamaw State Park sits along the largest of North Carolina’s bays.

The park’s easy walking trails will lead you to gorgeous overlooks and rare plant life, including the infamous Venus flytrap!

Read More: Visiting Airlie Gardens in Wilmington (+ 10 Things We Love!)


a group of people walking along a boardwalk near Holden Beach

Holden Beach is about 50 minutes to one hour away from Wilmington. In case you’re unfamiliar with our Port City, Wilmington is the largest city in the nearby vicinity of Holden Beach.

Wilmington is known for family-friendly fun, fantastic beaches within a short drive, great food, and amazing breweries. No matter when you visit, there are always fun things to do in Wilmington and its surroundings!

Read More: Carolina Beach State Park (and 7 Great Things to Do There!)

More Things to Do in Holden Beach and Nearby (NC Travel Guides)

We’ve featured these things to do in Holden Beach (and nearby) in many of our NC Travel Guides. Here are a few of them.

12 thoughts on “14 Things to Do in Holden Beach and Nearby (The Family Beach Of North Carolina)”

  1. Holden is a most special beach town. I do wish it had not gotten so built up over the years, but it still has a small town atmosphere, thank goodness. I began going when I was 15, owned a house there for 35 years(Porpoise Point 587 OBW) loved every day there. Miss it already now that we sold this spring, but at 70, it is a long haul from Asheville.

    Happy summer everybody!

    • Thanks for sharing, Cynthia. Hope you can make it back sometime. I find it among the quietest of our beach towns and hope to keep coming back.

    • You are so right Cynthia about how fantastic and beautiful Holden Beach is! My cousin got married there last summer at this amazing house called Southern Charm on the west end of the beach where all the really big houses sit behind a private gate. I thought what I saw so far, but this end of the island blew me away! I hope one day I will be able to buy a house in HB!

  2. Hi. After 20 plus years I sold my home on Holden Beach, 237 OBE, and moved to KY. It’s beautiful here but Holden will always be my special place. Beautiful memories.

    • Helen,
      My family and I have taken many vacations to Holden Beach. A very lovable vacation town. We are from the capital city of Kentucky, Frankfort. I am not a cold weather person, therefore if I could, I would stay on Holden Beach permanently, if possible. We love the family vibes and the one on one this community offers. We will definitely be returning.

  3. My family and I have been vac in oak island for 21 years and we love it, though I am a winter person I have decided when time comes to retire in ten years oak island will be the place for my wife and I to live out the rest of our lives . For you see Oak island is our home away from home a place where we find peace and comfort each time we visit.

  4. The first time I ever “Heard” the ocean was when I was in 9th grade.. I was part of church group kids going for the week at Fort Caswell…the barracks were full so we stayed in house on Long Beach. We arrived way after dark.. I’ll never forget hearing the Vastness of something I couldn’t wait to see. Million dollar memory to this day. I’m 61 and originally from Mitchell County, N. C. Born a stump jumper with salt water in my veins. Still longing to forever return.

  5. Holden Beach is our home away from home too. I dont like that it has grown up into what it is today. It was nice having this gem of a beach town to “ourselves “. During peak season it’s hard for long time and short time residents to find a park spot or even enjoy a nice stroll on the beach without stepping on other people. Dont get me wrong, I’m glad people from all over enjoy Holden, but theres other nice family beaches too. Go find them! Lol.

  6. I did not see Fort Fisher and the aquarium mentioned. We take a Holden Beach day to visit and it’s fun to ride the ferry from Southport.

  7. I recently purchased a home in Holden Beach after doing tons of research on the Brunswick Islands in North Carolina (Ocean Isle, Oak Island and Caswell Beach.). I picked Holden Beach over the other islands because the water was the cleanest and prettiest, the overall look of the island is more pleasing and because it gets less traffic than the other, more well known islands. It had a very family-friendly environment, it has retained much of its old-beach charm and was close to many major areas like Myrtle Beach, Wilmington and my favorite, Southport, NC for day trips. No regrets here!


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