Holden Beach (How To Enjoy The Family Beach Of North Carolina)

Last Updated on July 22, 2021

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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 (Beach, Restaurants, Fishing)
  • 7 Nearby Places (Brunswick County, Lake Waccamaw, Wilmington)

This post is part of our series on the best things to do in North Carolina, including the best beaches and more in Eastern North Carolina.

Holden Beach Fun Facts

Holden Beach North Carolina bridge
  • Holden Beach was originally established and developed as a plantation by the Holden family in 1756.
  • Thanks to its 9 miles of oceanfront, this is the longest and largest island in the South Brunswick Islands group.
  • 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.

Things to Do

Bring Your Family, Friends, or Fly Solo

Whether you travel with your friends, family, or just yourself, Holden Beach is the perfect place to kick back and relax. 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.

Hang Out at the Beach

Beautiful Holden Beach North Carolina

There are 23 public access points to the beach, with a few private accesses 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.

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.

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.

The Holden Beach Fishing Pier

The accessible Holden Beach Pier looks friendly from the beach but is a great place to get closer to the beach’s action, especially if you came to fish.

Spectators pay $1 to walk the pier, and you can pay $9 to fish. They sell permits (daily, seasonal, and three-day) as well as live bait.

Stroll around the beach gift shop and grab food from the grill and snack counter. If fishing, note that the owners of the fishing pier prohibit the use of nets. Alcohol is also prohibited at the Holden Beach Fishing Pier.

Go For a Run or Bike Ride

Holden Beach Bike Riding

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

Holden Beach Intracoastal Waterway

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 accesses 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!

Castaways Holden Beach

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!

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.

Nearby Places

Whether you’re enjoying a lengthy stay at Holden Beach or spending just a weekend here, don’t forget that there quite a few places nearby to explore. Each of the following 7 locations is within a one-hour drive and offer a mix of food, outdoor options, and even more beaches.

Supply

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 offseason.

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.

Calabash

Calabash NC Seafood

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

Shagger Jacks things to do near Oak Island Lighthouse

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 far at Shagger Jacks and then check out the N 42 Street Beach Access where there is a splash pad and playground.

Oak Island Lighthouse how to see

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.

Southport

Southport North Carolina

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.

Bald Head Island

Old Baldy 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 minutes’ 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, including Kent Mitchell, on the island.

Lake Waccamaw State Park

Lake Waccamaw State Park in Southeastern NC

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!

Wilmington

Wilmington NC Riverwalk

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, the 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!

More Things to Do in Eastern North Carolina

2 thoughts on “Holden Beach (How To Enjoy 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!

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply

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