Oak Island: A Hidden Gem in North Carolina


Experience the natural beauty of the North Carolina coast on Oak Island. Located approximately 30 miles south of Wilmington, Oak Island is a south-facing beach that offers fantastic sunrises and sunsets. The uncrowded beaches and rich community make it a perfect place to disconnect from the busyness of everyday life. A family-friendly beach resort with plenty of restaurants, local attractions, events, and outdoor activities, Oak Island, North Carolina, makes the perfect vacation destination.

The local vibe on the island makes it different from other North Carolina beaches, where chain restaurants and hotels are typical. Oak Island has more public beach access areas than any other coastal community in North Carolina. Plenty of parking is available in these areas, and several offer reserved handicap parking and restrooms, water fountains, and showers. Oak Island is a quiet beach town where you can dig your toes into the sand and relax.

Pro Planning Tip: We recommend using Jessica Lieb with ET Family Travel to book your family vacation!

Oak Island Dog Friendly Beach

Where to Stay in Oak Island

You’ll find the perfect accommodations for your family and friends on Oak Island, including vacation rentals, hotels, motels, and inns. There is no shortage of comfortable accommodations, so your dream vacation can begin as soon as you arrive. The Beach House at Oak Island is an affordable boutique motel on Ocean Drive, giving you easy access to the beach and within walking distance of the Oak Island Pier. The Beach House at Oak Island has 22 units, including ten double-occupancy motel rooms, twelve one- and two-bedroom apartments, and an on-site pool, outdoor showers, and grills for guests.

Anchor Inn Motel offers guests a relaxing and enjoyable beach vacation in a classic motel converted into a modern retreat. Anchor Inn’s prime location makes exploring the area effortless and enjoyable, with just a short walk to the beach, unique shops, and delicious local restaurants. The fully renovated motel has 18 rooms and a pool. Anchor Inn is just a short walk from the beach, nearby restaurants, and shopping.

Visitors often rent beach houses, apartments, or condos to enjoy all Oak Island offers with their families or friends. Websites like RentalsattheBeach.com allow you to search hundreds of vacation rentals across the island. You can sort by location, pet-friendly rentals, special event locations, and more. They offer many vacation rental homes in Oak Island and the neighboring coastal communities.

Where to Eat in Oak Island

Oak Island is home to some of the best restaurants in the south. Burgers, Eastern North Carolina barbecue, pizza, and freshly caught seafood are a few of the options you will find on the island. There is no shortage of tasty restaurants, making eating out a favorite activity. Start your day with breakfast and a cup of coffee from Ruby’s Coffeehouse and Eatery, and then head out for a walk on the Oak Island Pier. One of the most popular spots on the island is Kai Joe’s; this Tex-Mex restaurant serves amazing breakfast burritos, shrimp tacos, nachos, and more. For lunch, stop at Shagger Jacks, a casual restaurant with an outdoor deck and live music in the summer. They change their menu often, but you can always find seafood, burgers, tacos, and flatbreads at Shagger Jack’s. Koko Cabana at Oak Island Pier offers excellent seafood dishes, tacos, steaks, burgers, and more.

For dinner, enjoy a meal with a fantastic view at one of the many waterfront restaurants like Island Way. Order surf and turf with stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean. Or, for delicious Italian Cuisine, fresh seafood, and an array of premier wines and spirits, check out Joseph’s Italian Bistro. Joseph’s overlooks the intracoastal waterway at South Harbour Village, where you can dine outside and enjoy breathtaking sunsets. When you need a break from seafood, head to The Pepperoni Grill, a neighborhood pizzeria.

Oak Island Lighthouse

What to do on Oak Island

There are plenty of things to do on Oak Island and the surrounding Brunswick County beaches. Although the island may be small, it has plenty of activities to offer active travelers. Start your day with a visit to the Oak Island Lighthouse, climbing 169 feet to the top for an impressive 360-degree ocean view. While visiting the lighthouse is free, you must make reservations to climb to the top. Learn about the salt marsh ecosystem and explore exhibits like the Talking Trees Walking Trail at the Oak Island Nature Center. Those who enjoy golf can schedule a visit to Oak Island Golf Club, an 18-hole, 6,720-yard course designed by George Cobb.

For those who prefer fishing, the Ocean Crest Fishing Pier is among the East Coast’s most popular and longest piers. Some fish you may catch include sea bass, cod, weakfish, bluefish, and more. Fishing is also available along Oak Island Pier, the highest pier in North Carolina, at 27 feet high and 880 feet long. Additionally, Oak Island is home to several fishing charter companies that provide visitors with information on the best inland, near-shore, and offshore fishing spots!

Outdoor enthusiasts will love exploring Oak Island’s several bodies of water via paddleboard, canoe, or kayak. While paddling through the marshes and waterways, you may spot native wildlife like osprey, eagles, and white-tailed deer. There is no better place to relax than the beaches on Oak Island. The beaches are pet-friendly and allow on-leash pets year-round, so bring along your four-legged friends. Off-leash pets are allowed on the beach from October 15 to March 15.

Nearby towns worth visiting include Southport, which is only 18 minutes away. This charming waterfront town is perfect for peacefully perusing the local shops, exploring the local museums, and dining by the water. Take a day to explore Bald Head Island, a small island accessible only by boat or ferry. While on the island, visit the oldest lighthouse in North Carolina, Old Baldy. Or head north to Wilmington, NC, or south to Myrtle Beach, SC.

Oak Island North Carolina

When to Visit

Oak Island is worth visiting year-round. However, the best beach weather in North Carolina is spring, early summer, or late summer. The summers along the North Carolina coast can get hot and humid, with temperatures regularly forecasted to be in the 90s. Even during summer, you won’t find an overcrowded beach, but accommodation options may be limited. If you’re booking in September or October, remember that hurricanes are common along the North Carolina coast.


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