1. Let Your Light Shine
Completed in 1958, the Oak Island Lighthouse is a major source of local and state pride in North Carolina. Known as one of the state’s “newest” lighthouses, it is located in the Caswell Beach area of the island and offers year-round tours to the top (131 steps) at no charge for guests 9 years and older with a reservation.
General, no reservation public tours to the second-level (12 steps up) are available during the summer months on Wednesdays and Saturdays for visitors 7 years and older. Lighthouse grounds are open year round from sunrise to sunset for viewing and picture-taking with a 30-minute limited parking area.
2. Shell Collecting & Turtle Season On Caswell
While you’re on the Caswell side of the island, head over to the beach by using either of two public beach accesses to collect the beautiful shells that find their way to the shore. Locals and visitors alike have found everything from beautiful sand dollars to historic Megalodon shark teeth.
Take heed when walking around Caswell , our very own turtle sanctuary. Beginning May 1, the Turtle Watch Morning Patrol will search Caswell Beach for any tracks left by mothers laying their eggs for the season. Nests are then marked and assigned sequential numbers. Turtle sightings should be reported to Turtle Watch at 910-880-0994.
Due to an increase in the number of nests, you may be lucky enough to see one of these marked feats of nature – or even a more exciting hatching! General rules of thumb when witnessing a sea turtle laying her eggs or during a hatching include: (a) avoid disturbing the turtle, (b) do not crowd her or shine lights including flash photography, (c) do not disturb her or a nest and maintain your distance, and (d) from late July to late October – turn off all exterior ocean facing lights.
3. The Point
If you’re looking for a more secluded place on the island where you can take the little ones and still get some “beach time” in for yourself – look no farther than the west end of Oak Island known as The Point. Locals love this not-so-secret area of the island where the Atlantic meets the Waterway at the Lockwood Folly Inlet.
The panoramic views alone qualify this as a “must do”, especially at sunrise or sunset. Waters tend to be calmer and at low tide, folks can cross the water to shoals where hermit crabs and other coastal life can be found. The Point is also a popular place for sand dollars, shore-fishing and jet skis.
4. Get Ferry’d Away
After a long car ride to the island, the last thing parents want to do is pack the kids back into the car on the way to someplace else. While we tend to agree, a ferry ride out of Southport to Fort Fisher is worth it and will most likely end in less frustration than you anticipate.
Located at 1650 Ferry Road in Southport, and just a 7-mile drive from our office in Oak Island, passengers board the Southport-Fort Fisher Ferry in their vehicles and enjoy a 35-minute ferry ride to Fort Fisher. Upon arrival, passengers may choose to visit the Fort Fisher Civil War Museum to learn about an important piece of local history or head to the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher for an underwater immersion. A trip to Fort Fisher is perfect for a day trip or for those families needing activity on a rainy day at the beach.
If you’re looking for a unique and worthwhile dining experience, take your grumbling tummies to Provision Company in Southport. This quaint waterfront restaurant was established in 1993 and serves up delicious seafood and American classic dishes like peel-and-eat shrimp, crab cake sandwiches (a personal fave) and juicy cheeseburgers with a side of piping hot French fries for lunch and dinner throughout the summer season. The process is simple and the establishment runs on the honor system with customers reporting their eats and drinks at the register and paying.
It can tend to be a bit on the busy side during the prime rental season (especially after the location’s feature in Nicholas Sparks’ movie Safe Haven) but it is well worth the wait. And speaking of wait – if there is a long one, simply grab a beer or two at Old American Fish Co. just a few steps away in the meantime. You cannot beat the atmosphere or the gorgeous views of the Southport Yacht Basin, especially at sunset.
6. Shop ‘Til You Drop
Antique-lovers and do-it-yourselfers rejoice when they visit Southport and Oak Island. The city streets are lined with antique shops, art galleries, high-fashion boutiques, artisan gift shops and quaint specialty shops full of repurposed items with coastal shabby chic flare.
Spend an afternoon at the Olde Southport Village Shoppes and then head into downtown Southport where stores like Bullfrog Corner and The Christmas House entertain your inner child. Live oak trees add to the southern charm of your shopping experience taking you to an era where life moved at a much slower pace.
7. Local Farmers & Artisans’ Markets
If you’re a sucker for local foods and crafts, then our local artisan and farmers markets are right up your alley. Patrons may visit the Southport Waterfront Market which occurs every Wednesday of each month from May 3 to September 6 along the Cape Fear River on the Fort Johnston Garrison Lawn, or the Oak Island Farmers & Artisans’ Market which occurs every Monday of each month from May 22 to September 4 on the soccer fields just behind Town Hall. Vendors offer local fresh produce, homemade jams, cakes and baked goods, jewelry, rugs among other handcrafted items. The breeze coming off of the water along with the occasional live music makes a trip to either market an enjoyable outing for the entire family.
8. Eat Local
Speaking of the entire family and local eats – why not try your hand at some of our local seafood? Two of the most popular seafood markets on the island are Clem’s Seafood and Haag & Sons. Offering fish like Grouper, Sea Bass, King Mackerel and Wahoo as well as Shrimp, Oysters, Mussels and Lobster – they carry exactly what you and the family need for that family shrimp boil or grilled fish dinner in the comfort of your rental home.
9. Day Trippin’
If #4 on this list appealed to you, then boy do we have the ferry ride and day trip to knock your socks off. This day trip is a bit pricier than the one to Fort Fisher but that extra cost is invaluable when it comes to the experience. Bald Head Island (BHI) is the southernmost barrier island off of North Carolina and accessible only by passenger ferry or private boat, with the ferry departing from Deep Point Marina in Southport.
The 2-mile island carries a “no vehicle” policy where transportation only occurs on foot, by bicycle or by way of golf cart. The island boasts “10,000 untouched acres of beach, marsh and maritime forest preserves” as well as Old Baldy, a 200-year old lighthouse that was commissioned by Thomas Jefferson, and The Bald Head Island Club golf course.
When we asked our Facebook followers to name their own personal “must dos” when they vacation with us, the overwhelming response included watching the sunrise or sunset (most commonly with a cup of coffee), and we couldn’t agree more. There’s something about the view of the horizon as the day begins or ends solidifying the fact that you are on vacation. And we have to admit, the panoramic views from many of our oceanfront properties are second to none.