Things to Do in Oak Island, NC with Family

Oak Island is a small, picturesque seaside town on the coast of North Carolina with a population of just under 8000 people. It’s the place to go if you’re searching for great beaches, delicious seafood, and plenty of family-friendly activities.

At first glance, you may presume that this coastal town is a sleepy place with little action, but that’s not the case. There are many things to do in Oak Island and the surrounding areas! Read on for an extensive list of things to do in Oak Island NC, with family.

Oak Island Lighthouse

Photo Credit: chucka_nc via Flickr CC2.0

The Oak Island Lighthouse is the island’s most famous feature, rising high into the sky, piercing through the landscape. It is the most recently erected of all the lighthouses on Oak Island, too.

The view from the observation deck will offer just the right perspective to fully appreciate how ideal this area of the island is for a family beach holiday.

The Oak Island Lighthouse camouflages on a foggy day, painted in grey hues rather than the conventional red and white of most lighthouses. The 153-foot sentinel has been guarding the coast since 1958 and is located on Caswell Beach, which brings us to our next option for things to do in Oak Island NC.

Caswell Beach

Photo Credit: Gerry Dincher via Flickr CC2.0

Pet-friendly North Carolina Beach is the least congested of all the Brunswick Islands beaches, contributing to its popularity.

Traditional vacation homes await you behind the oat-fringed dunes. The sound of the surf, which is always within earshot, soothes away the worries. Caswell Beach provides an instant and welcomed escape.

Caswell Beach is also home to the Oak Island Golf Club, known as one of North Carolina’s Top 30 hidden gem courses, according to Myrtle Beach Golfmasters.

Oak Island Beach

Photo Credit: Gerry Dincher via Flickr CC2.0

The beaches of Oak Island are a terrific place to unwind with a good book, go for a long walk, or simply sit back and listen to the waves crashing. Of course, you can also utilize your relaxing stroll along the Carolina Coast to look for some of Oak Island’s beautiful seashells.

The pet-friendly Oak Island Beach may not be the most popular in North Carolina, but it is wonderfully tranquil with a charming sense of community.

Ocean Crest Fishing Pier

Photo Credit: Donald Lee Pardue via Flickr CC2.0

This 893-foot Oak Island pier was awarded the most popular fishing pier in North Carolina by Fisherman’s Post.

With a full-service tackle shop that can help with any customized requests and no shortage of gifts for family and friends, Ocean Crest Fishing Pier provides free fishing for handicapped fishermen. The owners provide a community live bait tank and a king fisherman’s shelter at the far end of the T-shaped lake. Seasonal licenses for bottom fishing and King fishing are available.

Wind speed, air temperature, water temperature, current speed and direction, and more are all measured by an onsite weather station. The information is also available online by anyone wishing to access it.

According to pier manager Dave Cooper, this is the best King Mackerel fishing pier in the area.

Oak Island Nature Center

Photo Credit: stjamesplantation via Instagram

5202 E Yacht Dr, Oak Island, NC 28465

The Oak Island Nature Center offers a variety of educational activities for both children and adults to learn about the environment and the animals that live on Oak Island.

A Talking Trees Walking Trail, fossil exhibits, wildlife displays, binoculars, a fishing T-dock, and a floating dock are all available in the park. Hours of operation are subject to change.

Bald Head Island

Photo Credit: Seth Youngblood via Flickr CC2.0

PO Box 3069, Bald Head Island, NC 28461

Bald Head Island, which can be reached by ferry or private boat, is home to 10,000 acres of salt marsh and 180 acres of protected maritime forest. All of this is covered by the Bald Head Island Conservancy.

Visitors can see Wilson’s Plover, Painting Bunting, and a variety of wintering waterfowl in this unique coastal location, which is also part of the North Carolina Birding Trail.

The Conservancy’s year-round kayaking and birding tours provide a non-intrusive and scenic view of this fascinating wildlife, perfect for your next Carolina Coast getaway.

Bald Head Island Ferry

Photo Credit: Allen Forrest via Flickr CC2.0

1301 Ferry Rd SE, Southport, NC 28461

Bald Head Island is two nautical miles south of Southport, North Carolina. The island is a 20-minute passenger ferry trip away from Deep Point Marina on the mainland.

On the hour, the Bald Head Island Ferry departs from the mainland, and on the half-hour, it departs from Bald Head Island. Their website provides a timetable and information on parking, ferry tickets, luggage, tram bookings, and more.

Save time to stroll through Southport’s historic tree-lined streets, enjoy a meal at one of the many great restaurants, many of which are located right on the Cape Fear River or the Intracoastal Waterway, and/or visit one of the historic sites.

Old Baldy Lighthouse & Smith Island Museum

Photo Credit: courtney_marie_b via Instagram

101 Light House Wynd, Bald Head Island, NC 28461

For nearly 200 years, the mouth of the historic Cape Fear River has been marked by North Carolina’s oldest standing lighthouse, Old Baldy, built in 1817. The Smith Island Museum is housed in a reproduction of an 1850s lighthouse keeper’s home.

Thousands of tourists flock to beautiful Bald Head Island each year to learn about the island’s rich maritime history at the Smith Island Museum and to see Old Baldy up close.

Oak Island Jungle Golf

Photo Credit: micasa_es_lucasa via Instagram

6321 E Oak Island Dr, Oak Island, NC 28465

Consider visiting Oak Island Jungle Golf if you’re searching for some additional fun, family-friendly activities in Oak Island. You can play mini-golf with the family while admiring the establishment’s jungle atmosphere.

In addition to the mini-golf course, Oak Island Jungle Golf features an arcade section with classic games such as Ms. Pac-Man. It also has ticketed games where players have the opportunity to win a reward.

After you’ve finished playing, visit the onsite ice cream shop, which serves delicious flavors like birthday cake, bubblegum, and mint chocolate.

High Tide Aviation Helicopter Tour

Photo Credit: High Tide Helicopters via Facebook

4345 Airport Rd SE, Southport, NC 28461

The Cape Fear region is breathtaking by land or water, but nothing beats a bird’s eye perspective!

All tours with High Tide Aviation include opportunities to see dolphins and other marine creatures. Do you have a thing for lighthouses? Fly over North Carolina’s oldest lighthouse, Old Baldy, and then visit Fort Caswell on your route to the Oak Island Lighthouse.

The cost of their tours starts at $60 per person all the way up to $390.

Do you think you’d like to learn how to fly? Take High Tide Aviation’s $99 Discovery Flight! With a skilled flight teacher, you can sit in the pilot’s seat and fly one of the High Tide helicopters while receiving official helicopter safety training. If you want, you can also sit back and enjoy the stunning views.

Environmental Overlook Trail

Photo Credit: chellepeltier via Instagram

3003 E Oak Island Dr, Oak Island, NC 28465

The Environmental Overlook Trail is a hidden gem, easy to overlook (no pun, intended). You’ll find a scenic collection of well-kept roads, wooden boardwalks, and walkways that span over creeks and carry vacationers through a gorgeous stretch of Oak Island that is still relatively undeveloped.

From Oak Island Drive, the trail allows you to traverse the Davis Canal. In a natural swamp region, take a walk through nature and look for birds and creatures like herons, egrets, and loons.

Take a half-hour stroll across the park, crossing boardwalk bridges. Then, pass through a wooded area to reach the Davis Canal wooden bridge, just a short walk to the beach from there.

Visit the Ingram Planetarium

Photo Credit: AVImagineering via Flickr CC2.0

7625 High Market St, Sunset Beach, NC 28468

The 85-seat SciDome Sky Theater at the Ingram Planetarium has cutting-edge high-definition digital projection and surround-sound equipment. Watch programs on space exploration and astronomy that are both amusing and educational.

Relax and take in the laser music displays, while interactive exhibits take place in the Paul Dennis Science Hall. Afterward, visit the Galaxy Gift Shop for all things space-themed.

Programs and hours change seasonally, so contact or check the website for the most up-to-date information.

Middleton Park

Photo Credit: 4mermaids_oki via Instagram

4610 E Dolphin Dr, Oak Island, NC 28465

A playground, splash pad, basketball courts, tennis courts, baseball fields, picnic shelters, concession stand, T-Ball field, bathrooms, and a soccer field are all available at Middleton Park.

Oak Island Farmer’s Market

Photo Credit: Aaron via Flickr CC2.0

4610 E Dolphin Drive, Oak Island, NC 28465

Featuring local fresh vegetables, baked goods, homemade jams, and a range of handmade arts and crafts, such as jewelry and furniture, the Oak Island Farmer’s Market is a terrific place to meet the locals and neighbors, as well as learn about Oak Island’s culture.

Held in Middleton Park, behind Town Hall, on the soccer fields, The Farmer’s Market hours vary. During special events, Farmers’ markets open at 4 pm. with live music beginning at 6 pm. and ending at 8 pm. Regular market days, during the summer, are held every Monday starting at 8 am. until 1 pm.

North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport

Photo Credit: chutzpah via Instagram

315 Front St, Beaufort, NC 28516

Visitors can learn about the natural and cultural history of the Lower Cape Fear region at the junction of the Cape Fear River, Intracoastal Waterway, and the Atlantic Ocean. The North Carolina Maritime Museum tells the tale of the area’s history through hands-on and instructive exhibits, from the earliest indigenous seafarers to commercial fishermen.

The museum’s website includes a calendar of events with things like a historical account of the lives of pirates and the Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla. This annual holiday event features yachts, oars, kayaks, and commercial vessels decked out for the season, showcasing their festivities on the Morehead City and Beaufort waterfronts.

The Civil War, World War II, and ships of all kinds, from sail to steam, as well as sea creatures at the North Carolina Maritime Museum, pique the interest of people of all ages.

Museum of Coastal Carolina

Photo Credit: Hillary Ryland via Flickr CC2.0

21 E 2nd St, Ocean Isle Beach, NC 28469

A visit to the Southeast’s largest “dry aquarium” is a must on your list of things to do in Oak Island NC.

The Museum of Coastal Carolina is a natural history museum featuring an aquarium and a touch tank with live marine animals, shells, fossils, insects, a shark display, live snakes, bird dioramas, and an ocean reef diorama with life-sized models of whales, sharks, sea turtles, and rays among the animal exhibits.

River basins, the consequences of stormwater runoff, and beach litter on the sea’s ecology, barrier islands, and tides are among the other educational displays. The museum also includes exhibits on local and marine history, such as shipbuilding and Native Americans in the area. Furthermore, afternoon and evening activities like special talks are also available at the museum, including information on local initiatives to protect sea turtles.

Nature-themed items can be found at the Museum of Coastal Carolina Gift Shop.

Oak Island Fishing Charters

Photo Credit: schpowell via Instagram

133 NW 5th St, Oak Island, NC 28465

Another excellent option to explore as much of Oak Island as possible and learn about the importance of fishing in this small port town is to take a fishing charter.

Throughout the year, Oak Island Fishing Charters offers private and group fishing trips. You can choose between an offshore tour, which takes you far from land, and a near-shore trip, which keeps you close to the coast. On an offshore trip, you can catch Wahoo, Mahi-Mahi, and Groupers, as well as Snappers and Amberjacks

if you’re lucky. Oak Island Fishing Charters is delighted to provide a personalized experience. While their trips typically take 7-10 hours, you can opt for a shorter trip at an hourly cost. Also, consider arranging one of their ‘Kids Catch’ trips if you’re going with kids!

Old Brunswick County Jail Museum

Photo Credit: Philip Bryan Woodard via Flickr CC2.0

318 E Nash St, Southport, NC 28461

The Old Brunswick County Jail Museum in Southport is open for the summer season. Visitors will be able to take free tours of the jail’s history while viewing original jail cells and other displays. The old prison is also one of the locations on the Southport Historical Walking Tour.

On the second story of this historical jail, there are two cells and a runabout. Four bunks, a commode, and a washbasin were included in each cell. Graffiti created by inmates is still evident upstairs.

When the museum is open, self-guided tours are provided from 12:30 pm to 3:30 pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays from April to October and Friday afternoons in July and August.

Blue Planet Watersports

Photo Credit: collinbvanderburg via Instagram

7156 Beach Drive SW, Ocean Isle Beach, NC 28469

Visitors to Oak Island will find plenty of water to explore in all directions, and the adventure can begin with a trip to Blue Planet Watersports.

This comprehensive watersports complex allows Southport and Oak Island visitors to surf, paddle, kayak, and learn a new activity with ease through a choice of guided tours, courses, and rentals.