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The Brunswick Islands offer a number of communities where enjoying the beach is always a breeze. From the small town of Caswell Beach to the enticing and hopping town of Ocean Isle, here’s everything you need to know about enjoying this barrier island stretch of shoreline.

Caswell Beach

Home to the Oak Island Golf Club, the Oak Island Lighthouse, and the Fort Caswell North Carolina Baptist Assembly, Caswell Beach is a small town that has a lot of charm when it comes to attractions on and off the sand. Here’s what you need to keep in mind to fully explore the shoreline in Caswell Beach.

How to Get to Caswell Beach

Caswell Beach is located on the eastern end of the Brunswick Island beaches, and is bordered to the west by the town of Oak Island, and is bordered to the east by the Cape Fear River, and eventually, Bald Head Island.

Caswell Beach can be reached via Country Club Drive / Route 133 across the Intracoastal Waterway, or by heading east on Oak Island Drive.

Beach Accesses in Caswell Beach

There are two main beach accesses with amenities for beach-goers in the four-mile long town of Caswell Beach. These areas include the following:

  • Caswell Beach Drive – Located at the western end of Caswell Beach Drive, this public beach access features a parking area, restrooms, and a walkway to the oceanfront.
  • Oak Island Lighthouse and Beach Access – Situated next to the Oak Island Lighthouse, this area has parking and a pathway to the beach.

Rules and Regulations for Caswell Beach’s Seashore

Visitors who head to Caswell Beach will want to keep the following local rules and regulations in mind before they hit the sand.

  • Golf carts are permitted in the town of Caswell Beach, however they may not be driven on or across Caswell Beach Road, (aka State Road 1100), and must stay on the far right of the road in order to yield to approaching vehicles. For more information on golf cart rules and statues for Caswell Beach, see https://caswellbeach.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Golf-Cart-Regulations.pdf.
  • Dogs are permitted on the beach strand year-round in Caswell Beach, provided they are leashed at all times and do not pose a threat to others. Dogs that are not leashed, but are under control of their handlers, may access the beach before 9 a.m. In addition, unleashed and well-behaved dogs are also allowed on the beach from October 1 until April 30, from 3 p.m. until sunset.
  • Driving on the beach is prohibited in the town of Caswell Beach.
  • Visitors are advised to stay off of the oceanfront dunes, expect on designated paths and walkways. It is also illegal to remove vegetation from the dunes, such as sea oats.
  • There is a 30-minute time limit for parking in front of the Oak Island Lighthouse.
  • Sea turtles and endangered birds occasionally nest on the shoreline of Caswell Beach. Please respect any small and seasonal closures, and do not disturb the local wildlife.
  • Surf fishing is allowed all along the Caswell Beach shoreline. A saltwater fishing license is required for anglers who are 16-years-old or older, and can be obtained online through the NC Wildlife Resources Commission website, or at local bait and tackle stores.
  • The town of Caswell Beach does not have lifeguarded beaches. Use caution when swimming, and be aware of rip tides and currents. If caught in a rip tide, swim parallel to shore until you are out of the current, and can safely swim to shore.

Oak Island

Oak Island is one of the most popular communities along the Brunswick beaches, and for good reason. The town has a fishing pier, multiple parks, outdoor activities, shops and restaurants, and is close to area golf courses – which is all in addition to its miles of pristine beaches.

Like all communities along the Brunswick County coastline, the town of Oak Island also has its own set of rules and guidelines for enjoying this enticing stretch of sand. Familiarize yourself with the following information to enjoy many happy hours on one of southern North Carolina’s favorite beaches.

How to Get to Oak Island

The Town of Oak Island takes up the majority of its island’s namesake, and the community extends from the eastern borders of Caswell Beach all the way to “The Point,” or Lockwoods Folly Inlet. Visitors can reach Oak Island by heading south on Middletown Blvd (Route 906) or Country Club Drive (Route 133), which both cross the Intracoastal Waterway and lead to the beach.

Beach Accesses in Oak Island

Oak Island has more than 52 public beach accesses, which includes a number of access points with parking, restrooms, and / or which are handicapped accessible. Public beach accesses of note within the Town of Oak Island include the following:

Rules and Regulations for Oak Island Beaches

The Town of Oak Island has its own suite of rules and regulations for beach-goers. Keep the following guidelines in mind for a safe and enjoyable time along the local Oak Island shoreline.

  • No glass containers of any kind are allowed on the beaches, or at beach accesses.
  • Canopies and tents - Visitors should keep all of their beach gear, (including umbrellas, canopies, towels, toys, etc.), at least 10’ feet away from seasonal sea turtle nests, and 15’ feet away from the marked emergency accesses for 4WD first responder vehicles.
  • Stay off dunes - Please only use designated walkways to access the beach, and stay off of the dunes. Do not remove any vegetation, like sea oats, from the shoreline.
  • Beach gear, (including volleyball nets, canopies, and tents), may not be left overnight on the local Oak Island beaches. All gear left on the beach unattended from 8:30 p.m. until 7 a.m. will be removed, and can be recovered after paying a $50 fine.
  • Wheelchairs are available for use on the Oak Island beaches for visitors who need assistance reaching the shoreline. Reservations for the wheelchairs can be made through the Town of Oak Island’s Parks and Recreation department by calling 910-278-5518, and wheelchairs can be rented in two-day increments.
  • There are no lifeguards in the town of Oak Island, so all swimmers surfers, and other folks splashing around should use caution when entering the ocean waters.
  • Swimmers are advised to keep a safe distance away from the Oak Island Pier, as rip tides may be stronger in this area, and the pilings are lined with sharp barnacles.
  • The Point, (on the western side of the island), is a popular swimming, fishing, and wading spot, however currents can be deceptively swift. Watch the tides, and use extreme caution when exploring the waters by the inlet.
  • Surf fishing is popular throughout the Oak Island beaches, but anglers 16 and older must have a North Carolina Saltwater Fishing License in hand. A fishing license is not required to fish off the Oak Island Pier.
  • Dogs that are on a leash are allowed year-round on Oak Island beaches. Dogs are also allowed off the leash at marked beach accesses, (provided they are under control of their owner), from October 16 until March 15, from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m.
  • Driving on the beach is not allowed throughout the town of Oak Island.
  • Any holes dug in the sand must be filled before leaving the beach to avoid injury to other beach-goers, as well as local wildlife.
  • Seasonal closures may exist for sea turtle nesting in the summer months. Please respect these closures, and do not disturb these areas.
  • Alcohol - There are no town ordinances against smoking or drinking alcohol on the Oak Island beaches, however, visitors are advised not to litter, and to clean up any cigarette butts and any trash before they leave.

Holden Beach

Holden Beach is a family-friendly beach town that offers a fishing pier, a handful of activities, restaurants and shops, a collection of beach homes, and - refreshingly – not much else. The quiet and small-town atmosphere makes it easy to relax and unwind, and to enjoy miles of shoreline to go around.

The small town of Holden Beach also has a few guidelines and rules when it comes to enjoying its long and sunny beach strand. Before you go, brush up on the following information that will ensure plenty of breezy and stress-free beach days ahead.

How to Get to Holden Beach

Holden Beach is in the heart of the Brunswick Island beaches, and is bordered to the east by Lockwoods Folly Inlet, and to the west by Shallotte Inlet. Visitors can reach this small island destination by taking the aptly named Holden Beach Road across the Intracoastal Waterway. (Note that the majority of Holden Beach’s restaurants, shops, and attractions are located just across the bridge on the mainland.)

Beach Accesses in Holden Beach

The town of Holden Beach has more than 20 public beach accesses for day-trippers and folks staying in the immediate area. Public access points of note include the following:

Rules and Regulations for Holden Beach’s Seashore

Like all stretches of the Brunswick Island shoreline, Holden Beach has its own distinctive set of rules and guidelines to ensure that everyone on the beach enjoys their stay to the fullest. Be sure and adhere to the following tips and regulations to have the best time possible while enjoying the beautiful coastline of Holden Beach.

  • Stay off dunes - Only use CAMA marked public access points to access the shoreline. (There’s plenty to go around!) Do not walk on the dunes or disturb the vegetation along the dune line.
  • Beach driving is prohibited. Only Town of Holden Beach staff and emergency vehicles are allowed to drive on the beach.
  • There are no lifeguards in the town of Holden Beach, so visitors should use caution and always be on the lookout for rip currents. Visitors can check on the status of rip currents in the Holden Beach area by calling the Town Hall at 910-842-6488.
  • The east end of the island along McCray Street is a great place for fishing, shelling, and wading, but visitors should note that the ocean floor in this area may have dangerous debris. Use caution around high tide, and wear water shoes or waders as needed if debris is spotted.
  • Jet skis are allowed, but must be operated at least 500’ feet from the shoreline. Do not ride or anchor jet skis on the beach strand.
  • Alcoholic beverages are not allowed anywhere on the Holden Beach shoreline.
  • Please do not litter – trash cans are located at multiple public beach accesses.
  • Pets are not allowed on the beach strand of Holden Beach from May 20 until September 10, except between the evening hours of 5 p.m. and 9 a.m. Year-round, pets must be on a leash on the beach at all times.
  • Surfing is prohibited within 500’ feet of the Holden Beach Fishing Pier.
  • All holes dug in the sand must be covered and filled properly before leaving, and any holes deeper than 12 inches must not be left unattended.
  • Tents and canopies - All unattended beach equipment must be removed from the shoreline before leaving the beach. No equipment can be left unattended, (such as tents, canopies, or volleyball nets), between the hours of 6 p.m. and 7 a.m.
  • Powered boats and personal watercraft may not land anywhere along the oceanfront.
  • Fireworks are not permitted on the island, with the exception of sparklers.
  • Surf fishing is allowed throughout the island, but anglers 16 and over must have a North Carolina Coastal Recreational Fishing License. Fishing licenses are available at most bait and tackle stores, or online at ncwildlife.org.
  • Parking - There is no parking allowed on Ocean Boulevard or McCray Street, except for the northern end of McCray Street, just east of Dunescape Drive.

Ocean Isle Beach

Bordering both the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean, Ocean Isle Beach is a haven for beach-goers. With lots of restaurants, shops, attractions, and oceanfront beach strands, this corner of the Brunswick Islands is a favorite spot for visitors who adore life by the water.

The community of Ocean Isle Beach does have its own set of guidelines for visitors, to ensure an enjoyable and safe time at the beach for everyone on the sand. Be sure and review the following information to have a great stay in Ocean Isle Beach from start to finish.

How to Get to Ocean Isle Beach

Ocean Isle Beach is located in the western region of the Brunswick Islands, and is bordered to the east by Shallotte Inlet, and to the west by Jinks Creek and the town of Sunset Beach.

To reach Ocean Isle Beach, visitors will need to take Causeway Drive (Route 904) across the Intracoastal Waterway.

Beach Accesses in Ocean Isle Beach

Ocean Isle Beach has more than 25 beach accesses, which are dotted all along this barrier island. Public beach accesses of note include the following locations:

Rules and Regulations for Ocean Isle Beach’s Seashore

Before you hit the sand, be sure to review the following rules, tips and guidelines for a safe and sunny day along the shoreline of Ocean Isle Beach.

  • Beach wheelchairs are available for day-trippers daily from the Ocean Isle Beach’s Police Department. Wheelchairs can be picked up on a first come, first serve basis beginning at 7 a.m., and must be returned by 6 p.m. A picture ID is required to borrow a beach wheelchair.
  • Glass containers are not allowed on the beach strand of Ocean Isle Beach.
  • Alcohol consumption is not allowed in any public area of Ocean Isle Beach, including the shoreline.
  • Dogs are not allowed on the Ocean Isle Beach shoreline from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. All dogs must be leashed at all times, and owners must pick up after their pet.
  • Bicycles are not allowed on the beach strand of Ocean Isle Beach from April 30 through October 1.
  • Charcoal grills or open fires are prohibited on the beach, as well as on porches, decks, and landings above ground level.
  • Noise - Ocean Isle Beach has a town noise ordinance, and unreasonably loud, disturbing, and unnecessary noise is not allowed between 10:30 p.m. and 7:30 a.m.
  • Fireworks of any kind are not allowed in Ocean Isle Beach.
  • Surfing is not allowed within 1,000’ feet of the pier in Ocean Isle Beach.
  • Parking overnight in public beach access parking areas is prohibited. Camping is also not allowed anywhere on the beach strand.
  • Golf carts are allowed in Ocean Isle Beach, however drivers must have a valid license, and the golf cart must have a license tag, vehicle insurance, registration, seat belts, brake lights, and headlights if driven at night.
  • Dunes - All visitors should stay off the dunes and only use the designated pathways and walkways to the beach. Disturbing the dune vegetation could result in a $100 fine.
  • Tents and canopies - All person beach gear items, (like canopies or tents), must be removed from the beach on a daily basis. Any unattended beach gear left on the sand in between the house of 7 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. will be confiscated.
  • Digging holes in the beach larger than 16” inches wide and 5’ feet deep is prohibited. All holes must be filled back in before leaving the beach.
  • There are no lifeguards in the town of Ocean Isle Beach. Use caution accordingly when swimming, and avoid swimming near inlets or when there is a high risk of rip currents. If you are caught in a rip current, (or rip tide), swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current, and can swim back to the beach without obstacles.
  • Surf fishing is allowed throughout the shoreline, but all surf fishermen must have a valid Coastal Recreational Fishing License, which can be picked up online at ncwildlife.org, or via local bait and tackle stores.

Sunset Beach

With miles of water that extend from the Intracoastal Waterway to the Atlantic Ocean, Sunset Beach is a community that lives up to its name. This beach town that straddles the South Carolina border is a popular haven for water lovers of all varieties – from boaters and fishermen, to beachcombers and families on the hunt for a relaxed vacation destination.

With a charming atmosphere and miles of shoreline to go around, enjoying this coastal destination is easy to do.  But before you make your escape, be sure and review the following guidelines and information to safely enjoy everything that Sunset Beach has to offer.

How to Get to Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach is the southernmost coastal community in the Brunswick Islands. It’s bordered to the west by Bird Island, Little River, and the state of South Carolina, and is bordered to the east by Jinks Creek and the neighboring town of Ocean Isle Beach.

To reach Sunset Beach, visitors much take the bridge along Sunset Blvd. (Route 1172) across the Intracoastal Waterway.

Beach Accesses in Sunset Beach

The town of Sunset Beach has multiple wooden walkways for visitors and residents to access the beach strand.

More than 30 walkways are found along Sunset Beach, which are typically located at the end of intersecting side streets along the island. Street side parking is limited, and may be monitored by the local Sunset Beach Police, so visitors are advised to watch for “No Parking” signs throughout the town. Two major parking areas are also located at the following spots:

  • West Main Street & Sunset Boulevard South – This beach access features parking for roughly 57 vehicles
  • Sunset Beach Fishing Pier – Right next to the above lot, The Sunset Beach Fishing Pier offers parking for beach-goers for roughly $8.00 per day. (Fishermen using the pier can park for free, and will be refunded when they purchase their fishing ticket.)

Rules and Regulations for Sunset Beach’s Seashore

Sunset Beach is a distinctive coastal community, and as such, it has its own series of guidelines and rules for enjoying the local shoreline. Keep the following regulations in mind to safely enjoy the seashore all vacation long.

  • Stay off dunes - Visitors are advised to use the established walkways to access the beach, and to stay off the dunes, which protect the island during storms and also serve as seasonal sea turtle besting grounds.
  • Dogs are welcome on the beach strand with the following conditions:
    • All dogs must be on a leash that’s 10’ feet long at most
    • From Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day Weekend, dogs are not permitted on the beach between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.
    • All owners should remove any waste from their pet. Trash receptacles are located at multiple beach accesses all along the Sunset Beach shoreline.
  • Fireworks are prohibited in the town of Sunset Beach
  • No glass - Only plastic containers and cans are allowed on the beach strand – glass containers are prohibited.
  • Boats - Visitors may not launch motorized watercraft from the shoreline in Sunset Beach.
  • Surfing is not permitted from 5th Street to 32nd Street from May 1 through October 31, and from 1st Street to 27th Street from November 1 through April 30.
  • Please do not park in front of or otherwise block public beach accesses, as 4WD emergency vehicles must be able to access the shoreline.
  • Driving on the beach in Sunset Beach is prohibited.
  • Tents and Canopies - All personal property, (such as umbrellas, canopies, or tents), must be removed from the beach daily by 7 p.m., and not returned until 6 a.m. the following morning.
  • Bonfires, charcoal grills, and gas grills are not allowed on the beach, or within 10 feet of a home or residence, as they may catch fire.
  • Camping and sleeping on the beach after dark is prohibited.
  • Please refill any holes dug in the sand before you leave the beach. This ensures the safety of other beach-goers, emergency vehicles, and local wildlife, such as sea turtle hatchlings.
  • There are no lifeguards in the town of Sunset Beach, so swimmers should use caution when entering the ocean waters. Always be on the lookout for rip currents, which can occur in all conditions. If caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the beach until you are no longer being pulled. Then, you can safely swim back to shore.
  • Surf fishing is allowed all along Sunset Beach, but fishermen ages 16 and up must have a saltwater fishing license. A license can be obtained online through the NC Wildlife Resources Commission website, or can be purchased at any area bait and tackle store.
  • Handicapped beach access is available at the Main Street access at the Public Gazebo and Pier, which features a handicap ramp and a Sand Carpet ramp in the summer months, as well as free handicapped parking.
  • The Sunset Pier is also wheelchair accessible, and the Town Hall offers two beach wheelchairs which are loaned to the public for free. Wheelchairs are available on a first come, first serve basis, and can be rented by calling 910-579-3808.
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