Oak Island Vacation Guide
If you are looking for a place to spend a quiet family week at the beach, Oak Island, North Carolina is a good alternative to nearby Myrtle Beach, SC.
Quiet Family Beach Vacation on the NC Coast
Oak Island on the NC coast is a popular place for a family beach vacation. Some beaches attract vacationers looking for nightlife and a party atmosphere. Oak Island attracts families with children, multigenerational extended families, and others looking for a quiet relaxing beach vacation.
Just south of Wilmington and bordering the Cape Fear River, Oak Island is about a dozen miles long and a few miles wide. Twists in the southern North Carolina coastline cause the beach to face south rather than east as one would expect for a beach on the Atlantic. This little quirk makes it possible to enjoy both sunrises and sunsets while sitting or swimming on the beach.
While not tropical, the Gulf Stream warmed water is surprisingly warm for the latitude. It is not a surfing beach, but the waves are sufficient for body surfing and general play. Some days they will be too rough for young children, but other days are calm. The northern side of the island borders the Intracoastal Waterway and is an option for those who prefer calmer water.
What To Do at Oak Island, NC
Many families wanting a quiet beach vacation choose Oak Island on the southern North Carolina coast. You won’t find a party atmosphere, but you can find many family-oriented activities.
On the Beach
You can do any of the usual beach activities. Relax in the sun. Play in the water. Build a sandcastle. Bodysurf, but Oak Island is not a surfer’s beach. Take a morning or evening walk or run along the beach. Relax some more; it is your vacation.
Caution: the Oak Island beaches are not patrolled by lifeguards. Keep a close watch on your children and others who are not strong swimmers. Watch for signs of rip currents and do not go out into dangerous-looking water.
There are two fishing piers on Oak Island. There were three, but a hurricane destroyed one. You can go fishing on the piers, from the shore, or on a deep-sea fishing cruise. Walking out on the piers is also enjoyable. If you fish, make sure you have the proper NC fishing license.
Rent an ocean kayak. Ocean Rentals at 4014 East Beach Drive rents ocean kayaks by the day or week. Those not wanting to kayak alone can take a kayaking tour. If the ocean is rough, this is not a good activity for small children. They can be thrown off too easily. For those who can handle the surf, catching the wave just right and riding it in on a kayak is fun. If the surf on the ocean side of the island is too rough, go to the other side of the island. It borders the much calmer Intracoastal Waterway.
While arranging your kayak rental, you can also rent bicycles, surfboards, and a wide range of other beach equipment.
There is one golf course on Oak Island. The Oak Island Country Club is on the left a short distance after crossing the bridge onto Oak Island. There are well over a dozen other golf courses near Oak Island.
Less serious golfers can try the Oak Island Jungle miniature golf course at 6321 East Oak Island Drive.
Attractions Near Oak Island
Southport is a historic small town just north of Oak Island that has a variety of quaint gifts, antiques, and craft shops.
From Southport, take the Fort Fisher-Southport Ferry across the mouth of the Cape Fear River. Call 910-457-6942 to get the ferry schedule. Fort Fisher, a historic civil war fort, protected the port of Wilmington.
While at Fort Fisher, visit the nearby North Carolina Aquarium. The kids will love both.
After learning about the Civil War at Fort Fisher, learn about World War II by visiting the battleship, North Carolina. After decommissioning, the battleship became a floating museum located at Wilmington. Tour the ship and learn what Navy service was like.
What Not To Do
The Carolina coastal barrier islands are geologically very fragile. So the dunes are protected. There is a $50.00 fine for walking on or disturbing vegetation on fenced off dunes. The loggerhead turtles are also protected. The maximum fine for disturbing them is $10,000.
The Carolina coast is often in the path of hurricanes. If a hurricane is coming and there are orders to evacuate the island, do not try to ride the storm out. Those worried about having to evacuate during their vacation might want to consider purchasing vacation trip insurance.
There are many fun family activities on your Oak Island beach vacation.
Where to Stay
There are a few condominiums and motels, but most Oak Island vacationers rent houses. House sizes range from those suitable for single families to those large enough for multiple family groups or large extended families. The houses are usually owned by individuals and managed by local real estate companies. They typically rent by the week, from Saturday to Saturday.
If you want to do your own cooking, the rental houses usually have reasonably well-equipped kitchens. However, if there is a small specialized kitchen tool or appliance that you absolutely must have, you might want to bring it along. Most houses also have some type of private outdoor shower to allow washing off sand before entering the house. A screened-in porch allows enjoying the evening beach breezes without insects.
Prices vary by the size and amenities of the house, proximity to the beach, and the season. The largest (7 to 8 bedrooms) oceanfront homes suitable for large multifamily groups can rent for as much as $4,000 to $5,000 per week during the midsummer peak season. Smaller 2 bedroom houses a short walk from the beach can rent for as little as $300 to $400 per week during the spring or fall offseason. If you don’t want to spend your vacation cleaning, rent linens or get departure maid service for a small extra charge.
In recent years there have been some hurricanes that have caused evacuations from and occasionally considerable damage to Oak Island, so you might want to consider vacation trip insurance if you plan your vacation during hurricane season.
The barrier islands on the Carolina coastline are geologically very fragile. So the dunes are protected. There is a $50.00 fine for walking on or disturbing vegetation on fenced off dunes. The loggerhead turtles are also protected. Do not disturb them; the maximum fine is $10,000.
The beaches are not patrolled by a regular lifeguard service. So, keep a close watch on your children and others in your party who are not strong swimmers. Watch for signs of rip currents and do not go out into the water if it looks dangerous.
If you choose to fly the nearest commercial airport is in Wilmington. NC route 133 south from Wilmington crosses the Intracoastal Waterway via the Oak Island bridge onto the island. There is no need to take a ferry as for some islands off the NC coast.
If you want a beach with a party atmosphere, Oak Island is not for you. However, if you are looking for a relaxing family beach vacation, Oak Island may be exactly what you want.