Oak Island, North Carolina

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

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.

Getting There

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.

More About Oak Island


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