I think my favorite thing about Oak Island is that there isn’t much to it. It’s a small quiet beach town. Sure there are a couple beach stores, the beach required putt putt place, and ice cream shops, but if you’re looking for lots of commercial development, it simply isn’t there… and I love it. We’ve been traveling there for almost ten years now. The funny thing though, is that until recently, I haven’t really ventured out beyond much more than the beach. So what is there to do in Oak Island? This year I made it my job to find out.
Visit the Oak Island Lighthouse
Lighthouses and the North Carolina Coast go hand in hand. The Oak Island Lighthouse was constructed in 1958 on Caswell Beach. I haven’t done it, but you can actually tour the lighthouse (no reservation required) every Wednesday and Saturday, Memorial Day through Labor Day. From 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. visitors 7 years old and up can climb the first level (12 steps) of the lighthouse and hear information from a guide. Visitors 9 years old and up can even climb to the top of the lighthouse. “Climb to the top” information and reservations can be found online. No matter where on the island you are staying, a drive to the lighthouse and a walk along the boardwalk across the street is well worth the time.
Shop at the Oak Island Farmers Market
The Oak Island Farmers Market is every Monday (during season) from 7:00 – 1:00 right behind Town Hall. The vendors spread out around the sides of the soccer fields and bring their North Carolina goodness to sell. I was very impressed with both the variety and the quality of everything I saw at the market. I had some AMAZING baked goods from two different vendors. The cinnamon raisin bread I picked up one day was absolutely amazing… but I don’t think it was better than the pecan pie bar I had from someone else. It even came with a free cup of sweet tea! The market was a great place to pick up produce for the week, shop local arts and crafts (i did pick up a great pair of earrings), and hear peoples’ stories. I actually had a great time talking with the owners of Ozone All Natural deodorant. You might even see me reviewing their product here on Today’s NC pretty soon.
Grab Dinner at Shagger Jacks
To save money, I definitely recommend doing some grocery shopping and cooking your own meals if you can while on vacation. That said, I also recommend enjoying at least one meal out. I found Shagger Jacks online and ended up going there twice. They have good freshly prepared food and a relaxed atmosphere that is kid friendly (small kids menu with kids’ dishes served on frisbees). I also would love the chance to hang out at their indoor or outdoor bar without the kids. Their menu offers plenty of options for seafood lovers and those who prefer landlocked meals. I can personally attest to both. They have a little piece of the Shagger Jacks story online which makes me like them even more.
Drive into Southport
I know that the whole point of this is to tell you about Oak Island, but I couldn’t really do that without telling you about Southport. Southport is another small (but much larger than Oak Island) seaside town full of history, local shops, and lots of good local eats. Southport is where you can have a wonderful night grabbing dinner at Fishy Fishy Cafe right on the water, walking the boardwalk, and grabbing ice cream at Flavas Ice Cream Shop. Depending on where in Oak Island you are coming from, it takes 20 minutes or so to get over there but is well worth the trip.
Walk the Pier
Whether or not you’re into fishing, walking the pier is an easy and inexpensive way to get a different view of the beautiful Oak Island Beaches and a unique perspective on the water. I love peeking at the people fishing and if you’re lucky, you might even see someone bring in something good. There are actually 2 piers in Oak Island, and both have great views.
I love all of the things on this list, but honestly my favorite thing to do in Oak Island is the beach. The beaches are clean and family friendly. In season, you can usually spot some shrimp boats out in the water. Sometimes you can see people fishing from the shore, or a surfer or two trying to catch some evening waves. The sound of the ocean, the feel of the sun, and the taste of the salt in the air… love it.