You have to extend your hand to a town that’s famous for its mysteriously-seasoned-lightly-battered-quickly-fried seafood. That’s just what you might expect from a historic fishing town founded in 1691. Welcome to Calabash, the ‘Seafood Capital of the World,’ and North Carolina’s southernmost coastal town. Calabash’s claim to fame is evidenced in its 30 restaurants and a plethora of commercial boats selling their freshly caught shrimp, crabs, oysters, and fish daily right off the dock. Three centuries later, Calabash is still a working fishing port and forever linked to the intense historic pride of the original village fishermen.
Even though visitors and residents alike flock to the town for its distinguished seafood, Calabash doesn’t let its celebrity go to its head. That’s because it’s made up of unassuming folks who appreciate their home for what it truly is: simple, relaxed, and friendly. Just like it was years ago.
This tiny port town may serve up its ubiquitous hush puppies by the thousands, but it’s not just the seafood that puts Calabash on the radar for anyone looking to relocate or retire to the southeast shores of North Carolina. In fact, there’s a laundry list of reasons: Its quaintness is appealing to those who want a slower, relaxed pace of life. Its central location between Myrtle Beach and Wilmington means quick access to entertainment and cultural amenities. Its affordable cost of living gets residents more house for the buck. Its proximity to championship golf courses inspires an active lifestyle. Its short drive to the nationally recognized, pristine Sunset Beach fulfills coastal living dreams. This waterfront community has grown by 40% in the last decade and has a modest year-round population of 1,944 residents.
Anchored by the Calabash River, the Little River Inlet, the Intracoastal Waterway, and Sunset Beach, Calabash offers a true waterfront living experience. Buy fresh fish, shrimp, crabs, and oysters right off the dock. Take a boat daytrip to the Bird Island Reserve with its more than 1200 acres of salt marsh and tidal creeks. Head back to the docks and grab a shrimp burger from the Seafood Hut, a Calabash favorite family owned and operated for 40 years.
All that’s happening in Calabash isn’t necessarily on the water. Looking for a shopping venture besides the Outlets in nearby Myrtle Beach? Experience Calabash’s thrifty vibe by visiting the many resale shops like Bloomingails, Nell’s Fine Consignment, and Calabash Trading Company and Consignment. There are plenty of unique, independently owned specialty shops too like Jewelry by Wendy and Victoria’s Ragpatch. Spend an hour or two wandering through Sunset River Marketplace art gallery that features contemporary art, jewelry, pottery, and more from local artists. And don’t forget the iconic, Callahan's of Calabash Nautical Gifts and their year round Christmas shop, St. Nick Nacks.
After a day of shopping, there are opportunities abound to pamper yourself in quaint Calabash. Natural Health Center, a gathering place for spirit, mind, and body offers holistic health services and products like aromatherapy, Reiki, yoga, and nutritional supplements. Just down the road, Sacred Willow Spa is a family-owned, award-winning spa offering massage, bodywork, and skin therapy services and products.
Calabash’s “downtown” is loaded with dining options to satiate any foodie pallet—even those not craving the Calabash-style seafood. The Boundary House serves up modern coastal cuisine from pasta to steaks to poultry, and of course, seafood. The Grapevine Mediterranean Restaurant and Lounge offers a menu of delectables influenced by the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. But of course, there are restaurants a plenty serving Calabash seafood staples. One visit to Captain Nance's Seafood, Beck’s, and Ella’s legendary, family-owned restaurants and you’ll understand the meaning behind the town’s nickname of Seafood Capital of the World.
Calabash’s unique, independently owned specialty establishments prove that the Town is hip to modern influences like the newly opened Coastal Craft Beverage Company where patrons can buy distinctive craft beer growlers and crowlers to go or take a seat at the bar and try a pour from one of the oft-rotating taps.
History, friendliness, tranquility, warm climate, cost of living, or the seafood. Regardless of why people decide to make Calabash home, they find common ground in the people, the activities, and the hospitality in this small sliver of a town nestled between Highway 17 and the Intracoastal Waterway.