Imagine: Waking up every morning knowing you can hear the ocean waves, walk the warm sandy beaches, get in a game of golf, or sit and relax and enjoy just being—all against the backdrop of the “Gem of the Brunswick Islands,” otherwise known as Ocean Isle Beach. This small barrier island can best be described in a single word: Without. But in a good way. OIB is without expensive high-rise hotels, run-of-the-mill chain restaurants, and neon-dotted strips or boardwalks.
What it does have is an amazing beach. Ocean Isle Beach residents are proud of their beautiful, silky-sand coastline, and they devote a lot of time protecting and renourishing it. So much so that they were recognized nationally in 2008 by the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association with a ‘Best Restored Beach Award.
Sure, people come to Ocean Isle Beach for the beaches, but that’s only the beginning. This small coastal community extends 5 miles on the island from Tubbs Inlet on the west to Shallotte Inlet on the east, and to the mainland on the north along North Carolina Highway 904.With an oceanfront fishing pier, a public boat launch, a coastal museum, specialty shops, restaurants and coffee and wine shops, a public park, an adventure park, annual festivals, and several golf courses, Ocean Isle Beach is a true coastal renaissance town.
Incorporated in 1959, Ocean Isle Beach is home to more than 600 year-round residents. This beachside escape isn’t just for vacations. It attracts empty nesters, baby boomers, and everybody in between because of its affordable economy, moderate climate, and volunteer and entrepreneurial opportunities. It’s a gem of a relocation destination in coastal North Carolina that often gets overlooked for Wilmington’s historic river district and cultural amenities and Myrtle Beach’s living large attitude and entertainment reputation. But OIB is perfectly positioned between both so when the lure of what each has to offer comes calling, it’s an easy drive to fulfill that itch, and an easy drive back to the quaint, quiet retreat.
Above all, Ocean Isle Beach is a down-to-earth, welcoming east coast beach community that wears its small-town roots like a flag, while at the same time, embraces just-the-right progress to make year-round living there homier and happier. But you can’t deny that come-to-me shoreline. Walk the powdery sands from Tubb’s Inlet to Shallotte Inlet, cast a line from the fishing pier, ride the waves or take a surf lesson, practice yoga on the beach, or go deep sea fishing.
Just steps from the shore, the full-beach experience continues with local shops and restaurants. Stop into Drift for breakfast and an iced coffee. Shop for water sports gear or eclectic apparel at Surf Unlimited on the causeway. Take in the exhibits or special events at the Museum of Coastal Carolina, grab lunch or a drink at the Pelican’s Perch. Enjoy dinner with a view at Jink’s Creek Waterfront Grille. Gather with friends for free concerts every Friday night.
Coastal living continues as you drive over the Intracoastal Waterway across the bridge that bisects the island from the Ocean Isle Beach mainland. Visit local restaurants like Causeway Gourmet for its modern fusion cuisine, or the Sugar Shack for its authentic Jamaican-style smoked meats. Shop for contemporary apparel or accessories at the Curious Mermaid boutique and furnish your home with original works by local artists of every medium. Play golf on OIB’s four courses: Leopard’s Chase, Tiger’s Eye, Panther’s Run, and Brick Landing Plantation Golf Club.
For the adventurous souls, you won’t be disappointed either. The Shallotte River Swamp Park, a nature oriented eco park offers two-hour zipline excursions, an aerial challenge course, and swamp boat eco-tours. Summertide Adventure Tours offers guided kayak expeditions a plenty where you can pick from several tour formats to explore nature and coastal eco-systems at their finest vantage point. Before you know it you’ll be identifying every species of flora and fauna in the area.
No matter which side of the bridge, it’s easy to find your niche, make new friends, and feel at home in Ocean Isle Beach. The siren songs of the water, the views, the relaxed lifestyle, and lower cost of living turn more and more visitors into residents every year.