Ocean Isle Beach Travel Guide

Your comprehensive guide to Ocean Isle Beach, including places to visit, hiking/biking routes, food and drink scene, where to stay, local culture and customs, and transportation options.

Introduction to Ocean Isle Beach

Located in the North Carolina Coastal Plain, Ocean Isle Beach is a charming seaside town that offers visitors a perfect blend of relaxation and adventure. With its pristine beaches, picturesque scenery, and abundant natural resources, the town is an ideal place to unwind, explore, and create precious memories with family and friends.

List of Places to Visit in Ocean Isle Beach

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

  • Museum of Coastal Carolina: Located at 21 East Second Street, this museum offers visitors an educational and interactive experience that explores the culture, history, and archeology of the coastal region of North Carolina.
  • Ingram Planetarium: This planetarium at 7625 High Market Street offers visitors a unique experience to observe the stars and planets.

Natural Attractions of Ocean Isle Beach: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

  • Ocean Isle Beach: The town’s pristine beach is the main attraction for many. The wide expanse of the beach, clear water, and gentle waves are perfect for swimming, surfing, or a simple relaxing day by the sea. The beach is also a popular spot for fishing and beachcombing.
  • Shallotte River Swamp Park: This park is a must-visit destination for those who love hiking and outdoor activities. With its boardwalks that traverse the wetland forest, the park offers an immersive experience that is both fun and educational.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Ocean Isle Beach

If you’re looking for a way to explore Ocean Isle Beach’s natural beauty on foot or bike, consider these routes:

  • The local beach towns showcase a number of bike rentals and trails to explore the area in the most adventurous way possible.
  • Bird Island Trail: This 1.5-mile trail takes hikers and bikers through the winding paths of the forest, sand dunes, and marshland, offering up-close encounters with the area’s unique wildlife.

Best Things to Do in Ocean Isle Beach: Activities and Tours

Whether you’re visiting as a family, couple, or solo traveler, Ocean Isle Beach has plenty of activities to offer, including:

  • Water sports: Surfing, kayaking, and paddleboarding are just some of the most popular ways to explore the beach and its surrounding waters.
  • Dolphin tours: Take a boat tour to see and learn about the area’s resident dolphins and their habitat.
  • Fishing Charters: With the town being located near the Gulf Stream, fishing charters are available for both experienced anglers and beginners.

Week-Long Itinerary for Ocean Isle Beach

If you are planning to spend a week in Ocean Isle Beach, here’s an itinerary that we recommend:

Day 1: Arrive in Ocean Isle Beach and explore the local area. Day 2: Visit the Museum of Coastal Carolina Day 3: Take a dolphin tour in the morning, and spend the afternoon on the beach. Day 4: Hike the Bird Island Trail Day 5: Rent a kayak or paddleboard, and spend the day exploring the waters nearby. Day 6: Take a tasting tour at Silver Coast Winery, included transportation from pickup locations. Day 7: Enjoy your last day on the beach, and indulge in some locally sourced seafood before heading out.

Food and Drink Scene of Ocean Isle Beach

Must-Try Dishes

  • Calabash-style seafood: This is a local specialty of the Calabash area, and features fried seafood such as shrimp, fish, and oysters served with tartar sauce.
  • Handmade Ice-cream: Go to The Island Market, located at 27 Causeway Drive. They offer homemade ice cream with different flavors every week.

Local Beverages

  • Local breweries: The town has a few breweries including Check Six Brewing Company, which offers a variety of craft beers and a relaxing atmosphere.
  • Wine: Venture out to the neighboring Silver Coast Winery and indulge in an afternoon of wine tasting.

Where to Stay in Ocean Isle Beach: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

Whether you’re looking for a luxurious stay or something more affordable, here are a few options:

  • Islander Inn: This oceanfront hotel is located at 57 West First Street, and offers comfortable accommodation, a heated pool, and spa amenities.
  • Ocean Isle Inn: This hotel is conveniently located at 37 East First Street.
  • Vacation Rentals: For those looking for privacy and independence, I recommend vacation rentals which are easy to find online.

What to Buy in Ocean Isle Beach: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

Bring home a bit of Ocean Isle Beach with these souvenirs and local products:

  • Beachwear and accessories from nearby gift shops such as: The Red Egg Gift Shop, Causeway Gourmet, Beachy Bean Trading Co., and more.
  • Locally-made jams, jellies, and hot sauces from the local markets.
  • Handmade crafts and home decor from the nearby farmers market “Bald Head Island” that takes place on Monday mornings.

Local Culture and Customs of Ocean Isle Beach

  • Most of the restaurants, shops, and activities start to close down during the winter months from December to February.
  • The town is famous for the Calabash-style seafood and hosts seafood festivals every year.
  • Be respectful of the local wildlife and environment.

Best Time to Visit Ocean Isle Beach

The best time to visit Ocean Isle Beach is during the spring and fall seasons. The weather is mild, and the crowds are smaller, making it perfect for those who want to experience the town’s attractions without excessive heat or crowds.

Do’s and Don’ts of Ocean Isle Beach


  • Take a stroll along the beach in the mornings or evenings when the sun is not too strong.
  • Visit the natural parks
  • Explore the nearby towns and neighboring beaches for a change of scenery.


  • Litter the beaches or environment.
  • Touch or feed the local wildlife.
  • Ignore the local wildlife and environment rules and regulations.

Safety and Health

Safety in Ocean Isle Beach

  • Keep an eye on the tides and weather warnings while on the beach.
  • Be aware of rip currents which are most often found at the ends of sand bars and near inlets.
  • Always swim near the designated areas.

Health in Ocean Isle Beach

  • Use sunscreen and wear protective clothing while on the beach or outside.
  • Stay hydrated and drink lots of fluids while under hot weather conditions.

Getting to Ocean Isle Beach: Transportation Options and Logistics

Airports Near Ocean Isle Beach

Myrtle Beach International Airport is the closest airport to Ocean Isle Beach, located approximately 37 miles from the town. Wilmington International Airport is another option, located approximately 56 miles from the town.

Bus Stations Near Ocean Isle Beach

Greyhound and Southeastern Stages offer bus routes from Wilmington NC to Shallotte NC, located approximately six miles from Ocean Isle Beach.

Other Options

There are car rental services that run from the airport or cities, if you plan to travel around North or South Carolina during your visit.

How to Get Around in Ocean Isle Beach

The town is easily navigable by car, and rental cars are available at the local airport, or at either the Wilmington or Myrtle Beach airports. Biking and walking are also popular ways to get around the town.

Where to Go Next from Ocean Isle Beach: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

If you would like to explore beyond Ocean Isle Beach, here are some nearby destinations and excursions to consider:

  • Myrtle Beach, South Carolina: This popular beach town is located just south of Ocean Isle Beach, and offers a wide range of attractions and activities including amusement parks, water parks, and shopping centers.
  • Southport, North Carolina: This town is located approximately 30 miles from Ocean Isle Beach and is known for its quaint, historic charm, and picturesque views.
  • Bald Head Island: Take a ferry tour from the Brunswick River to the Bald Head Island for a day trip filled with nature excursions and fun activities.


Ocean Isle Beach is a destination that offers something for everyone. From its picturesque beaches and natural attractions to its rich culture and history, the town offers visitors an unforgettable experience. Whether you’re here to relax and unwind or to explore and adventure, Ocean Isle Beach is sure to leave a lasting impression.