20 Things To Do In Oak Island NC

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On a barrier island off the Atlantic Ocean, Oak Island is a serene oasis known for its outdoor recreation, a strong sense of community and southern hospitality. Oak Island offers 12 miles (20 km) of sandy shores for swimming, sunbathing and plenty of beach activities for the whole family. It’s also home to the largest lighthouse in North Carolina. The Oak Island lighthouse stands 152 feet (47 m) tall and is the island’s most iconic monument. Visiting the lighthouse provides scenic views and a taste of North Carolina’s rich history. Looking for relaxing vacation? Here are the best things to do in Oak Island and the surrounding area. 

Oak Island, North Carolina

20 Things To Do In Oak Island And Surrounds

1– Tour The Oak Island Lighthouse

oak island lighthouse
Exploring the Oak Island Lighthouse is one of the things to do in Oak Island.

One of the most popular attractions on Oak Island is the Oak Island lighthouse.

Standing beside the Oak Island Coast Guard Station on the east end of the island and looking south over the Atlantic Ocean, the lighthouse is open for tours on a seasonal basis.

This cylindrical architectural marvel was built in 1958 and is a symbol of the island’s maritime history.

If you’re keen to look inside, book a reservation at least one month in advance.

Climb its stairs to the top and you’ll be rewarded by one of the best views on the island.


Oak Island Lighthouse is at 300a Caswell Beach Road, Oak Island, NC 28465.

2– Tour The Old Baldy Lighthouse And Smith Island Museum

Lighthouse On Bald Head Island
Visiting the lighthouse on Bald Head Island is one of the things to do around Oak Island NC.

Looking for another lighthouse adventure?

After visiting the Oak Island Lighthouse, meander to the nearby and charming Old Baldy Lighthouse and Smith Museum for more fun.

Old Baldy is North Carolina’s oldest lighthouse.

This historic monument provides breathtaking panoramic views of Bald Head Island and the surrounding coastline.

Maritime history lovers will also enjoy the Smith Island Museum next to the Old Baldy Lighthouse.

With captivating exhibits and artifacts, you’ll enjoy immersing yourself in North Carolina’s exciting coastal history.

The Old Baldy Lighthouse and Smith Island Museum is at 101 Light House Wynd, Bald Head Island, NC 28461.

3– Spend Time At The Beach

oak island beach aerial with blue sky
One of the top things to do in Oak Island is to spend time at the beach.

No visit to Oak Island would be complete without a visit to the seaside.

With an abundance of public beach accesses across the island, you won’t have to travel far to find your own slice of paradise.

Sunbathing, kayaking, fishing and surfing are some of the activities that attract visitors to Oak Island year-round.

Oak Island prides itself on being accessible for all, providing nine handicap-assistive beach access locations for those in need.

Public beaches with handicap access on Oak Island can be found at Keziah Street, 705 Ocean Drive, SE 74th Street, SE 55th Street, SE 40th Street, 19th Place East, 10th Place West, 27th Place West and 57th Place West.

4– Scuba Dive The “Graveyard Of The Atlantic”

Scuba Diver Descending To The Bottom
Scuba diving is one of the things to do in the Oak Island area.

Discover a fascinating underwater world in the waters of the Atlantic off Oak Island’s coast with a scuba diving adventure.

Local dive shops provide dive instructors who are happy to introduce you to the vibrant local marine life, intriguing shipwrecks and stunning coral reefs.

The island’s waters provide an assortment of intriguing dive sites, including shipwrecks that date back centuries.

The underwater topography is diverse, with rocky outcrops, ledges and sandy bottoms. 

5– Stroll Along The Oak Island Pier

Take a relaxing stroll along the iconic Oak Island Pier, a landmark that is 27 feet (8 meters) high and 880 feet (268 meters) long.

With panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean, walking the pier is a relaxing activity the entire family can enjoy.

Visiting the Oak Island Pier is also a great way to connect with nature and feel the power of the ocean. 

The Oak Island Pier is at 705 Ocean Drive, Oak Island, NC 28465.

6– Catch A Fishing Charter

Billfish White Marlin Catch And Release On Boat
Going fishing is one of the top things to do in Oak Island, North Carolina.

Fishing around Oak Island offers a diverse range of opportunities, with both inshore and offshore species available.

Some of the inshore fish anglers can expect to catch include red drum, flounder, speckled trout or black drum while offshore fishing might yield king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, cobia, mahi-mahi, wahoo, various species of tuna, grouper, snapper and billfish.

You’ll have an unforgettable adventure on a fishing charter off the coast of Oak Island.

Various charters are available and suitable for all levels of skill, from seasoned anglers to novices looking to cast your first line.

Enjoy breathtaking coastal scenery while you feel the thrill of a pull on your line.

7– Visit The North Carolina Maritime Museum 

The North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport is a must-see for anyone interested in learning more about North Carolina’s rich maritime history.

From pirates to battleships, the museum’s fascinating exhibits showcase the state’s nautical history.

A stroll through the museum’s waterfront location also provides stunning views of the Cape Fear River.

You’ll gain insights into North Carolina’s coastal communities at the North Carolina Maritime Museum.

The NC Maritime Museum is at 204 E Moore St, Southport, NC 28461.

8– Take An Exciting Helicopter Ride

things to do oak island
Looking for things to do in Oak Island? This relaxing seaside area is great for anyone who loves waterways and beaches.

Experience the aerial beauty of Oak Island on a thrilling helicopter ride that will excite adventure seekers as you fly through the skies gazing at the Atlantic Ocean and Oak Island below. 

Get a bird’s-eye view of the coastline, Long Beach, Oak Island Lighthouse, the waterways, estuaries and marshlands.

If you’re lucky you might even spot dolphins.

9– Shop For Antiques At The Hoarders

If you love thrifting for antique treasures, The Hoarders is the place for you.

This local antique shop is well-known across the island for its curated selection of unique pieces.

With solid wood furniture and stunning vintage decor, this local shop provides hours of fun for antique treasure hunters.

The Hoarders is at 8600 E Oak Island Dr #6, Oak Island, NC 28465.

10– Visit The Oak Island Farmers’ Market

Fruits And Vegetables At Farmers Market
Visiting the farmer’s market is one of the things to do in Oak Island this weekend.

Held on Mondays from May to September, visiting the Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market is a wonderful way to support small businesses in Oak Island.

The quaint and charming outdoor market offers a variety of fresh produce, locally sourced goods, handmade crafts and other artisanal goods.

Get to know the community while meeting local vendors and other attendees and support the town’s economy by browsing the market stalls.

You might even find something cool to take home as a souvenir. 

The Oak Island Farmers’ Market is held at SE 49th St, Oak Island, NC 28465.

11– Explore Fort Caswell

Fort Caswell offers a rich history and architectural beauty for visitors year-round.

One of the most captivating attractions in Oak Island, this coastal military fortification was built in the late 19th century.

It played a role as a coastal defense post during the Civil War and both World Wars.

These days, it’s owned by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and is a retreat and conference centre. 

You can take a guided tour of the ground’s well-preserved barracks to discover the fort’s historic significance.

Enjoy views of the stunning Cape Fear River while you stroll across this historic military encampment.

Fort Caswell is at 100 Caswell Beach Rd. Oak Island, NC 28465.

12– Hike The Environmental Overlook Trail

Nature lovers are guaranteed to enjoy a sunny afternoon stroll along the Environmental Overlook Trail, which offers views of protected coastal habitats, marshes and maritime forests.

If you’re lucky, you might even spot turtles, brown pelicans, squirrels and even American alligators.

This trail is perfect for a romantic date night promenade or a solitary meditative walk.

The Environmental Overlook Trail is at 3003 E Oak Island Dr, Oak Island, NC 28465.

13– Play Mini Golf At Oak Island Jungle Golf

Playing In Mini-Golf On The Green Grass Using Niblick
Playing a round of mini golf is one of the things to do in Oak Island for families.

A favourite local activity is playing mini golf at Oak Island Jungle Golf.

Fun for any age and complete with palm trees and cartoon jungle animals galore, OKI Jungle Golf is a great place to spend an afternoon or evening.

The jungle-themed course has been operating since 2004 and is a safe, family-friendly environment.

Oak Island Jungle Golf is at 6321 E Oak Island Dr, Oak Island, NC 28465.

14– Dine At Oak Island’s Best Restaurants

Grilled Pork Ribs, Roasted Meat With Rosemary
You’ll always find a tasty meal in Oak Island NC.

Oak Island’s restaurants and eateries dish up tasty southern coastal comfort food, with something to satisfy every craving, from fresh seafood to deep southern BBQ. 

Tranquil Harbour Restaurant & Bar offers locally sourced seafood, steaks, burgers and other American fare in a cosy bar with a patio.

And you can’t skip BBQ House for the best southern breakfast, barbeque plates and sandwiches on the island.

Island Way is Oak Island’s favorite seaside restaurant.

With fine steaks and fresh seafood, enjoy a meal with an ocean view and the relaxing sound of waves crashing.

15– Take The Family For Ice Cream

It wouldn’t be a trip to Oak Island, North Carolina without an outing for ice cream.

From Frosty’s Ice Cream, Lil and John’s Sweetreat Ice Cream Parlor and Tropical Treats, satisfy your tastebuds with a range of treats including ice cream, Italian ice, coffee and fudge.

Enjoying a sweet treat is a summer staple and something to look forward to in Oak Island. 

16– Explore The Oak Island Nature Center

Looking to get your hands dirty? Take a trip to the Oak Island Nature Center during the spring and summer months.

Located next to the Intercoastal Waterway, this is the best place on the island to bring your children to play and explore while learning from local volunteers about the habitat and wildlife that make Oak Island so magical.

Completed in 2006, the centre has a picnic pavilion, fishing pier, floating dock and butterfly garden.

This educational oasis also offers exciting youth programs throughout the summer.

Oak Island Nature Center is at 5202 E Yacht Dr, Oak Island, NC 28465.

17– Visit The Battleship North Carolina History Museum

Step aboard the Battleship North Carolina and immerse yourself in the fascinating history of one of the most decorated battleships of World War II.

This nearby floating museum in Wilmington, North Carolina, offers the opportunity to explore the decks, crew quarters and armaments of this iconic military vessel.

Explore the gun turrets and intricate engine rooms and gain a firsthand glimpse into the daily life of the brave sailors who served on this ship.

Learning about the vessel’s captivating history is sure to provide entertainment suitable for all ages.

As you walk the decks, you’ll develop a new appreciation for the sacrifices of all those who served onboard.

The Battleship North Carolina History Museum is at 1 Battleship Rd NE, Wilmington, NC 28401.

18– Take A Narrated Boat Cruise

A narrated boat cruise offers the perfect opportunity to take in breathtaking views of the Intercoastal Waterway, and other local waters while listening to intriguing stories and facts about local history, wildlife and ecology told by local guides.

These relaxing trips provide you with the opportunity to connect with nature and create lifelong memories.

Oak Island narrated boat cruises are the perfect combination of education, relaxation and natural beauty found in this coastal paradise.

19– Attend The Oak Island Annual Summer Concert Tour

“Bands by the Beach” is a series of outdoor concerts held in Oak Island every year between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

The best part is guests can attend one of these lively shows for free.

Dance and sing along as local musicians and bands entertain the island all night long.

Grab your lawn chairs and blankets, gather your friends and family, and get ready for an evening of live music, community spirit and summer fun.

20– Catch A Sunset Or Sunrise

Watching the sunset in Oak Island is a mesmerising experience.

With the breathtaking backdrop of the vast Atlantic Ocean stretching to the south, you won’t soon forget the stunning shades of orange, yellow and pink that wash the sky as day turns to night.

Take yourself to the beach and watch the sun rise or set in this dreamy coastal town. 

Plan Your Trip

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Caroline Matthews
Caroline Matthews is a freelance travel writer based in Oak Island, North Carolina. Born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina, she received a B.A. in Political Science at Appalachian State University, and later a J.D. at Suffolk University Law School. To date, her favorite travel experience is visiting the infamous Sagrada Familia Basilica, in Barcelona, Spain. With a strong appreciation of art history, she seeks out stunning art and architecture everywhere she goes.