Full disclosure: I did not stay at any of these beaches. My visits were short and over the course of a few days so my opinions are based on first impressions.
Arriving from the south, the first beach town that you will come to is Sunset Beach. Sunset Beach is the most southern beach and surf in the state of North Carolina. It is a small, retro feeling town with a pier, public restrooms and The Sunset Inn. As you will find with all of the Brunswick Islands, most people stay in house rentals - either on the beach or the Intracoastal Waterway. It has the distinction of having the Ingram Planetarium here, which is part of the Museum of Coastal Carolina. They also hold the Sunset Beach Waterfront Market every Thursday in September and October at the waterfront park.
Ocean Isle Beach
Ocean Isle is one of the larger towns in the Brunswick Islands. It has several restaurants with outdoor decks, more choices for lodging such as the Ocean Isle Inn and The Islander Inn and the award winning Silver Coast Winery. Home of the North Carolina Oyster Festival (usually held in October),if you're lucky you may see some sea turtle hatchlings heading out to sea. You can take the kids to The Museum of Coastal Carolina which has touch tanks and sea life exhibits.
Heading east, the next town you will come to is Holden Beach. Voted best family beach in the United States by Dr. Beach (Dr. Stephen P Leatherman), Holden Beach is a quaint, small beach town with sidewalks for kids to ride their bikes on and carribean color beach houses to rent for the week.To stay here you will need to rent a beach house or a house located on a canal of the Intracoastal Waterway as there is very little other lodging. There are a few restaurants located along the Intracoastal Waterway and a few small stores for beach supplies but not much else. Just sand and surf.
Oak Island is the largest town in the Brunswick Islands. It has 10 miles of beaches, two marinas, two piers and more than 60 public beach access areas. (All of the towns mentioned have public beach access spots though not all access spots have parking areas) There are several motels and resorts here along with beach house rentals. A little more touristy than the others, there are ice cream stands, surf shops, mini golf and even helicopters for hire. Though it's larger, Oak Island still has that small town feel.
Caswell Beach actually sits on the Eastern end of Oak Island. It is the least populated of all the Brunswick Island beach towns and only has one commercial establishment - the Oak Island Golf Country Club. Still it's not far from the towns of Oak Island or Southport to get everything that you need. Obviously, there are no hotels here, only beach houses to rent. You can, however, visit the lighthouse which is one of the brightest in the US reaching some 24 nautical miles offshore. (It is said to blink every minute)
I hope you enjoyed our tour of five of the six Brunswick Island beach towns - we're saving one for another time! And I hope you get to experience this area sometime - a little slice of beach heaven on the North Carolina coast!
I'm linking up with Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travel Thursday, Friday Postcards at Walking On Travels, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute and Weekend Wanderlust at A Brit and A Southerner!