The 20-minute ferry ride to Bald Head Island transports you to the world apart from the mainland. Cars are not allowed on the island, leaving golf carts, bicycles, and walking as the only means of transportation. You can meander along the 14 miles of beaches, climb to the top of Old Baldy lighthouse, or practice your swing on the seaside golf course. Imagine kicking back on the porch of your vacation rental as you watch the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean. Or, perhaps your ideal vacation rental sits amid the towering trees of the forest. Here is a list of the top 12 Bald Head Island vacation rental locations to help set the mood for your vacation getaway plans.

1. Bald Head Island, North Carolina

If you love a good ghost story, visit the Bald Head Island Ghost Walk. It takes you through 400 years of island history and legends, including a story about the daughter of Aaron Burr, said to haunt the Old Baldy lighthouse. Built in 1817, the lighthouse features a staircase of 108 steps that visitors can climb for a view of the island. If you encounter a ghostly young lady, she’s looking for her father.

2. Caswell Beach, North Carolina

Caswell Beach is a community steeped in history where you can walk around the Fort Fisher Civil War fort, a state historic site. You can climb the main fort complex and walk through the remaining rooms. Guided tours occur several times daily, with costumed tours occurring occasionally.

3. Oak Island, North Carolina

A nice breeze off the Atlantic Ocean usually keeps Oak Island comfortable even in hot weather, and it maximizes the fun in sailing. The annual beach sailboat regatta in late autumn poses a colorful sight accompanied by music, food stands, and a festive mood. The rest of the time, visitors find a pristine stretch of beach for relaxing, swimming, fishing, and building sandcastles with the kids.

4. Southport, North Carolina

Southport is a quaint, historic coastal town with loads of charm and lots to do. From the downtown area filled with art galleries, craft shops, antique shops, and restaurants to the Southport Pier and Riverwalk, all the attractions lie within an easy walking distance of each other. An exciting scenic tour on the Southport-Fort Fisher Ferry lasts about 35 minutes and takes passengers within view of Bald Head Island.

5. Kure Beach, North Carolina

When it’s time to use those vacation days for a beach retreat, Paradise awaits you on Kure Beach. From surfing and snorkeling to kayaking and parasailing, there’s always an exhilarating way to check out the spectacular coastline. For a change of pace, you can visit with alligators, sharks, seahorses, and more at North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.

6. Carolina Beach, North Carolina

Why not dance the night away to live music on the Carolina Beach Boardwalk? Families can enjoy classic beach fun with a seaside amusement park and weekly fireworks. You and your kids can play in the arcade, sample homemade fudge, and view the ocean from the Ferris wheel.

7. Holden Beach, North Carolina

Holden Beach is the perfect vacation paradise where you can shake off the stress of the daily grind and do everything the beach offers — swim, surf, sail, dive, and fish — or do nothing at all. Your to-do list is wide-open, ranging from local shops and seafood dinners to exciting shows, restaurants, and shopping just an hour away at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Summer is the time to observe loggerhead turtle nests that are carefully marked by Turtle Watch Program volunteers. Wouldn’t it be awesome to see the babies hatch?

8. Silver Lake, North Carolina

Situated along the banks of the Cape Fear River, Silver Lake offers easy access to fishing, kayaking, and canoeing. Whenever the beach calls, you can drive to Carolina Beach in 15 minutes to surf, swim, or work on your suntan. You’re in an ideal location to visit the Tregembo Animal Park in Wilmington, the oldest zoo in southeastern North Carolina, situated less than three miles away.

9. Winnabow, North Carolina

Winnabow is a great little vacation getaway location in a small community with plenty of southern hospitality. It’s also the site of historic Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson. Before the Revolutionary War, Brunswick was a major port on the Cape Fear River. British troops destroyed the town in 1776, but the colonial foundations remain. About 10 minutes to the north, Magnolia Greens Golf Course is located along US Highway 17 about five miles south of Wilmington.

10. Sea Breeze, North Carolina

Just cross the bridge from Sea Breeze to reach Carolina Beach State Park, which includes a marina and access to great fishing spots. The park features miles of hiking trails through towering forests and marshes where you can find the Venus flytrap. The visitor’s center exhibits represent the flora and fauna of the park’s varied habitats.

11. Long Beach Neighborhood, Oak Island, North Carolina

Picture yourself casually strolling down the path from your doorstep to the ocean on Long Beach with your folding chair, shades, and a cooler filled with icy drinks. While the kids romp in the surf and build sandcastles, you soak up the sun and let the coastal ambiance soothe your jangled nerves. A marine life boat tour gives your family opportunities to see dolphins up close as they swim and play in harbors and creeks. The kids will enjoy spotting pelicans diving for fish or have fun meandering through the salt marshes during a leisurely cruise around Bald Head Island, Southport, Oak Island and St. James Plantation.

12. Sunset Harbor, North Carolina

Just minutes from the beach on Oak Island, Sunset Harbor is a quiet community that is tucked away along the banks of Lockwood Folly River and the Intracoastal Waterway. From this vantage point, you can enjoy saltwater and freshwater fishing within walking distance of your vacation rental where the river empties into the Intracoastal Waterway. The gentle waters provide ideal conditions for stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking tours. To pep things up, you can try single or tandem jumps with Skydive Coastal Carolinas, about 15 minutes away in Southport.