A seaside town hugging the Atlantic coastline, Oak Island and its surrounding towns and beaches boast an old-fashioned maritime feel and a laid-back atmosphere. Whether you enjoy sampling seafood and live music, spotting sea turtles in the wake, or just kicking back on the white-sand beaches, Oak Island promises a relaxing vacation for the whole family. The countless piers, charters, and ferries offer up plenty of fishing opportunities, and the marinas and canals make docking your leisure boat easy. Whatever your travel style, these top nine Oak Island vacation rental locations are sure to harbor the seaside vacation home of your dreams.

1. Long Beach

oak island
Source: Flickr/Doug Anderson

Named for its expansive stretch of beach that’s regarded as the longest in the region, this neighborhood in West Oak Island boasts villas and multi-story beach homes with wrap-around balconies facing the Atlantic. Step down to the beach from your vacation rental to go for a swim, or check out Oak Island Golf Club for a game of golf overlooking the water. You can also book a charter to fish on the open sea or spot whales and dolphins. After a day of seaside fun, head to one of the grills and seafood restaurants to sample the catch of the day.

2. West Oak Island

west oak island

Along the beach of this quiet neighborhood are beautiful beach homes of every size with unmatched views of the surf. Head to the west edge of town at low tide to walk across the Tidal Flats almost all the way to nearby Holden Beach. If a beach rental on the shoreline isn’t your style, look for a rental on the Intracoastal Waterway where you can dock your boat after a day of fishing. Be sure to check out Ocean Crest Fishing Pier to cast a line or enjoy the sunset views.

3. Caswell Beach

beach bungalow
Source: Flickr/Gerry Dincher

Situated just east of Oak Island, this secluded beach town offers luxury beach homes and rentals nestled along a single beachfront road. Step onto the stretch of pristine beach to set up your beach umbrella and reclining chairs, and keep an eye out for sea turtles. You can also check out historic Fort Caswell to see the old batteries or stop by Oak Island Lighthouse for some great photo ops.

4. St. James

st. james
Source: Flickr/switz1873

St. James, North of Oak Island across the waterway, features beautiful homes that line the lakes and canals scattered throughout the community. Here you can boat out to the Atlantic via the Intracoastal Waterway, casting off from St. James Marina or the private docking area of your vacation rental. The town also features four full golf courses and a scenic Harbor Walk for an afternoon stroll.

5. Southport

south port
Source: Flickr/Stacey Huggins

A historic maritime town, Southport lies a few miles northeast of Oak Island along Cape Fear River. When you’re not enjoying the beaches of the surrounding towns, take a walk down Southport Pier and the scenic Riverwalk, or brush up on local history at the North Carolina Maritime Museum. You can also enjoy a picnic at Waterfront Park or get out on the water with the family. Options for watercraft range from kayaks and canoes to sailboats and fishing ferries.

6. Holden Beach

beach houses
Source: Flickr/ANDREA JANDA

Located just west of Oak Island, Holden Beach is a hidden gem with its luxurious seaside homes and a quiet stretch of soft sand that locals describe as the perfect family beach. Catch a charter going out of one of the marinas, or do enjoy some fishing at Holden Beach Fishing Pier before getting a treat at one of the old-fashioned ice cream shops. Holden Beach is a prime nesting area for sea turtles, so keep an eye out from the porch of your rental.

7. Kure Beach

kure beach
Source: Flickr/ncrob1

Across Cape Fear River just a few miles west of Oak Island, Pleasure Island sits tucked between the river and the Atlantic. This southernmost beach community is dotted with beachside rentals that put you steps away from combing the shore for seashells or casting a line from Kure Beach Pier. A short drive south brings you to North Carolina Aquarium, and you can paddle through the marshes of Zeke’s Island Reserve if you crave a more natural getaway.

8. Carolina Beach

carolina beach
Source: Flickr/Keith Bloemendaal

Just north of Kure Beach, Carolina Beach is a Pleasure Island paradise that boasts a beach city vibe with music and seafood festivals throughout the year. Here, you can go for a walk along the pier, jog down the old-fashioned boardwalk in the morning, or visit the seaside amusement park complete with a Ferris wheel. Carolina Beach is also a host spot for water sports such as surfing and stand-up paddle boarding. When you need to get away from the city scene, take your family to Carolina Beach State Park to hike to an overlook of Cape Fear River.

9. Sea Breeze

sea breeze
Source: Flickr/Tess Dixon

The next community north of Carolina Beach boasts low-key vacation homes and cabins tucked in the woods with easy access to the shoreline. From Sea Breeze, you can drive down to Carolina Beach, take a day trip to Oak Island, or drive north to boat out of the vast marinas of Myrtle Grove. At the end of the day, return to Sea Breeze to enjoy a cookout in front of your remote vacation rental.