Oak Island, a barrier island between Wilmington and Myrtle Beach off the coast of North Carolina, is a spectacular vacation destination. Its pristine beaches, pleasant weather, excellent seafood, and abundance of activities make it great for families. You can enjoy swimming, fishing, kayaking, and wildlife observation within minutes of your accommodation. Book a stay at an incredible Oak Island vacation rental today. There are also numerous historic sites and exciting attractions you can visit. Here are the top nine things to do with kids in and around Oak Island.

1. Hit the Beach

Oak Island has miles of wide sandy beaches for your family to enjoy. You can swim in the surf, relax and sunbathe, build an elaborate sand castle, and play games such as Frisbee and volleyball. For a special thrill, go windsurfing. This long stretch of Atlantic Ocean beach is also a great place to hunt for shells. Oak Island Point, located at the west end of Beach Drive, is a particularly relaxing spot with an interpretive trail, wheelchair beach access, and restrooms.

2. Go Fishing

Surf fishing is great at Oak Island Point and numerous other spots along the beach. You can also try fishing from a pier in Oak Island or from the City Pier in nearby Southport. Try crabbing from the Crab Dock in Oak Island; simply tie bait onto a string, wait until a crab grabs hold, catch it with a net, and pull the net out of the water. For a special fishing adventure, take the family deep sea fishing in the nearby open ocean or the deep waters of the Gulf Stream. You can catch tuna, marlin, flounder, and many other species of fish.

3. Paddle the Waters

Paddling kayaks is a great way to explore the waterways around Oak Island, including the Intracoastal Waterway, Montgomery Slough, the Elizabeth River, and the Southport Channel. Places to launch your watercraft on Oak Island include Tidal Waves Park, Dutchman Creek Park, and Oak Island Ramp. The Davis Creek Canoe Trail is a relaxing stretch of water. You can rent kayaks on Oak Island or in nearby Southport and strike out on your own, or you can join a tour group and explore the local waterways.

4. Explore the Nature Center

The Oak Island Nature Center features displays on the local flora and fauna, fossil exhibits, and a collection of live animals that includes hedgehogs, rabbits, ferrets, and prairie dogs. The Talking Trees Walking Trail offers you a beautiful walk through a wooded area while you listen to interesting facts about southern magnolia trees, dogwood trees, black gum trees, devil’s walking stick trees, and more. The center also has a beautiful butterfly garden, a fishing dock, a floating dock, and binoculars for viewing the lovely landscape and wildlife.

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5. Stroll the Riverwalk

The nearby city of Southport has a lovely path along the Cape Fear River shoreline that’s suitable for all ages. The Southport Historic Riverwalk, which begins near the city pier and Southport Waterfront Park, circles around a small bay that contain the yacht basin and follows a boardwalk around a peninsula. Along the way, signs point out sites of historic interest, and there are numerous benches where you can rest and take in the beautiful view of the river and Bald Head Island. The end of the trail goes through maritime forest and marshland that is a renowned haven for bird watchers. There, you can spot white ibises, white pelicans, painted buntings, and other bird species.

6. Tour the Lighthouses

Oak Island Lighthouse lies at the eastern end of the island. Once one of the brightest lighthouses in the world, it’s now a major regional tourist attraction. From the parking lot, a trail leads down to the beach, where you can get an excellent view and photos of the structure. If you have the stamina, climb the 131 steps to the top, and enjoy the breathtaking panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Fear River, and the surrounding countryside. Bald Head Lighthouse, also known as Old Baldie, the oldest lighthouse in North Carolina, is on nearby Bald Head Island. The original structure was built in 1795, and the current lighthouse was constructed in 1816. Besides climbing to the top to enjoy the magnificent view, you can visit the Smith Island Museum of History at the base to view exhibits that focus on the history of the lighthouse and the island.

7. Have an Adventure at the Swamp Park

Just a few miles west of Oak Island at Ocean Isle Beach is the thrilling Swamp Park and Outdoor Center. You and the kids have the choice of three exciting activities. The Zip Line tour lasts over two hours, traversing 10 zip line stations and three bridges. As you skim over the swamp, you can observe wildlife such as deer, wild boar, raccoons, owls, and turkeys. The Aerial Adventure Park is an elaborate rope park with difficulty levels from beginner for young children to military level for teens and adults. The Swamp Boat Eco-Tour takes you for a close-up look at the Shallotte River Swamp, with its beautiful foliage and interesting wildlife.

8. Learn Local History

A tour of the local museums and historic sites gives you a fascinating look into the important role that Oak Island and the surrounding region played in American history. The displays in the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport focus on piracy, shipwrecks, hurricanes, commercial fishing, and other aspects of seafaring history on the North Carolina coast. The British built Fort Johnson in 1748, and the Fort Johnson-Southport museum highlights the importance of the fort in military history. The Fort Fisher State Historic Site on nearby Pleasure Island has a visitor’s center with displays showing its importance during the Civil War.

9. Visit the Aquarium

Near the Fort Fisher, Visitor Center is the fascinating North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. It has numerous galleries that showcase marine and freshwater animals from the local area and around the world. The Cape Fear Conservatory displays local fauna such as alligators, venomous snakes, frogs, and turtles. The Cape Fear Shoals exhibit has saltwater fish, including sharks, stingrays, moray eels, and groupers. Other galleries focus on marine life from Pacific reefs and other parts of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

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