Nestled on the Atlantic coastline, Oak Island, North Carolina is a small resort town with a population of just under 8,000 people. The island’s shore is covered with stretches of warm, sandy beach. With its long and narrow geography, Oak Island makes it easy to navigate around town. Book a stay at an Oak Island vacation rental to be situated within an easy stroll of numerous attractions. Thousands of visitors vacation every summer in Oak Island to enjoy the surf and charming ambiance. Here are 15 of the top things to do during your stay in Oak Island.

1. Whale Watching

Book a two-hour boat tour with Anomaly Charters, and you can enjoy a slow cruise through the marine estuaries, bird rookeries, and open ocean waters that give Oak Island its reputation for natural splendor. Captain Bob has been running these tours for many years, and it seems he always knows where to find a pod of dolphins or some passing whales. Call ahead for availability; spots on the boat fill up fast during tourist season.

2. Go Fish

Operating from Oak Island’s inner shore, on the Intracoastal Waterway, Fugitive Fishing Charters takes visitors out on a small blue-water craft, The Fugitive, for morning and afternoon fishing trips off the coast. Fishing around Oak Island is good all year, and there’s a greater-than-zero chance one of your kids will catch a nice bluegill or sea bass for dinner back at your vacation rental in Oak Island.

3. Visit the Farmer’s Market

After you’ve caught an Atlantic Salmon big enough to feed the family, you’re going to need some side dishes and garnish. Pick those up at the Oak Island Farmer’s Market, where local produce suppliers bring their freshest farm goods and other must-haves for your rental home’s kitchen. Pick up some lemon for the fish, fresh butter for the rolls, and some authentic Southern collard greens to cook all day before dinner. Remember to bring some cash with you; some of the smaller local retailers aren’t set up for credit or debit transactions yet.

4. Get a Massage

After the shopping is done, you can reward yourself with an hour-long massage at Beachin’ Day Spa. Relaxing beach-themed decor and reasonable rates make Beachin’ a great place to take a load off during or after a hard day’s relaxation on the beach.

5. Tour Oak Island by Air

As beautiful as Oak Island is from the ground, the really stunning vistas are to be had from the air. Brunswick Air Tours charters flights around the area so visitors can appreciate their vacation spot from a whole new perspective. Kids are welcome on every tour, and the short hop over the island makes an ideal first flight for them.

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6. Tour Oak Island by Air… In a Biplane

North Carolina was, as the license plates attest, First in Flight, and the Wright Brothers took their first few hops on one of the islands just north of your vacation rental in Oak Island. You and the kids can honor that history, and have a great time in the air, aboard the nimble little biplane chartered by Suncoast Aviation. Book a tour, and your flight will take you over the sandy beach, along the coast to get a look at the holiday mansions of Oak Island and back down again in time for another massage at Beachin’ Spa.

7. Hit the Water

It goes without saying that watersports are among the chief attractions of a beach community like Oak Island, and there’s an almost unlimited variety of fun stuff to do in the water while you’re there. Rent a kayak from Carolina Watersports, and ask about lessons if you’re a beginner. The company also offers paddleboard rentals and assorted gear to keep you on the water, as opposed to in the water, such as life jackets and wetsuits.

8. Play Golf

It’s hard to think of a more family-friendly activity than miniature golf, and Oak Island has one of the most popular courses in the area. Jungle Golf nestles in Oak Island’s tiny downtown area, where parking is surprisingly abundant. Lines tend to be long toward the late morning and afternoon, so it’s a good idea to arrive early and plan to wrap up before lunch.

9. Explore the Island’s Fortifications

Up the coast from your vacation rental in Oak Island, along the quietest stretch of the coast highway, the great hulk of Fort Caswell broods over the approach to the Cape Fear River. Great ships tear along the busy shipping lane off the coast, while you and your family can sit and meditate on the quiet history of the place. This fort was intended to control North Carolina’s coast during the Civil War, and it did U-boat spotting duty during both world wars. Today, the land is owned by the North Carolina Baptist Assembly, which treats it as a private retreat. Tourists can still get in for free, but everyone is expected to treat the site with the respect it’s earned in a century and a half of solemn vigilance.

10. Take In a Museum

If the fort has put your family in the mood to appreciate history, your next stop has to be the North Carolina Maritime Museum, in Southport. Here, in addition to the well-arranged and informative displays, kids can try out interactive lessons in knot-tying and periscope operations. The museum also hosts scavenger hunts and live lessons from knowledgeable guides.

11. Stroll Along the Pier

Ocean Crest Pier is a privately-owned, combination fishing and tourism attraction that locals and tourists both love to visit on clear days. Pay a reasonable fee at the gate, and you’re issued a temporary NC fishing license, or you can forgo the fishing and just take a walk to the end of the pier for the view. Concessions are available at the front end of the pier, as are fishing supplies and bait.

12. Find Your Inner Artist

Learning arts and crafts is always a great way to while away an afternoon with children, and Pescado y Amor welcomes the whole family in to do just that. Classes fill up fast at this charming art studio, so book as early as you can, and courses vary by the day — from painting pet portraits one day to crafting keepsakes from recycled materials the next — so you can plan to come back many times during your stay in Oak Island.

13. Get to the Chopper!

Sometimes, while you’re touring a spot as beautiful as Oak Island by air, you wish you could just stop the plane for a moment and get a clear picture of some local attraction. By chartering a helicopter flight with High Tide Helicopters, you can do just that. Book a flight around the island, and you might even be allowed to touch the controls for a few minutes, giving you the thrill of personally piloting a helicopter through the air over the scenic grandeur of Oak Island.

14. Go Skydiving

When you’ve taken enough aerial tours of Oak Island that safely landing on a runway has become routine, you might be ready to take things up a notch and jump out of the plane before it lands. That’s where Skydive Coastal Carolinas come in, with a team of experienced instructors and an unbreakable safety checklist to work from, this tour company is the ideal place to take your first jump. Solo and tandem dives are possible, and elaborate photo packages of your jump are for sale on your way back in.

15. Deck the Halls

No matter what time of the year you schedule your vacation rental in Oak Island, your trip isn’t finished until you’ve picked up some Christmas supplies at The Christmas House in Southport. This quirky holiday shop does business out of a stately old Victorian mansion, and ornaments, gift wrap, and assorted presents are available all year long. Unique souvenirs are on every shelf in this shop, and the festive Christmas air of the place makes the perfect punctuation mark to the end of your trip to Oak Island, NC.

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