Welcome to North Carolina’s barrier reef island, Sunset Beach. This beautiful island faces south, making it an ideal location from which to see the sun both rise and set over the water. You and the kids can spend time biking along the white-sand shore, collecting seashells, and getting in touch with nature or one another. When you want to see the sights, you can find plenty to do right outside the door of your Sunset Beach vacation rental.

1. Bird Island

Cross the Intracoastal Waterway on foot to discover Bird Island, a 1,500-acre undeveloped habitat for native wildlife. Be certain to visit the Kindred Spirit mailbox, which saved the island from resort development when locals left powerful messages against commercialization and turned the tide in favor of keeping this preserve pristine and protected.

2. Ingram Planetarium

There’s a world of possibilities beyond our planet, and Ingram Planetarium is an interesting place to explore them. You and the kids have a chance to explore the power of solar energy and learn about the forces that create hurricanes, rainbows, and comets. The Sky Theater astronomy show lets you see the universe up close on a high-definition digital system with realistic surround sound.

3. Museum of Coastal Carolina

Hop in the car and head to Ocean Isle Beach just 14 minutes away. This museum is located next to a playground, but the kids may not notice when they discover the Sea Shore Gallery’s Touch Tank inside the building. Wait for the smiles and squeals of delight as they touch living sea stars, whelks, conchs, sea anemones, and hermit crabs, all representatives of the colorful inhabitants that exist in a North Carolina hard-bottom reef. Let them recover from their hands-on experience as you sit and watch ‘Legacy of the Sea Turtle,’ a video that explores the life cycle of nesting turtles, filmed right in Ocean Isle Beach.

4. Ripley’s Aquarium of Myrtle Beach

When the weather turns rainy, or the kids just need a break, take them to Ripley’s Aquarium of Myrtle Beach. Here, you can view some of the strange ocean creatures, including a giant Pacific octopus, living corals, and weedy sea dragons. For a special treat, spend some time with the stingrays, the stars of the aquarium. Experience hands-on touching, take a behind-the-scenes tour of the habitat, and take home the special ‘I Swam With Stingrays’ shirt and photo USB that chronicles the day.

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5. Fish on Land

On Sunset Beach, you are not required to fish from a boat. You can keep your land legs and catch fish from the pier, or line up the beach chairs at the shoreline, which also qualifies as ‘land.’ Unlike other areas of the island, you don’t need a fishing license at the pier, so start throwing out the lines and have a great time.

6. Shrimping Cruise

Settle the family on the 90-foot boat for a cruise that takes you on an unforgettable two-hour journey. When the boat pulls up next to a working shrimp boat, everyone gapes in awe as fishermen bring the shrimps on board, as well as the crabs, sand dollars, and other marine life that have ventured into the net. Watch up close as these creatures scuttle around the deck before being returned unharmed to their watery home. Don’t be surprised if porpoises jump alongside the boat looking for treats, and you can actually see a shark as well.

7. Ocean Isle Beach Adventure

Adventure knows no age and the entire family can enjoy a frog’s eye view of the natural environment aboard a pontoon in the Shallotte River Swamp. Take advantage of the opportunity and learn about the ecology of the area, its history, and the rescued alligator sanctuary. Be sure to bring turtle food so the kids can feed them in the natural estuary.

8. Pirates Voyage Dinner and Show

Swashbuckling adventures await the entire family as Captain Blackbeard and his sidekick companions battle for a lost treasure on land and at sea above a full-sized pirate ship hidden in a 15-foot lagoon. The kids can cheer them on while enjoying the antics of spectacular acrobatics, beautiful mermaids, frisky sea lions, and colorful tropical birds. There’s so much to see that you may have to remind the kids to eat the fabulous four-course feast.

9. Myrtle Beach Waterpark

There’s no lack of water at Sunset Beach, but South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach water park gives getting wet a whole new meaning. Join the kids in a million gallons of family fun as you shoot down curves, swerve around obstacles, plunge through chutes, and have a thoroughly good time getting soaking wet. If you want more than one day at this 20-acre water park, keep your tickets and come free the following day to continue the adventure.

10. Alligator Adventure

Alligators are fascinating and frightening creatures, and there’s a ton of them to see, including an albino, at one of the largest reptile facilities in the world. If the kids get tired before they see all of the crocodiles, frogs, lizards, birds, snakes, and turtles, use your pass the next day for free.

11. Myrtle Beach Pelicans

If your kids play baseball or simply love watching it, take in a Myrtle Beach Pelicans game, the class An affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. Free giveaways happen all the time, and you can score with your kids big time. When you buy one reserved box seat ticket, you get a pass for a free 18-hole round of mini golf.

12. Battleship North Carolina

It’s a bit of a trip up the coast to see this majestic World War II battleship, but when you and the kids walk the decks of the ship, it’s worth every minute. You can listen to the oral histories of the young people who served the nation in a time of need, look at their photographs, and view their mementos. The kids can interactively experience what it’s like to steer a ship, start the engines, and fire the guns.

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