City Guide: Ocean Isle, North Carolina

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The tiny little beach town of Ocean Isle is located on the southern part of the North Carolina coast. It’s a bit of an underrated travel destination if you ask me. The coast of the Carolinas have incredible beach and adventure experiences. You’ve probably heard of Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head, Wilmington, and Charleston, but if you aren’t from the Carolinas, you’ve probably never heard of Ocean Isle.

With a population of just 612 in 2017, this tiny town can give you the beauty of a North Carolina beach without the crowds. After extensively researching places along the coast, I chose a few little beach towns that seemed to be smaller and less touristy that I wanted to visit this year. In late April, I finally made my way to Ocean Isle and I was not disappointed. To be honest, not a single one of the small beach towns on my list disappointed me.

I recommend visiting in the spring or fall. Any beach I have ever been to along the coast of the Carolinas has been way more enjoyable in the spring and fall. The winter is pleasant as well. My daughters and I were actually in Carolina beach on Christmas Day as well as New Years Day. Although it was 80F on New Years, the water was way too cold to enjoy. Then, when it comes to summer time, you have to deal with crowded beaches and tourists lining the streets trying to get to their next activity of the day. So, the best piece of travel advice I can give you when it comes to making your North Carolina beach trip more enjoyable is to visit in either the spring or the fall.

What to do

Ferry Landing Park
The park is a great place to sit by the water, go fishing, take a walk, or go kayaking.

Museum of Coastal Carolina
This museum is a natural history museum that also has a touch pool and other marine life. This is a great stop, especially if you have kids. The museum has a $9.50 entrance fee. There’s also a planetarium that coasts $9.50 as well.

Ocean Isle Beach Pier
The pier is open for fishing or just to walk out and enjoy the view. Plus, it only costs $1!

The beach
Head to the beach to swim, sun bathe, or read a good book. Whatever floats your boat! (whatever you do, just wear more sunscreen than I did. ouch!)

The Swamp Park
The most exicting thing to do in Ocean Isle is the swamp park. See gators, zipline, try out the ariel ropes course, or take a swamp boat tour. Activities range from $20-$100 depending on what activity and the age of the participant.


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Where to stay in Ocean Isle

Ocean Isle Inn
This hotel is right on the beach and is within walking distance of restaurants and the pier. I stayed here because of the affordable pricing and was thrilled by the added bonus of its location. They also had great customer service.

Islander Inn
This hotel is right beside the Ocean Isle Inn and is equally well located. While on the pier I stopped and talked to a couple who frequently vacation in Ocean Isle; they said they’re pleased with the Islander and that it’s their hotel of choice when in the area.

The Winds Resort Beach Club
A nicer option in Ocean Isle. The hotel and their outdoor pool is right on the beach. They have gorgeous beach cottage theme in their rooms, free breakfast and wifi, and they’re also in close proximity to the Museum of Coastal Carolina.


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Where to eat

Ocean Isle Creamery
This is a popular ice cream shop and is within walking distance of both the Ocean Isle Inn and the Islander Inn

Sharky’s
Also within walking distance of the hotels is, Sharky’s. I LOVE this place and highly recommend stopping by for a bite to eat. You can eat inside or, even better, go outside and eat while enjoy the view of the water. Also, definitely order the homemade chips and salsa. The chips and salsa both are to die for!

The Isles Restaurants and Tiki Bar
This is a more elevated white table cloth option. They have quirky cocktails and delish southern cajun cuisine. I recommend you get a reservation as they get really busy. So, if you don’t want to wait an insane amount of time or if you want specific seating, definitely make reservations.

Jinks Creek Waterfront Grille
Jinks Creek is a great option for spectacular water and sunset views. This isn’t white table cloth dining, but still a more elevated restaurant. A perk of dining at Jinks with kids is that their restaurant has a spacious interior as well as an outside seating area. I know it always helps when you your little ones don’t feel trapped and can also go outside and enjoy the views!

Is It Safe?

If you’ve never been to North Carolina, you may be wondering… Is it safe?
Absolutely. I’ve traveled through out the state for two years now. Most of my travel has been done solo or myself with my two young daughters. Of course you should watch yourself and always make smart travel decisions. But, in all of my North Carolina travels, I have never experienced anything scary or sketchy.

Samanthas Basic Travel Safety Tips
-keep your belongings close (I prefer to use a cross body bag when I travel)
-don’t take valuables on the beach
-if you’re traveling alone, don’t walk back to your hotel in the dark

Ocean Isle Cost Breakdown

I love to be open and transparent with you all when it comes to how much you should actually expect to spend while you are traveling. For the sake of this coast breakdown, I’m going to give you an example of how much you should expect to spend on a three day trip.

Hotel
If you visit in the shoulder season and want a hotel on the beach as well as a room with a view of the ocean, you are looking at around $380 total for three nights.

Food
When it comes to food, let’s say you will be eating breakfast at your hotel for free and eating out for lunch and dinner as well as getting a few treats here and there. For each adult meal at a sit down restaurant I would budget around $15, more if you want to add cocktails or dessert. A kids meal will be around $7-$9. Let’s say you want to get a snack or an ice cream once each day of your three days trip. I would budget around $20 for each person per day.

Attractions
Here’s an example cost break down for one traveler.
Day 1: visit the beach for free and the Swamp Park: $30 for swamp boat tour & $42 for zipline circuit
Day 2: visit beach for free and pay $1 to walk out on to the pier
Day 3: visit the Museum of Coastal Carolina for $9.50 & the planetarium for $9.50

Transportation
I traveled to Ocean Isle in a car and it cost me around $100. This cost is going very greatly for each traveler so, I’m going to leave this out of the trip total. Simply add in your gas or airplane ticket costs to the total below.

Total trip costs for one traveler spending three nights in Ocean Isle:

Hotel: $400
Food: $250
Attractions: $100
Souvenirs, extras, etc.: $50

TOTAL: $800 + transportation


I hope you get to go explore Ocean Isle for yourself very soon! If you have any questions or if there is anything I missed, just leave me a comment. Happy traveling!

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