22 Cool Things To Do In Ocean Isle Beach, NC (Eat, Stay, Play)

Ocean Isle Beach Things To Do

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You’ll find plenty of cool things to do in Ocean Isle Beach in North Carolina.

After reading about an excellent shelling spot there, I decided to take a day trip.

It’s located about an hour north of Myrtle Beach but lacks the commercial tourism. It has several free parking lots with public beach access.

One of my favorite things to do at Ocean Isle Beach is shelling. With its long stretches of wide-open beach, you can find plenty of shells to take home with you.

And when you’re ready to take a break from the sand, there are plenty of restaurants and shops nearby. So whether you’re looking for a quiet place to relax or an adventure-filled vacation, Ocean Isle Beach is a good choice.

Read MoreHow To Find Amazing Shells On Ocean Isle Beach!
Read MoreThe Ultimate Sea Shell Identification Guide

Map of Ocean Isle Beach in North Carolina
Ocean Isle Beach is located on the southern NC coast just an hour north of Myrtle Beach or an hour south of Wilmington.

Ocean Isle Beach Rules

Ocean Isle Beach rules include no biking on the strand from Memorial Day to Labor Day and no dogs allowed on the beach from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

And always keep a lookout for signs of sea turtles. The nesting season is from May through August.

If you see a turtle or turtle eggs, keep your distance and report to Ocean Isle Beach Turtle Watch or Ocean Isle Beach Police.

Cool Things To Do In Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina

1- Hunt For Seashells

One of my favorite things to do at Ocean Isle Beach is to go shelling. If you go at low tide, you should have a good chance of finding a lot of seashells, as I did.

My favorite spot to go shelling was the east end of the island. Read my full article about how to go shelling on Ocean Isle HERE.

Shelling at Ocean Isle Beach in NC
Whelk shell I found at Ocean isle Beach, NC

Sea Shelling Bag
Seashell Collecting Bag
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2 – Play At The Beach

Of course, playing at the beach is one of the most popular things to do on any beach vacation. And Ocean Isle was relatively uncrowded each time I visited.

There’s plenty of room to find a spot to sunbathe, play frisbee, bocce ball, fish, or go swimming. If you like to surf, I saw several people surfing by the jetty at the island’s east end.

There are several public access points along the beach to park your car for free and walk to the beach. Many of them have showers to wash the sand off.

I was impressed with Ocean Isle Beach Community Center. It’s at one of the public beach access points and offers bathrooms, a picnic shelter, and outdoor showers. It’s located at 44 E 1st St, Ocean Isle Beach, NC 28469.

I enjoyed visiting the main beach (close to the pier) as well as the very east end of the island at Shallotte Inlet. If you want calmer water and more beach to yourself, I highly recommend the inlet, though.

Ocean Isle Beach Community Center

Ocean Isle Beach NC shelling
The east end of Ocean Isle Beach called Shallotte Inlet has calmer waters and few people.

Our favorite paddleboards!
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3 – Vist Ocean Isle Beach Pier

One of the most popular things to do at Ocean Isle is to visit the pier. It’s located in the central part of the beach and offers a great place to fish, walk, or enjoy the sunset.

You can also eat at The Pier House Grill or visit the gift shop to purchase ice cream, snacks, and fishing supplies.

It costs $10 to park in the pier parking lot, but it’s free after 6 PM.

View of the Ocean Isle Beach Pier from the Ocean Isle Beach Community Center.

4 – Kayak At Sunset

Summertide Tours offers a sunset paddle in the sound. You’ll leave at dusk and see the sun setting over the back-barrier marshes.

This will give you the opportunity to watch the gorgeous wetland area as it fades into darkness without dealing with the heat.

5 – Pilot A CraigCat Powerboat

A CraigCat powerboat is like riding a go-cart on the water. They are small, fast, and fun!

This tour by Carolinas Coastal Adventure lets you pilot your own CraigCat powerboat while experiencing the beauty of the surrounding area.

You’ll travel along the gorgeous intercoastal waterway to Sunset Beach and search for eagles, birds, and other wildlife. Calabash, Waddie, and Bird Island are also visited.

You’ll learn about wildlife on these islands, play in the waterways, and hopefully spot some dolphins.

CraigCat Powerboat tour

6 – Take A Plane Tour Over Ocean Isle

Experience the beauty of Ocean Isle Beach and the Atlantic Coast from a different perspective with an airplane tour from Epic Air Tours.

This plane ride is a unique experience perfect for a date night, spending time with your family, or an adventurous outing with friends.

Tours range in price from $49 to $150.

Their most popular tour includes views of Sunset Beach, Shallotte Inlet, Holden Beach, and Ocean Isle Beach.

For a romantic date, try the Sunset Air Tour, where you’ll get to view the sun setting over the Atlantic.

Epic Air Tours Plane Ride over Ocean Isle Beach at Sunset
Epic Air Tours Facebook page

7 – Take A Nature Tour By Pontoon Boat

A pontoon boat is a great way to tour the Intracoastal Waterway, islands, and local rivers.

Tour H20 offers nature, island, and sunset tours. And all of their boats have a US Coast Guard-licensed captain.

Their tours help you view local wildlife and the area’s beautiful scenery.

8 – Zipline Through The Cypress Canopy

At The Swamp Park, you’ll get to take in a bird’s-eye view of all the creatures that call the swamp home, like deer, turkeys, raccoons, owls, and wild boar.

Zipline through 100-year-old cypress trees while you learn about the habitat around you.

The Swamp Park Facebook Page

9- Tour Shallotte River Swamp By ATV

Ride an ATV on trails through the Shallotte River Swamp and then a stunning forest. Just be ready for lots of hills and a muddy adventure!

Drivers must be 16 years old, and riders must be 8. This tour is offered by The Swamp Park.

Seashells of Georgia & the Carolinas
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10 – Learn To Surf

Carolina School of Surf offers private or group surfing lessons. Whether you choose a private or solo lesson, they’ll have you surfing in about an hour and a half.

Classes are held in front of the Ocean Isle Beach Community Center.

Private lessons are for all ages. Group lessons are for ages 16 and older.

11 – Go On A Inshore Fishing Tour

A Speckulator tour takes you fishing in the marshes and creeks around Ocean Isle Beach. Some of the fish you can catch include, Redfish, Trout, Flounder, Drum Mackerel, Bluefish, and Sheepshead.

You can choose from a half or full-day tours, and the captain is US Coast Gaurd Licensed.

Speckulator Inshore Fishing Facebook page

12 – Explore The Town By Bicycle

For about $50 a week, you can rent a bicycle from Island Hoppers Bicycle.

Great deal, right? And you’ll have so much fun cruising around the beautiful seaside town of Ocean Isle Beach.

They have several types of bicycles available for rent, including beach cruisers, tandem bikes, adult tricycles, and children’s bikes. They also rent helmets and pull-behind trailers.

13 – Spot Alligators At A Local Park

Ocean Isle Beach Park has playgrounds, tennis courts, pickleball courts, a dog park, walking trails, and a pond with turtles and alligators.

Yep, alligators! You’ll see a sign to beware.

Alligator at Ocean Isle Beach Park

14 – Take Your Kids To A Splashpad

OIB Town Center Park is a lovely park located just a block from the beach.

It has a splash pad, walking trail, playground, bocce court, and bathrooms.

In the summertime, they feature movie nights and outdoor concerts on the amphitheater.

You can grab an ice cream, food, or coffee to enjoy at the park.

There are several choices within walking distance, including Ocean Isle Creamery, Ms. Shores Kitchen, Drift Coffee Shop, and Pelican’s Perch Bar & Grill.

OIB Town Center Park has a splash pad, playground, and walking trail.

15 – Dine At The Restaurants on Ocean Isle Beach

There are plenty of wonderful places to eat in Ocean Isle Beach, including American, Latin, and Italian. And most of the restaurants will have local seafood on the menu.

One of the treasures of visiting the NC coast is trying regional seafood. The Gulf stream near North Carolina’s coast is known for mahi-mahi, tuna, swordfish, bass, mackerel, and many other large species of fish.

The state’s vast network of sounds, rivers, and estuaries are home to drum, trout, shrimp, and blue crabs.

The following are the top restaurants in Ocean Isle Beach:

Sharky’s Restaurant – One of the most popular restaurants on Ocean Isle Beach.

They offer seafood dishes as well as pizza, pasta, and sandwiches. You can dine on their deck, which has gorgeous views of the inlet.

I ordered the delicious Tsunami Sandwich to go and enjoyed it at the beach.

My Tsunami Sandwich from Sharky’s Restaurant on Ocean Isle Beach, NC

Amelia’s Backstreet Grill – Considered a hidden gem by locals. They offer breakfast and lunch Wednesday through Monday.

Popular dishes include Shrimp and Grits, Crab Cakes, BBQ Pork Chops, and Seafood Casserole.

Pro-Tip: Dine early to avoid the crowds and enjoy a beer at Tap Time Tap Room after dinner. It’s right next to Amelia’s Backstreet Grill.

Jinks Creek Waterfront Grille – This restaurant serves classic American seafood and drinks in a modern dining room with a spacious outdoor eating area.

The views from the outdoor deck are gorgeous, especially during the sunset.

My daughter and I shared a Fried Seafood Basket with Cod and Shrimp and it was amazing. The breading was so tasty and crispy. We asked for both tarter and cocktail sauce which I would definitely recommend.

Pro-Tip: The wait can be long, but you can make reservations for indoor seating for parties of nine or more. All outdoor seating is first-come, first, serve.

Jinks Creek Waterfront Grille Facebook page

Inlet View Bar & Grill – This waterfront seafood restaurant has an upstairs bar and two waterfront decks.

And the views of the Intracoastal Waterway are magnificent.

The food is excellent too. Recommended dishes include the Fish Tacos, Shrimp Taco Salad, and Fresh Peel and Eat Shrimp.

You’ll need to walk up several stairs or take the elevator to get to the top two decks, but the views are worth it.

Pro-tip: They don’t accept reservations, so arrive early or be prepared for a long wait.

Ocean Isle Fish Company – My daughter picked this restaurant out on one of our trips to Ocean Isle Beach.

I loved that you could order food at the outdoor bar to enjoy on the waterfront.

The food came quickly and was fantastic. I ordered the Low Country Boil and enjoyed the fresh clams, shrimp, kielbasa sausage, and potatoes.

The corn was a bit over-cooked, but I’d order the dish again.

My daughter had the Coconut Shrimp Appetizer (and ate it as a meal), and they were crunchy and delicious.

Coconut Shrimp – Ocean Isle Fish Company
Low Country Boil – Ocean Isle Fish Company

Maria’s Pizzeria – This restaurant offers pizza, Italian dishes, and an impressive selection of alcoholic beverages.

Favorite dishes here include the Stuffed Banana Peppers, Spaghetti Alla Meatballs, and Pescatore Pizza.

They have an extensive wine, beer, whiskey, and cocktail menu. Choose from over 40 types of wine, 30 types of whiskey, and over 20 types of draft beer.

Chuncky Salsa – This Latin restaurant combines southern Carolina style with a Latin twist. They use fresh ingredients with a unique style.

Dishes offered here include, Citrus & Beer Marinated Flank Skirt Steak, Grilled Watermelon, Shrimp Salsa, Birrea Tacos, and Homemade Hershey’s Stuffed Fried Ice Cream.

Pro-Tip: Try their fresh-made Apple Pie Nachos. It’s a customer favorite.

Chunky Salsa Facebook page
Chunky Salsa Facebook page

Robertos Restaurante – This is an Italian and American Steakhouse. They get great reviews for their Pasta Jambalaya, Spinach Artichoke Dip, Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo, and Jumbo Cheese Ravioli. 

Roberto’s has an admirable selection of whiskies and bourbons. They also have an excellent wine list.

Pro-Tip: Call ahead to reserve your table.

Causeway Gourmet – I like that the menu offers salads, wraps, and sandwiches for under $10 and more expensive steak and seafood plates for over $15.

I think anyone could find a fantastic dish in their price range. 

Popular dishes include the Salmon Power Salad, Turkey Ruben, Fennel Rubbed Salmon, and the Pan Fried Chicken Delaware.

Pro-Tip: Save room for dessert because they serve homemade Key Lime Pie, Kahlua Toffee Mousse Cake, Peanut Butter Brownie Pie, and many more tasty offerings.

Sarah’s Kitchen – This is an excellent place for an affordable breakfast or lunch!

You can get their giant pancake plate for around $5 or choose from several other breakfast offerings like French Toast, Biscuit’s ‘N Gravy, and Cheese Steak Omelet.

They serve traditional diner fare for lunch like sandwiches, salads, wraps, and hamburgers. 

The Dawg House Grill OIB – This is a great mom & pop diner serving breakfast and lunch. Menu items include sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs, and omelets. 

You can’t beat the price for the food you get. 

Dawg House Grill OIB Facebook page

16 – Get Your Morning Coffee

Drift Coffee Shop & Kitchen – A modern, bright cafe where you can get gourmet coffee drinks and fresh, nutritional breakfast & lunch items.

Favorite coffee drinks include the Iced Vanilla Latte, Golden Latte, and Strawberry Banana Smoothie.

The breakfast and lunch menu includes Avocado Toast, Harvest Bowl, Bodega Sandwich, and Acai Bowl.

59 Causeway Drive Bagels and Coffee – This is another great eatery on the waterfront in Ocean Isle Beach.

They serve gourmet coffee drinks, smoothies, specialty lemonades, bagel sandwiches, and breakfast platters.

They’re open from 7 AM to 7 PM most days, so it’s a great place to get your coffee needs met all day long.

They also offer a fantastic bar menu. You can start drinking early in the morning with Mimosas and Bloody Marys (I won’t judge). Or Margaritas, Pina Coladas, and Daquiris in the afternoon.

59 Causeway Drive Bagels & Coffee Facebook
59 Causeway Drive Bagels & Coffee Facebook

OIB Surf & Java – Customers rave about their fresh baked goods and their gourmet coffee drinks.

They have a lovely seating area and gift shop items for sale. You’ll be able to purchase jewelry, shoes, clothing, and even dog toys.

Many people visiting the island visit every day of their vacation to get coffee for themselves and pastries and smoothies for the kids. 

Pro-Tip: Don’t miss out on the tasty homemade muffins and monkey bread.

Ms. Shores’ Kitchen – You can get specialty coffee drinks and wonderful baked goods all day long at this quaint dessert bar.

They bake delicious cakes, pies, cookies, doughnuts, and brownies.

Menu items to try include the Orange Cream Doughnut, Pumpkin Cake, and Iced Coffees.

You can also order whole pies and cakes.

The Brew House – This wine bar and coffee shop is a great place to hang out and chat with friends. They have a book swap, beer and wine tastings, and offer wood-fired pizza on Thursdays.

Pro-Tip: They offer vegan and gluten-free snacks.

17 – Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Beach Life Sweets & Ice Cream – I loved visiting this large, colorful candy store. It’s sure to satisfy your sweet tooth. They have every kind of candy you can imagine and the ice cream is delicious.

I enjoyed the hand-scooped ice cream cone I purchased there.

Beach Life Sweets & Ice Cream
Beach Life Sweets & Ice Cream

Pete’s Sweets – They sell homemade fudge, delicious Hershey ice cream, and 32 flavors of saltwater taffy. Recommended ice cream flavors include Mint Chocolate Chip and Banana Pudding.

Sunset Slush – Nothing cools you off at the end of a beach day like a Sunset Slush. They serve Italian Ice and Gelato in any flavor imaginable, including peppermint, peach, cherry, and blue vanilla.

You can even get a koozie to use for refills at repeat visits!

Spilt MilkThey serve homemade donuts and gelato, as well as specialty coffee drinks. The delicious donut flavors include Crazy Candy and Banana Pudding, while the gelato flavors include Butter Pecan and Orange Cream.

The specialty coffee drinks have unique flavors like French Toast, Pecan Pie, and Cracker Jack.

Spilt Milk Ice Cream and Donut Shop Places to eat ocean isle beach nc
Spilt Milk Facebook page

The Ice Cream Shoppe – The Ice Cream Shoppe is one of the most popular spots to get ice cream at Ocean Isle Beach. Their Butter Pecan and Coconut Almond flavors are two of their 24 mouth-watering choices.

They also serve milkshakes, sundaes, and banana splits, and make their own waffle cones.

Sweetcakes TBC – Sweet Cakes is a wonderful bakery on Ocean Isle Beach. They offer a wide variety of baked goods, including pies, breads, cupcakes, and scones.

They feature a different scone flavor every day, so you never know what you’re going to get. Some of their popular scone flavors include Strawberry, Blueberry Almond, and Chocolate Chip.

Sweetcakes TBC pastry Ocean Isle Beach NC
Sweetcakes TBC Facebook page

2 Ladies & A Scoop – Two Ladies & A Scoop serve everything from ice cream cones and sundaes to shakes and smoothies.

They have a delightful selection of milkshake flavors like Fruity Pebbles and Salted Caramel Pretzel.

I love that they offer non-dairy, gluten-free, and no-sugar options.

18 – Grab A Drink At One Of The Local Bar Or Wine Shops

Tap Time Tap Room – Offers a vast selection of local and national craft beer.

They have a large taproom with TV, games, wi-fi, and shuffleboard – perfect for enjoying a night out with friends. Or, if you’d prefer, you can take a growler home with you.

Pro-Tip: Amelia’s Backstreet Grille is next door, and they’ll bring food right over to you at Tap Time.

Tap Time Tap Room Best bars in Ocean Isle Beach North Carolina
Tap Time Tap Room

Tipsy Turtle Tiki Bar – This is the only oceanfront bar on Ocean Isle Beach. The bar offers several rum cocktails, frozen cocktails, and a great selection of beer and wine.

They also have a nice selection of sandwiches, salads, and appetizers on their bar menu.

Coastal Wine Room – Looking for a place to enjoy some world-class wines? Coastal Wine Room offers more than 400 different wines.

And if you can’t decide which wine to try, they also offer wine flights so you can sample a few different ones.

If beer is more your thing, they’ve got that covered as they have several beers on tap. They also offer small plates of food to go along with your tastings.

Coastal Wine Room

Silver Coast Winery – Silver Coast Winery is about a 20-minute drive from the beach and makes European-style wines from grapes sourced in North Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia.

The winery has won over 400 awards for its fantastic wine. They offer tours of the winery as well as wine tastings, but you must have a reservation.

They also offer cheese plates to go along with their wine tastings.

19 – Cook Your Own Local Seafood

If you’re looking for fresh, local seafood to cook yourself, there are several seafood shops in Ocean Isle Beach.

You’ll be able to find fresh-caught shrimp, snow crab legs, mahi-mahi, tuna, oysters, and more.

Whether you’re in the mood for a seafood feast or just want to grill up some juicy shrimp, you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for at the many seafood markets.

Captain Jack’s Seafood – They carry a wide variety of seafood to cook yourself. It’s all freshly caught so you know it’s the best quality possible.

They have everything you need to make a delicious seafood meal at home. They sell Key Lime Pie, frozen hush puppies, condiments, and breading to use in cooking your seafood.

Island Seafood Company – They’ve got everything you need to make a delicious seafood meal from scratch, including seasonings and side dishes.

Their Calabash Carolina Gumbo is perfect for a cozy winter meal, or you can try their Pickled Vegetables for a summery side dish.

And, of course, no meal would be complete without dessert. Their Key Lime Pie is the perfect way to end your meal.

Lloyd’s Oyster House – This is the place to go if you’re looking for the freshest oysters around.

Located on the Shallotte Inlet waterfront, Lloyd’s offers fresh-caught oysters by the box or in gallon buckets.

20 – Shop The Local Boutiques

Vivi’s By The Sea – You can find stylish coastal decor and nautical jewelry and gifts here.

The store is full of beautiful creations by local artists including lamps, furniture, and florals.

Whether you’re looking for the perfect decoration for your beach house or a special gift for a friend who loves the sea, you’ll find something unique here.

Viva's By The Sea Places To Shop in Ocean Isle Beach NC
Viva’s By The Sea Facebook page

The Preppy Pineapple – This colorful boutique sells women’s and children’s clothing, jewelry, home decor, and locally made beach gifts.

I love their Simply Southern totes, beach dresses, luscious soaps and lotions, and adorable children’s apparel.

The Preppy Pineapple Facebook page

Rae Of Sunshine – This shop sells unique and stunning jewelry and charming cottage-style home decor.

The store has a warm and inviting vibe, and the staff is always happy to help you find the perfect piece for your home.

21 – Stay In A Beachfront Hotel

Looking for a place to stay on your next trip to Ocean Isle Beach?

You can’t go wrong with the Ocean Isle Inn or The Islander Inn. Both hotels are located right on the beach, so you can wake up to the sound of the waves crashing against the shore.

And when you’re ready to cool off, take a dip in the pool at either hotel. Plus, each hotel offers a complimentary continental breakfast so you can start your day off right.

These hotels fill up quickly in the summer months, so you may want to consider the Four Mile Bed & Breakfast or the Best Western Shallotte Hotel. Either is just a few minutes from the beach.

Ocean Isle Inn
View on Hotels.com
The Islander Inn Places to stay at Ocean Isle Beach in NC
The Islander Inn
View on Hotels.com

22 – Stay In A Beachfront Home Or Condo

If you need accommodations larger than a hotel room, consider staying in an oceanfront home or condo.

This 6-bedroom oceanfront home has a private heated pool and hot tub and its own boardwalk to the beach. It’s within close proximity to ice cream, bars, shopping, and family activities.

This Ocean Isle Beach condo is the perfect place for a family or friend’s getaway. It’s a corner unit with panoramic views of the sunrise and sunset. It sleeps six and has a community pool and barbecue area.

The condo allows up to two dogs of any size, so you don’t have to leave your furry friends at home.

Ocean Isle Beach Condo
View on VRBO.com
Ocean Isle Beach Rental Home
Ocean Isle Beach Home
View on VRBO.com

Ocean Isle Beach NC Pier things to do
Ocean Isle Beach Pier

Ocean Isle Beach in North Carolina has plenty of things to do if you’re looking for fun in the sun in a quaint beach town.

You’ll love swimming, surfing, fishing, dining, and exploring all that Ocean Isle Beach offers.

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Hi! I'm Kristen

I love finding fun spots in the Carolinas to visit like quaint towns, country stores, and fantastic food. I can't wait to share it with you!

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18 Responses

  1. I don’t get it.
    The only nice thing is the beach and the people.
    Traffic sux, there is almost nothing to do.
    100,000 people..3 restaurants …2 of them suck and at 7pm on a tuesday none of them were taking orders to go…mini golf if you want to do that with 50,000 other people…ice cream ? 2 hrs in line…ocean isle beach is nice but apparently they want you to spend your money elseware

    1. Thanks for your perspective. I’ve been on the weekend and weekdays in the summer and didn’t have a problem with traffic or getting food. I know a lot of restaurants are having trouble getting enough help so that may be part of it.

      But that beach. I’m so in love with it.

  2. I am sold, this looks like such a fun place to visit! Plus, I want to eat all of that food in Ocean Isle Beach! So cool!

  3. You had me at “lacks commercial tourism”! 😉 I love that Ocean Isla Beach NC is still low-key with plenty of things to do. My son would love to try and find the alligators.

  4. I would LOVE to spend time at Ocean Isle Beach! So many fun things to do and places to visit. I need to get to North Carolina!

    1. I’m having such a great time finding gems in North Carolina. I sure hope you get to visit!

  5. It looks like there are so many things to do in Ocean Isle Beach! I love shelling, but those craigcat power boats looks like SO much fun!

  6. So many (22 to be exact 😊) cool things to do in Ocean Isle Beach NC!! How fun was that powerboat tour???

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