Good morning, friends!! I wanted to share an *updated* Ocean Isle Beach Travel Guide today (along with all the outfits I wore while I was there). My family has been visiting Ocean Isle since before I was born – so I have literally been going there every summer my entire life! It feels like my second home – and it’s one of the only places in the world where I’m truly able to relax. I have such good memories from our summers there growing up, that it feels like such a safe, happy place when I’m there.
I also wanted to note that I am not encouraging anyone to travel right now due to COVID. However, if you already have a trip to OIB planned, or you want to travel there next summer, I hope these tips will help you out!
Where to Stay
A RENTAL! My family always rented a house for a week every summer. We rented through several different companies throughout the years: Sloane, Cooke and McClure are the best. You should also look at VRBO! Chris and I own a beach condo and we do rent it out through VRBO, however it’s not on the rental market this summer due to renovations (I’ll be sure to share the link with you guys next year!).
A HOTEL: In a pinch (or if there are no rentals available), then consider booking a room at one of the two oceanfront hotels, The Ocean Isle Inn and the The Islander Inn. They are right beside each other and very similar, and located right next to the pier in an easy and convenient location. The only downside is that, like a typical hotel, the rooms are pretty small. But they do offer a buffet breakfast every morning, and each boast a pool and hot tub!
Where to Eat
59 CAUSEWAY: Our new favorite breakfast place in Ocean Isle! 59 Causeway is located right along the canal with an amazing view and offers a wide variety of bagels, cream cheeses and breakfast offerings like cinnamon buns and donuts. We picked up bacon, egg and cheese bagels FOUR times while we were there last week – they’re some of the best bagels I’ve EVER had!! They also dedicated an entire section of the restaurant to a “coffee bar,” and offer several different coffee and espresso drinks, as well as healthy smoothies. Plus the atmosphere is super cheerful and beachy.
BREAKERS PIZZA AND GRILL: At least once per visit we head over to Breaker’s for some mouth-watering hot dogs and french fries. (We try to limit our trips since it’s not very healthy – BUT SO GOOD!) Breaker’s also has a bunch of different Hershey’s ice cream flavors, and I personally love their banana splits. Located next to the pier, Breaker’s also has an arcade in the back and a surf shop located upstairs.
DRIFT COFFEE & KITCHEN: We looove Drift Coffee for both breakfast and lunch! They have amazing avocado toast (called an “Avocado Smash”) and a Market Breakfast Bowl that is super healthy and delicious with egg, avocado, sweet potato, greens, quinoa, baby tomatoes. Plus their coffee is AMAZING. It’s nice to either walk or ride your bike here for breakfast!
THE PURPLE ONION: This is a local secret that we discovered many years ago 🙂 Located in Shallotte, the Purple Onion serves amazing pastries and traditional breakfast items, as well as burgers, sandwiches, salads and soups for lunch. My favorite is the Purple Onion Cafe Salad with a side of sweet potato fries! If you go here for lunch you HAVE to order a slice of cake. Check out the “cake refrigerator” when you walk in the door – there are tons of different kinds, all mouthwatering.
OIB SURF AND JAVA: Located across the bridge, OIB Surf and Java is worth the drive if you are a true coffee-lover. Half surf shop and half coffee shop, they offer almost every coffee drink imaginable (seriously, just take a look at their menu), as well as baked goods like their famous monkey bread. And the HUGE plus is that they have a drive-through, so you don’t even have to leave your car if you don’t want to.
BOUNDARY HOUSE: This is one of the nicer restaurants near Ocean Isle Beach… its a bit pricier than the surrounding restaurants but 100% worth it! It is sooo good – they serve buttery fresh honey croissants with every side salad and those are always my favorite part of the entire meal! They have amazing appetizers, seafood and my dad says their steak is phenomenal.
CAPTAIN JOHN’S SEAFOOD HOUSE: Captain John’s is my family’s favorite place in Calabash for fried seafood! My parents and brother always get the seafood platter with deviled crab (I usually get a salad topped with coconut shrimp). You have to eat here if you like seafood – then stop at Callahan’s next door to go shopping – they have a HUGE selection of trinkets, jewelry, decor and gifts. Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s so much fun to peruse!
INLET VIEWBAR & GRILL: We love this place because it has great food and it’s dog-friendly! Chris and I love taking Winnie, sitting on their outdoor patio and dining while looking out over the water. I always get the mahi mahi with a baked potato on the side because it’s mmmm good!
MARIA’S PIZZERIA: We got takeout several times from Maria’s last week (we just discovered it, thanks to some friends of ours!). Their real specialty is the “Maria’s” pizza – I could eat the whole dang thing by myself!! 🙂
OCEAN ISLE FISH COMPANY: Also known as OIFC, Ocean Isle Fish Company is a great place to grab a drink before dinner. They have a Tiki Bar located on the top with awesome views of the sound! My mom and I always order fun drinks in a coconut. We also love their store – they sell a bunch of cute T-shirts, kids toys and have a large selection of Yeti cups. If you stay for dinner, we think their food is just “okay” but we love the atmosphere and it does have an awesome view.
OYSTER ROCK: I actually haven’t been here but all of my friends RAVE about Oyster Rock. It’s a new restaurant located right on the water in Calabash and serving up creative cocktails and a wide variety of dishes, from seafood to pasta. Their menu looks truly mouthwatering and we will for-sure be stopping by on our next visit!
PROVISION CO.: This restaurant is actually located in Holden Beach, but we drive in every year for their amazing food! This was my favorite place for hamburgers and cheeseburgers in the entire world. Try their onion rings – they are OMG so good.
SHARKY’S: Sharky’s has been an Ocean Isle Beach staple for more than 30 years. Tucked under the Ocean Isle Beach bridge, the restaurant has a large indoor dining area as well as outdoor dining that overlooks OIB’s beautiful waterfront views. My family loves any of their seafood, and their pizza as well! The Tropical Shrimp Salad is BOMB, and I always order it with a beer followed by a slice of key lime pie.
What To Do
THE BEACH: The most obvious thing: enjoy the beach! The beach at Ocean Isle is really nice, we bring our own chairs and umbrella and set up camp for hours at a time. Sometimes we pack lunch in a cooler, other times we’ll head back to the house for an hour to eat and take a break from the sun. Our trips always involve getting as much beach time as possible!
BIKE RIDE: Bikes are really easy to rent in Ocean Isle, and you can ride all over the island looking at the pretty houses! We like to ride our bikes to Drift Coffee in the morning for breakfast.
PUTT PUTT: There’s a cute little putt putt place right next to the pier in Ocean Isle (you can’t miss it – you will see it on your left when you drive onto the island!). Our family loves a good friendly competition, we always play at least once during our week at the beach.
YOGA: Yoga on the beach is the perfect way to wake up in the morning (along with the sunrise). It’s $10 per class, and you can see the schedule here. You don’t even need a yoga mat, just bring your beach towel and you’re good to go.
FARMER’S MARKET: There’s a really cool little Farmer’s Market that sets up shop next to the Museum of Coastal Carolina every Tuesday starting at 9 a.m. during the summertime. Although they don’t have much produce, they do have a ton of local artwork, natural soaps, honeys and jams, and even some cute beach towels and beach bags. (Note: this might be on pause this summer due to COVID.)
CONCERTS & OUTDOOR MOVIES: If you’re into music, you are in luck! OIB offers FREE concerts every Friday night from 6:30 to 8 p.m. All concerts take place in the lot next to the Museum of Coastal Carolina on the island. Bring a beach chair and your own drinks and get ready to enjoy the music (and do some dancing!). For kids, OIB also has free outdoor movie nights every Wednesday in the same lot. You can check the movie schedule here. (Note: this might be on pause this summer due to COVID.)
What To Pack
Most of the restaurants in Ocean Isle are pretty casual, but my mom and I love to dress up so we usually wear dresses and wedges to dinner every night. You certainly don’t have to do that, though – we are usually the dressiest ones there! For a trip to Ocean Isle, you will definitely need to pack multiple bathing suits and cover-ups, as well as a beach bag, towels and sunscreen. For trips to Drift Coffee and bike rides around the island, pack a cute tee and some denim shorts. A pair of nice sandals is also a must!
Let me know if you’ve ever been to Ocean Isle and if you have any favorites! I’d also love to know if you’re planning a trip there in the future – it’s my favorite beach of all time, after all 🙂