Updated Travel Guide: Ocean Isle Beach, NC

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!

pom pom dress, also comes in purple and white

Brixton straw hat // Rayban sunglasses // “Talk to the Palm” T-shirt // AGOLDE Parker denim shorts

Brixton straw hat // Amazon heart necklace // striped one piece swimsuit

Brixton straw hat // Amazon swimsuit (those are oranges!) // AGOLDE Parker denim shorts // similar straw bag

Red Dress Boutique white eyelet dress // Cella Jane shop headband // Amazon heart necklace

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: SloaneCooke 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

BREAKFAST/LUNCH

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.

DINNER

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 🙂

Leave a Comment

21 Comments

  1. Mari

    I grew up in OIB, I know what you mean about it being one of the few places you can relax in the world! This is awesome to have you promote all of the awesome small businesses there that are favorites of mine as well!

    7.10.20Reply
  2. Jessica Prim

    I’m at OIB now and will have to check out 59 Causeway. I love bagels and didn’t even know they were there. Tim’s Bagels are really delicious too, but another 10 minutes off the island. Just tried the Maria Pizza from Maria’s Pizzeria last night. So good!

    7.10.20Reply
  3. Jessica

    I’m at OIB now and will have to check out 59 Causeway. I love bagels and didn’t even know they were there. Tim’s Bagels are really delicious too, but another 10 minutes off the island. Just tried the Maria Pizza from Maria’s Pizzeria last night. So good!

    7.10.20Reply
  4. Thank you so much for sharing this, Caitlin! My family has been traveling from Wisconsin to Ocean Isle since I was a baby, too. We leave tonight to drive down for a week and are so excited. Can’t wait to check out some of these local gems while we’re in town!

    7.10.20Reply
  5. Lauren

    My company is doing the new Town Hall there, so I’m up that way quite frequently – the restaurant tips will be SUPER helpful. The only place we’ve found so far that was good is the one under the bridge.

    7.10.20Reply
  6. Tricia Williams

    Do you guys not go to Sugar Shack?? The food is crazy good. Best coconut shrimp EVER. You have to try it!! Super loud and crowded during normal times but the food is worth it

    7.10.20Reply
    • Sierra

      We LOVE Sugar Shack!! Sooo delicious.

      7.10.20Reply
  7. Donna Peruta

    We love the NC coast and our favorite restaurants are Boundry House and Inlet View. Next time check out Patio in little River, live music ,food ok setting is great, then stop at Calabash Creamery. Bagel Dock is great for Breakfast and lunch in Calabash..Bleu in Sunset Beach is adorable boutique. Thursday Is farmers market in Sunset Beach and check out the old swing bridge…Puppet show on Sunday night..Great vacay spot..

    7.10.20Reply
  8. Brittany

    Williamson Reality is great company to rent through. They are family owned and operated. Sunset Slush is so good!
    Ella’s of Calabash is a great local family to support.
    Calabash Creamery has bomb ice cream.
    Calahan’s of Calabash is a great souvenir shop and they have really good fudge!

    7.10.20Reply
  9. OMG this place seems amazing ! Through these pictures we can feel that you really enjoyed your time!
    Miki x

    http://www.littletasteofbeauty.com

    7.10.20Reply
  10. Julie McCarter

    Need to take a trip to NC stat!!! The food at the restaurants you listed sound delish!! The beach looks incredible too!! Dream Vacay 🙌🏻🏝🤍

    7.10.20Reply
  11. Love your travel posts!! You put so much time into giving us a well rounded view of everything you experience! Thank you. Bobbi Jo

    7.11.20Reply
  12. Kim Fisher

    LaCucina at Subset Beach is our favorite Italian restaurant. It’s small but the food is so good! Their nightly seafood specials never disappoint and my husband loves this chicken caprese and the wedding soup.

    7.11.20Reply
  13. Thank you for this guide! Your pictures are so beautiful. I live in CLT, NC but have never been to OIB before. I would definitely love to check it out with my husband sometime!

    xx
    Key
    https://storiesbysuddreth.com/

    7.11.20Reply
  14. Totally love the hairstyle that you wore to the beach!! Along with your outfit, of course. What an awesome travel guide — I will keep it in mind for next summer!

    XO Amanda || Affordable by Amanda

    7.12.20Reply
  15. Love your travel posts! Would love to go here as soon as all the travel bans have been lifted!
    With love from Europe.

    xoxo Yvon

    7.13.20Reply
  16. Laura Leigh

    Such a great guide! Definitely hope to go back there soon. And check out lots of these spots!

    xo Laura Leigh
    https://www.louellareese.com

    7.13.20Reply
  17. These photos are stunning Caitlin! You always kill it with the creativity. I’ve followed you for some time now and always love your photos and family photos from Ocean Isle and now I definitely want to visit next year after this post. I really appreciate how you broke down lodging, dining and activities because I honestly wouldn’t know where to start! I was sold at Captain John’s Seafood House, I love seafood!

    http://www.livelaughlinda.com

    7.13.20Reply
  18. This is so cute! I miss traveling – also love those Chanel sandals!

    Demi | https://demibang.com/

    7.14.20Reply
  19. alex t

    The fact that sugar shack is not on this list is a crime! It’s the best food at ocean isle.

    7.23.20Reply
    • My family doesn’t like it!!! But I know so many people do! We have had a couple bad experiences there!

      7.23.20Reply