The smallest of the barrier islands in Brunswick County, North Carolina, Sunset Beach occupies a mere three miles along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Development here has been slow, partly as result of efforts to preserve the old-world feeling of this laid-back beach town and partly as a result of its "swinging bridge," a regional curiosity and source of neighborhood pride which may soon be replaced by a more standard form of access.
There are only about 100 full time residents of the island itself, but just across the bridge it's easy to find plenty of vacation attractions, spas, restaurants, and nationally famous golf courses. While you are here, explore the museums of Cape Fear, learn about the wildlife and history of the barrier islands, and visit the local planetarium. There are many things to do on and around the island of Sunset Beach, but of course, you can also just relax and enjoy the quiet natural beauty of this scarcely developed part of the coast.
Here are a few additional suggestions of things to do:
-Visit Bird Island: Right next to Sunset beach lies Bird Island, a 1300 acre area of protected wilderness occupied only by nesting seas turtles and elusive shore birds. You can reach the preserve by boat or by wading out to it when the tide is low. Leave your letters, thoughts, and observations in the "Kindred Spirit Mailbox" hidden in the sand dunes.
-Visit the Burgwin-Wright House Museum and gardens: Stroll the gardens and explore the beautifully restored and decorated rooms of this colonial mansion. This is the oldest house museum in southeastern North Carolina.
-Take a trip to Fort Anderson: This is a well-preserved museum and archeological site located in the historic port town of Brunswick.
-Explore the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science: Learn about regional maritime history and the role played by the barrier islands during the Civil War.
-Experience the unforgettable seafood of Calabash: Calabash and its world renowned seafood restaurants are just five miles away from the island.
-Visit Myrtle Beach and Shallote: Just a short drive away, the noise and excitement of these vacation destinations may offer a nice contrast to the quiet dreamy serenity of Sunset Beach.
No matter how you decide to spend your vacation, you'll need a place to stay. Even though the island is small, it's very easy to find a vacation rental here during every season of the year. Rent a quaint cottage for a romantic getaway or a beach house large enough to accommodate your family and friends.
As featured in USA TODAY and recommended by Travel + Leisure in its annual Villa Guide:
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