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25 Fun Things to Do In Sunset Beach, NC 2024 (Locals Guide!)

Sweeping, endless beaches, salty air, surfable waves, and lots and lots of incredible fresh seafood are what you’ll find in beautiful Sunset Beach, North Carolina. I know, your mind is already sitting on the patio with a mai-tai in hand. Cute little drink umbrella? Yes, please! 🤩

The good news for us (maybe sad for you. #sorrynotsorry) is that this b-e-a-yoo-tiul beach is in our backyard! We’ve had the opportunity to visit it quite a few times and are here to help you find the best things to do in Sunset Beach NC so you can have an incredible vacation. 

We’re not huge “people” people as more prefer to explore big cities like Charlotte than sit around and turn into human toast, but this beach may have just changed our tune. It’s the perfect romantic place to unwind for a relaxing weekend or something more adventurous! No matter your preference, we’ve got some great Sunset Beach date ideas for you!

If you want the perfect balance of fun things to do in Sunset Beach NC, combined with the perfect amount of relaxation, read on because you’re going to be calling in sick tomorrow and Googling “fastest way to get to Sunset Beach North Carolina.” #prediciton! 

YouTube video
a man standing in a bathing suit on Sunset Beach NC at the Kindred Spirit Mailbox

1. Kindred Spirit Mailbox on Bird Island 

This mailbox on the beach is surrounded by a bench and filled with pens and journals. For 30 years, people walk down the beach to bare their souls and leave them by the Ocean. You can take the pens and journals and write down your deepest thoughts, secrets desires, and fears without anyone knowing it was you. Bet you didn’t think you would get free therapy at the beach didja?  

Fun fact: The mailbox is the inspiration behind Nicholas Sparks’ novel “Every Breath!

How to get to the kindred spirit mailbox

The mailbox is a little out of the way, but worth it! The best way is to park your car at the Public Beach Access located at West 40th Street at Sunset Beach in North Carolina. Walk across the access and turn right (away from the pier.)

From there, walk along the beach for about 30 minutes (1.5 miles) until you see the mailbox on your right side. It’s pretty obvious from the beach but, if you get to the Jetty, you’ve gone too far.

PRO TIP:

parking at the public beach access is hard to find! You may have to drive around awhile if you don’t get there early!

2. Museum of Coastal Carolina

While this museum is not RIGHT in Sunset Beach, it’s nearby in Ocean Isle Beach, it’s worth a stop if you’re a couple that loves you some history. The museum shares the natural history of the coastal region and has exhibits on things like coast reefs, marine life, and even sharks! Definitely one of the best things to do near Sunset Beach NC.

Maybe go there AFTER you get your swimming done for the weekend. #Logic.

3. Ingram Planetarium 

Ooo space and stuff! Ingram Planetarium is one of the top Sunset Beach attractions for you science nerds buffs who want to learn more about the solar system and space. And, if one of you doesn’t love space but gets dragged in, they show awesome laser shows in their Sky Theatre. You’ll see lasers set to bands like Pink Floyd, The Beatles, U2, Country, etc!

One other cool thing is that the Pal Dennis Science Hall has a hurricane simulator so you can experience what it’s like to be in a hurricane! If you’re a science person or just looking for some free things to do in Sunset Beach NC, you should check out Ingram!

Yes. You read that right: admission is F-R-E-E. Hello!

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4. The Swamp Park Eco Adventure Zip-Line Park

For couples more adventurous couples (like us!) who need a break from just baking in the sun all day, head over to Swamp Park. You can go on zipline tours, go on a guided ATV tour, climb an aerial adventure park, or relax in the Shallotte River. They even have live gators!

Aaaand now with this talk of sharks and gators, you’re never getting in the water.

Brown barrels and a counter with wine glasses at the Silver Coast Winery at North Carolina

5. Silver Coast Winery

If we didn’t include some kind of delicious adult beverage recommendation you might wonder if we’ve been body snatched! Silver Coast Winery has been making award-winning wine for 10 years and is just a few minutes from the beach. 

We stopped in there for a taste and has some very unique wines! The wine isn’t the BEST YOU’LL EVER have but it’s tasty the inside is SUPER cute and the staff are SO FRIENDLY, making it one the best things to do at Sunset Beach NC. I loved the “Calabash white” and Caleb loved the “Calabash Red.”

6. Visit Calabash Town

Speaking of Calabash, that just so happens to be a super adorable town a few minutes from the beach. It started as a fishing village but has grown into an amazing little town with lots of charm and incredible seafood.

It even has its own type of seafood called “Calabash Style” which is lightly breaded and fried and always served with hushpuppies. Many times you’ll find this deliciousness served family-style! Eating seafood in Calabash was a highlight of our visit to Sunset Beach.

Beautiful sand dunes with a bright blue sky and clouds at Bird Island North Carolina

7. Visit Bird Island

If 1300 acres of pristine beaches, dunes, beautiful salt marsh, and natural tidal creeks sound like your jam, you’ll love Bird Island. It is one of the 10 sites that make up the North Carolina Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve and can be reached by simply walking along the shore of Sunset Beach towards to South Carolina border.

Over the summer, you can take a guided walk to explore the area and learn more about the Carolina Coast. This is also where you’ll find the Kindred Spirit Mailbox!

Oh! And turtles! Loggerhead Sea Turtles, which are threatened in the USA, call Bird Island home.

8. Summertide Adventure Tours

For a romantic evening, take a Twilight Tour of Sunset Beach which leaves at dusk so you can sit in the water and admire the beautiful sunset over the beach! 

If you’re looking for something more adventurous to do for the day, they also offer water spots, adventure tours, and fishing trips!

9. Sunset Beach Pier

What would a beach be without a pier? Trick question: it wouldn’t be a beach!

(Lame) jokes aside: the Sunset Beach pier is 900 feet long with a cleaning table for fish, a snack bar with a grill, a game room, and an air-conditioned pier house for when the heat of North Carolina just gets to be TOO MUCH. Read: every day from June to August!

When you want a break from beach fishing, you can go fishing off the pier and catch a large variety of fish. You’ll be able to buy bait and a fishing pass that includes the use of a rod, so no need to awkwardly try to fit your own in the car.

10. Birdwatching 

Did you know that North Carolina is home to 440 species of birds? Now you’ve filled your quota for “learning something new every day” today. You’re welcome.

While the North Carolina Birding Trail isn’t actually a trail, more of a collection of places that are good to see birds, Sunset Beach is a stop on this not-really-a-trail trail.

There are six sites in Sunset Beach: Canal Street, North Shore Drive, Bay Street, 40th & Main, Bird Island, and East Lake & West Lake. With all this birding action in the area, this is one of the best things to do around Sunset Beach NC if you’re a bird-loving couple!

11. Check out One Love Market

I love farmers markets. Usually, because they have free food samples. But, I digress.

If you dig farmers’ markets, you have to check out this seasonal, open-air market that supports local artisans and farmers in Brunswick County. You’ll find everything from handmade jewelry to produce to hand-baked treats to shabby-chic, bohemian-style clothing!

They are only open seasonally, so check dates and times before you go!

A pumpernickel bagel with turkey, cheese and peppers at the Bagel Dock Cafe in Calabash

12. Eat The Best Bagel At the Famous Bagel Dock of Calabash

If you’re on a keto diet, this is not the place for you. But, for everyone else? OMG GO TO BAGEL DOCK ASAP. Run. DO NOT WALK.

 They are the #1 bagel spot in NC for a reason and I PROMISE the bagels rival NYC.

They make all their bagels, cream cheese, salads, sandwiches, and bakery items are made fresh in their store daily. They use reverse osmosis purified water which is what they claim makes it so good.

They have an incredible variety of flavors of cream cheese and bagels and you can customize to your liking. They were so soft but chewy and we wanted to eat sooooo many. Another cool thing is that their iced coffee ice cubes are literally made of coffee! Wish we could find iced coffee in Raleigh like that.

PRO TIP:

Don’t let the line scare you. These people are PROS and the line moves fast!
Also, try their baked good. Their Cinnamon Rugelach was out of this world.

A photo of crab cakes on a paper plate at a casual outdoor seafood restaurant with palm umbrellas.

13. Eat Incredibly Fresh Seafood

Being a coastal state, North Carolina has some incredible seafood in general, but the seafood seafood in coastal NC is even better! You may even find it beats the seafood in the popular, nearby North Myrtle Beach!

We had some of the best, no-frills-but-totally-delicious seafood at the Waterfront Seafood Shack in Calabash that we will likely dream about forever. You can tell the “catch of the day” really WAS caught that day.

A blue building with a bright blue sky and  a car in front. The Sunset Beach Trading Company

14. Explore Sunset Beach Trading Co

Yes, it’s bright blue and purple and it looks like a tourist trap and, well, it kinda is. But, it’s still one of the things you just gotta see.

Inside you’ll see a bunch of beach-themed knick-knacks merchandise like shirts, pants, unique jewelry, and lots of souvenirs. If you forgot your tropical printed shirt at home, this is the place to get it.

Even if you don’t get anything, they serve up some tasty ice cream to beat the Summer heat!

15. Go on a Tideline Fishing Charter

If you’re a fisher couple, then you will love all the fishing you can do on Sunset Beach. Sunset Beach Tideline Charters has various private tours and cruises that allow you to go fishing for red drum, flounder, speckled trout, and more. They also offer sunset cruises and eco tours if that is your thing!

16. Visit the Sunset Beach Swing Bridge and Museum

From 1958 to 2011, this swing bridge was used to link the island and the mainland and is now a small museum and gathering place for the community. It’s run by the Old Bridge Historical Society, which wants to connect the area’s history and the future through both education and preservation.

17. Go on a Sunset Beach Ghost Walk

In nearby Ocean Isle Beach, you can learn all about the area’s unique history complete with Spanish conquistadors, settlers, pirates, colonists, plantations, Civil War naval battles, shipwrecks, whiskey smugglers, epic storms, and more!

If that doesn’t sound crazy enough, they say that Ocean Isle Beach is also one of the most haunted places on the East Coast! You can learn all about it on this spooky ghost walk if you’re feeling daring!

18. Bald Head Island Lighthouse

The original lighthouse was built in 1795 but has since been torn down. This version was built in 1816 so it’s still pretty freaking old! You can take the ferry over to Bald Head Island (there are no cars allowed on the island) and go on a lighthouse tour to learn more about its part in American History and the Civil War.

19. Hop on a pontoon with TourH20

Want to do something romantic that feels so southern? Hop on a 3 hours sunset tour on a pontoon boat to end the day! You’ll be able to explore the beautiful beach area and maybe even see some dolphins!

TourH20 also offers nature tours on the pontoon boat or, if pontoon boats aren’t your vibe, check out their self-guided or tour-guided kayak tours!

A wooden pier on the beach with a blue cloudy sky

20. Sunset Beach Park

Still looking to relax but are tired of all that sand in your shorts (so much sand) then head to Sunset Beach Park. You’ll find beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean, towering Oak trees, and walking trails that are perfect for a romantic sunset picnic. ←The Calabash Deli is a great place to get sandwiches to do this!

You can also get your shipping fix a the Sunset Beach Waterfront Market if you need some souvenirs to take home!

21. Golf

Sunset Beach, and the Brunswick Islands in general, are a golf-lovers HEAVEN. The area is known as NC’s Golf Coast and Sunset Beach is home to six of the championship golf courses with TONS more around the area. These courses are beautiful and are a great way to kill some time on your relaxing vacay!

22. Bald Head Island Beach

If you thought Sunset Beach was quiet, wait until you see Bald Head Beach! You can only get there by passenger ferry from Sunset Beach, as no cars are allowed on the island. Once you are there, you can rent bikes or use golf carts.

Bald Head Island Beach stretches 15 miles and is a marshy paradise of seclusion with lots of great bird watching!

a wooden railing on a boardwalk on a beach with a blue, cloudy sky

23. Brunswick Historic Town & Fort Anderson State Historic Site

This is another one for the history-loving couple. Brunswick town was a major port pre-revolution and then we destroyed by British troops and never rebuilt. Fort Anderson served as the defense for Cape Fear during the Civil War. You can explore this waterfront setting and learn more about the history of the area.

Note: it’s about 45 minutes outside of Sunset Beach so grab all the best road trip questions and make a mini road trip date out of your visit!

24. Eat incredible Italian food at La Cucina Italian Grill

Yes, I said eat seafood and now I am telling you to eat Italian food. Variety IS the spicy of life!

Touted by some as the best restaurant in Sunset Beach, La Cucina is a top-rated restaurant in the area known for its chef’s specials made with fresh ingredients and handcrafted pasta that will transport you right back to Italy! Their wine-by-the-glass menu is pretty good too!

They even have a gluten-free menu which can be hard to find in small towns like this!

25. Camp at Brunswick Beaches RV Resort

If beachy resorts aren’t your vibe and you want to keep it low-key, this RV campsite offers full hookups on quiet spots next to its lagoon. You can also get cozy in a rented cabin or set up a tent here and this resort includes a swimming pool, horseshoe pits, a sand volleyball court, a camp kitchen, and fire rings. Hello, roasted marshmallows!

It’s also dog-friendly and offers a dog walk for your furry children!

25 Things to Do in Sunset Beach NC Pinterest Pin

Helpful Tips For Planning Your Trip

  1. If you’re visiting Sunset Beach and want to make the most of wandering out into the water, you need to check out this Sunset Beach tide chart to plan your trip accordingly.
  2. Want to check out how the weather is looking or how many tourists you’re about to get real close with? Check out this Sunset Beach NC Webcam!
  3. Looking for a vacation rental? Sunset Properties focuses on areas around the beach so they know their stuff!
  4. Click here to check prices on accommodations around sunset beach!

Wrap-Up: Things To Do In Sunset Beach NC

It’s easy to see why Sunset Beach was voted one of the 21 Best Beaches in The World by National Geographic – it’s a small beach town that is oozing with beauty and charm!

Whether you go to lie on the beach or eat incredible seafood with a happy hour on the waterfront, Sunset Beach is a perfect, relaxing vacation to take together.

There is so much to see, do, and experience that you’ll want to explore its seemingly endless shores again and again! And, if you want to check out a big city afterwards, why not spend a weekend in Charlotte?

What do you think you’ll be doing first when you visit?

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A couple embraces while watching the sunset behind the Crystal Palace in Madrid's Retiro Park, a moment of romance and tranquility by the reflective waters.

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