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  • Writer's pictureMarjorie Anne Foster

A Local's Guide to Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina

Updated: Jun 3

I grew up vacationing in this incredible little beach town, but during 2020 - 2021, I called it home. During that time, I worked multiple jobs and explored every weekend. 

Ocean Isle Beach (OIB) is known for its quiet town and easy access to water on all sides. On the east end of the island, there are man-made canals that connect homes to the intercoastal waterway. Having lived here for multiple years, I am obsessed with the waterway. During the busy summer months, I often forgo the beach for floats in the canal off the ICW.

Here are all the top local tips for your week in OIB:

Arriving: Be aware that arriving on Saturday afternoon in the summer can be a nightmare. Most rental companies have the same check-in and check-out times. If I were you, I would plan to get to the island around noon, grab lunch, maybe get some groceries, and avoid the traffic.

Food (on the island):

Sharky’s Waterfront Bar & Grill is an island staple. The surf-bar-themed restaurant has all your classics: cheeseburgers, beer, and fresh fish. I love sitting on their back deck and watching the boats come in. During the summer months, they have a live band on Fridays.Tip: Go early and put your name in. The wait is usually about 1.5 - 2 hours in the summer. You can also get here by boat!

Jinks Creek Waterfront Grille is your ideal stop for sunset. Jink's inside is not my favorite vibe—it has a semi-steril feel. So, get there before sunset and hit the upstairs tiki bar. They have a pretty good menu, and it is a bit more upscale than Sharky’s.

OIFC: Good sunset spot, waterfront access from the ICW, and great tiki bar. This place is massive and is a charter boat hub. You get a menu similar to Sharky’s, but with more offerings and sushi (my go-to). This place can get super crowded in the summer, so put your name in early (they don't take reservations). You can access this restaurant by boat, and they also have a gift shop and kids’ play area while you wait. 

59 Causeway Grill: This adorable canal-front restaurant offers the best breakfast, smotthies, sandwiches, and coffee on the island. It offers a wide range of bagels and breakfast sandwiches along with lunch. I would highly recommend their smoothies and donuts (balance?). The vibes here are immaculate, and there is great outdoor seating to enjoy your bagel while sitting by the water. Tip: They are closed on Monday and Tuesday during the summer.

The Isles Beach Club: My boyfriend is a Piña Colada enthusiast, and he says this might just be the best one on the island. Located on the far west end, this is the only beachfront restaurant in OIB. I haven't been in a few years, but I hear they have a pretty good lunch. Go for the views and the drinks!

Drift: Coffee and small bites. This is a hot take, but Drift is not my favorite place. It feels like there are always a million people (good for them), but I don't get the hype. The one silver lining is that they have a great app that you can use to place your order, and it will be waiting downstairs for you. Give it a try, and let me know what you think. 

Coastal Wine and Tap: Don’t sleep in this place. It can be missed if you are tight on time and want to focus on beach and waterway spots, but if you are here for an extended time, try it!

Pelican’s Perche Bar & Grill: I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t hit this spot for food. But I would 100% hit it for a post-dinner drink and some fried pickles. This is the closest thing you will get to nightlife in OIB.

Off the Island (But Worth the Car Trip)


Shopping: Surf Unlimited Mercantile and Salty’s. Salty’s is your classic surf shop. Think Billabong and Roxy. Surf Unlimited is an upscale beach boutique. Think LSpace, Farm Rio, and Maui Jims. Both shops have women and men, though Surf Unlimited has a much better selection.

Friday Night Concert: Every Friday during the summer, the town hosts a concert at the town center. It is free and always a great time. Go early to set down some chairs and your cooler. Wear your dancing shoes!

Bikes, Paddle Boards, and Kayaks: Scooter’s Surf Garage. Scooter, the owner, is an OIB surf icon. He has a large collection of bikes, paddle boards, and kayaks. I would recommend renting online here. But, when you get there, stop by the shop and get his recommendation on where to paddle. He will give you more than enough information on tides, sand bars, and places to go. You can also find surfboards, paddleboards, and skateboards for sale at his shop. He also has plenty of surf and skate accessories.

Beach: There are public parking lots at most beach accesses. Beachway Rentals offers chairs and umbrellas as well. And for no extra cost they will set up your beach gear at your cloest beach access.

Need beach supplies? Check out one of the three beach stores in the center of OIB.

Putt Putt - Need I say more? It's in the center of town, you won’t miss it!

Boat: This is my favorite pastime in OIB. There are so many great waterfront restaurants to access, along with sandbars. If you are interested in an in-depth post about this, comment below! Tip: You can rent pontoon boats through OIFC.

Explore local beachs: Sunset Beach and Holden Beach are both sleepy beach towns, but are fun to explore! Top attraction at Sunset. Top attraction at Holden. Sometimes, especially if it is rainy, I adventure to Wilmington. I am working on a Wilmington post soon.

Workout: OIB Yoga, KISS Yoga, Beach Barre (In the park Thursdays at 10am).

Arcade: A fun stop for kids (and competitive adults). It is connected to the peir.

Golf Cart Rentals: Cary Carts is our go to! I promise you will want one for any amount of time you are there.

Other tips:

  • I think my best meals are at home. I go to Doug’s Seafood for shrimp (order peeled and devained) and Captain Jack’s for everything else. Trust me.

  • Skip the pier food.

  • Get Sunset Slush; you won’t regret it.

  • Sign up for the Ocean Isle Beach Newsletter for local events.

  • PLEASE avoid walking on the sea wall (cement that leads to the canal). That is where oysters grow; I equate them to razor blades covered in bacteria.

  • OIB is strict about driving underage golf carts.

  • The market is on Mondays in OIB and Tuesdays in Sunset. There are always fresh fruit and veggie vendors and other trinkets and gifts.

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