Oak Island, North Carolina

Oak Island is a seaside town located in the southeastern corner of North Carolina. Part of Brunswick County, the major portion of the town is on Oak Island which it shares with Caswell Beach. Founded in 1999 as the result of the consolidation of two existing towns, Oak Island's main industry is tourism. Per the 2010 census, it had a permanent population of 6,783 which in 2018 was estimated to be 8,072. Its average summer population ranges from 30-50,000 and the town is considered to be a part of the Myrtle Beach metropolitan area.[2]

Oak Island, North Carolina
Oak Island Beach
Oak Island Beach
Oak Island is located in North Carolina
Oak Island
Oak Island
Location within the state of North Carolina
Oak Island is located in the United States
Oak Island
Oak Island
Oak Island (the United States)
Coordinates: 33°54′43″N 78°6′22″W / 33.91194°N 78.10611°W / 33.91194; -78.10611Coordinates: 33°54′43″N 78°6′22″W / 33.91194°N 78.10611°W / 33.91194; -78.10611
CountryUnited States
StateNorth Carolina
 • MayorKen Thomas
 • Total19.9 sq mi (51.6 km2)
 • Land18.5 sq mi (48.0 km2)
 • Water1.4 sq mi (3.6 km2)
14 ft (4 m)
 • Total6,783
 • Estimate 
 • Density340/sq mi (130/km2)
Time zoneUTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP codes
Area code(s)910
FIPS code37-48345
GNIS feature ID1848160[1]


Oak Island, on which much of the town sits, has been inhabited since the early 19th century when Fort Caswell was constructed on its east end in 1838. The island developed slowly, but by the late 1930s it began attracting people from nearby Southport with fox hunting popular in the areas along the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). In 1954, Hurricane Hazel struck, leaving only five buildings standing on the west end of the island[3] The island recovered quickly however, and the towns of Long Beach and Yaupon Beach were incorporated in 1955. Along with this increasing level of development came strident demands for a reliable crossing of the ICW to provide access to the island.

Swain’s Cut Bridge

When the ICW was completed in the late 1930s, a swingbridge initially provided this service. Destroyed by a barge strike in 1971, construction of the high rise Barbee Bridge began almost immediately; it opened for traffic in 1975 (interim service included a ferry and pontoon bridge).[4] A second high rise structure, the Swain's Cut Bridge, was built over the ICW to the island in 2010.[5] In 1999, Long Beach and Yaupon Beach, decided to consolidate into the Town of Oak Island, and while Caswell Beach considered the matter, it opted to stay independent.[6] Immediately after the new town got up and running, it began to either incorporate or obtain Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) on properties located to its north on the mainland.[7]


Oak Island Growth since 1999

Oak Island is located in southeastern Brunswick County at 33°54′59″N 78°7′50″W / 33.91639°N 78.13056°W / 33.91639; -78.13056 (33.916262, -78.130468).[8] According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 19.9 square miles (51.6 km2). 18.5 square miles (48.0 km2) of it is land and 1.4 square miles (3.6 km2) of it (7.02%) is water. It is bordered to the south by the Atlantic Ocean, to the east by Caswell Beach, to the north across the ICW in part by the town of St. James, and to the west by the town of Holden Beach across the Lockwood Folly Inlet. Additions to the town in the 20 years since it was formed in 1999 located on the mainland consist of the following:[7]

•Property on both sides of Long Beach Rd. (NC 133) to include the Cape Fear Regional Jetport, and South Harbour Village with its nine hole golf course and marina.[9]

• Land mostly west of Middleton Blvd. (NC 906) either planned for or under development, the largest of which was the ill-fated Seawatch complex (1738 of the planned 4171 lots are in Oak Island).[10]

• Parcels north of Southport-Supply Rd. (NC 211), the most prominent one being Midway Commons Shopping Center.[11]


Hurricane Hazel Marker

Summers in the town are hot and humid with an average temperature of 85˚, although the beach front is cooled much of the time by sea breezes (the prevailing winds are from the southwest). Ocean water temperatures range from the 50s to the mid 80s. Winters are moderate with an average temperature in the 50s (°F), albeit with brief cold periods. Rain occurs throughout the year with average annual rainfall approximately 57", 45% of this falling between June and September.[12] Tropical storms are a continuing source of concern with Hurricane Hazel being the most devastating. In the 1996-1999 period, four major hurricanes (Bertha, Fran, Bonnie, and Floyd) made landfall with Hurricane Floyd having significant effect on the town.[13] More recently, in October 2016, the eye of Hurricane Matthew passed almost directly over the town inflicting extensive damage to the dune system,[14] and in September 2018, Hurricane Florence caused severe flooding and wind damage in addition to washing away large amounts of beach sand.[15]


Oak Island Town Hall

The town government operates under a Council-Manager type system where various officials have authority to make decisions on services, revenues and expenditures in accordance with a state issued charter. The Council is Oak Island’s governing body and consists of five Commissioners and the Mayor. It sets the Town’s policy, enacts ordinances and adopts the annual budget. The actual operation of the town's government is accomplished by the Town Manager who is hired by the Council.[16] Town Hall is collocated in the center of the island with the Oak Island Police Department, while units of the Oak Island Fire Department and Brunswick County EMS are deployed in various areas of the Town to respond to emergencies[17]


Oak Island Golf Club 18th green
Ocean Crest Fishing Pier

On the island there is a contract post office, a branch of the county library, a Food Lion, an ABC Liquor Store, a few gas stations, numerous small professional offices/retail stores, and a large number of restaurants. Primarily a family beach type locale, the island also provides many other types of recreational activity. The Oak Island Golf Club course and its related practice facilities are open to the public and an outdoor swimming pool is available for its members' use during the summer.[18] Two public fishing piers jut out into the Atlantic Ocean[19][20] while motor/sail boats moored to piers dot the ICW as well as the Davis Canal and Montgomery Slough. South Harbour Village has a nine hole public golf course and a marina on the ICW with 1,000 linear feet of alongside dockage.[21] All these waterways also attract a large number of kayakers. The Oak Island Recreation Center located mid-island provides both indoor and outdoor exercise facilities and rents out sports equipment and amenities like balloon tire, beach wheelchairs.[22] Popular sporting events include the "Run Oak Island" Marathon held in February which also features a half-marathon along with a 5K and one mile run.[23] And then in April, the Southport/Oak Island Chamber of Commerce sponsors the Oak Island Lighthouse Run which includes a half marathon, 10K, 5K and a one mile fun run.[24] As for other activities, the town puts on an ocean front fireworks display as part of its Fourth of July festivities, and a parade down Oak Island Drive just before Christmas, while the Oak Island Library hosts a wide variety of events to include "Socrates Cafe" and "Meet the Author" programs.[25]

Major highwaysEdit


Census Pop.
Est. 20188,072[26]19.0%
U.S. Decennial Census[27]

As of 2017, the Census Bureau estimated 7,789 people lived in the town, roughly a 14% increase from 2010. The town’s racial makeup was 97% White, 0.4% African American, 0.4% Native American, 2% Hispanic or Latino and 0.2% from two or more races. There were 3,605 households with the average size 2.05 persons. As for household income, the Census Bureau’s 2017 estimate was $57,670, with the per capita income being $38,176. About 8.6% of the population were below the poverty line. That same year, the town's estimated population by age is as shown in the chart below. The ratio of women to men is 52.3% to 47.7%.[28]

Age Group Percent of Population By Age
< 18 12.5%
18 to 65 56.8%
> 65 30.7%


  1. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  2. ^ "U.S. Census website". US Census.gov. Retrieved 2019-02-04.
  3. ^ Gifford, Jim (2004). Hurricane Hazel: Canada's Storm of the Century. Toronto: Dundurn Press. p. 22. ISBN 1-55002-526-0.
  4. ^ Furstenau, Wolfgang (1995). Long Beach. Long Beach, NC: Furstenau. ISBN 978-09648233-0-3.
  5. ^ "Swain's Cut Bridge". StarNews.com. Retrieved 2019-01-17.
  6. ^ "Oak Island Consolidation" (PDF). NC.gov. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  7. ^ a b "Oak Island Land Use Plan" (PDF). Oak Island.com. Retrieved 2019-02-04.
  8. ^ "Gazetteer Files". US Census.gov. Retrieved 2019-02-04.
  9. ^ "South Harbour". SouthHarbourVillage.com. Retrieved 2019-01-16.
  10. ^ "Oak Island Expansion". Southeast Discovery.com. Retrieved 2019-01-16.
  11. ^ "Midway Commons". CapeFearCommercial.com. Retrieved 2019-01-16.
  12. ^ "NOAA Weather Data". Weather.gov. Retrieved 2019-02-01.
  13. ^ Barnes, Jay (2013). North Carolina's Hurricane History: Fourth Edition. UNC Press Books. ISBN 978-1469606521.
  14. ^ "Hurricane Matthew". NWS.gov. Retrieved 2019-02-01.
  15. ^ "Hurricane Florence". Weaher gov. Retrieved 2019-01-17.
  16. ^ "Town Manager". UNC.edu. Retrieved 2019-01-16.
  17. ^ "Brunswick County". Brunsco.com. Retrieved 2019-01-30.
  18. ^ "Oak Island Golf Club". OakIslandGolf.com. Retrieved 2019-02-01.
  19. ^ "Ocean Crest Fishing Pier". OceanCrestFishing Pier.com. Retrieved 2019-02-01.
  20. ^ "Oak Island Pier". OakIslandPier.com. Retrieved 2019-02-01.
  21. ^ "South Harbour Marina". South Harbour Marina.com. Retrieved 2019-01-17.
  22. ^ "Oak Island Recreation Center". OakIslandRecDesk.com. Retrieved 2019-02-01.
  23. ^ "Oak Island Road Races". Runsignup.com. Retrieved 2019-02-01.
  24. ^ "Lighthouse Run". CoastalRaceProd.comD. Retrieved 2019-02-01.
  25. ^ "Oak Island Library". BrunsCo.gov. Retrieved 2019-02-01.
  26. ^ "U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Oak Island town, North Carolina". www.census.gov. Retrieved Feb 17, 2020.
  27. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  28. ^ "Quick Facts". Census.gov. Retrieved 2019-01-18.

External linksEdit

  Media related to Oak Island, North Carolina at Wikimedia Commons