Oak Island (North Carolina)

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Oak Island NC–Ocean Crest Pier and Beachfront Houses at Sunset

Oak Island is on the Atlantic Ocean coast in Brunswick County, North Carolina located just north of the South Carolina border. A barrier island, it contains the towns of Oak Island and Caswell Beach, Fort Caswell (since 1949 home to the North Carolina Baptist Assembly) and a United States Coast Guard station co-located with the Oak Island Lighthouse. Roughly 12 miles long, the island averages about one mile wide, Approximately 7000 people live on it year-round, a number which can balloon to over 40,000 during the summer.[1]


Roughly halfway between Wilmington, North Carolina and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Oak Island is the easternmost of the South Brunswick Islands formed in the late 1930s by the construction of the Intracoastal Waterway(ICW) which was dredged from Southport, NC at the mouth of the Cape Fear River through coastal sounds and marshes to the Little River in South Carolina. Elevations range from sea level to a 50’ high knoll on the west end of the island.[2]

Oak Island Map


Oak Island Life-Saving Station
Oak Island Lighthouse

While Native Americans most likely used the island for fishing, the first permanent settlement took place in the 1830s on the island's east end at Fort Caswell.[3] Now utilized as a religious retreat and conference center, during the Civil War the fort defended Confederate positions on the North Carolina coast and subsequently served as an army training ground in World War I and a patrol/ communications base in World War II.[4] In 2013, it was designated as a National Historic District.[5] In 1889, the Oak Island Life Saving Station was built 1/2 mile west of the fort. Still standing today, it features a large lookout tower projecting from its roof. In 1938 it was sold to a private owner and moved directly across the road from its original location near where the current lighthouse stands.[6] By the 1930s the island had blossomed into a vacation resort, as beach cottages began to dot the area on its western half, something which Hurricane Hazel brought a temporary halt to in 1954 as it washed away some 350 buildings on or near the ocean front. The island quickly recovered and development continued anew with the towns of Long Beach and Yaupon Beach being incorporated in 1955; in 1999 they were jointly incorporated into the Town of Oak Island.[7] In 1958 the Oak Island Lighthouse became operational [8] while the Town of Caswell Beach was incorporated in 1975 coincident with the completion of the 18 hole Oak Island Golf Club.[9] Along with this increasing level of development came strident demands for reliable access to and from the island. When the ICW was completed a draw bridge initially provided this service. Destroyed by a barge strike in 1971, a new high rise bridge began to be constructed almost immediately and opened for traffic in 1975 (interim service included a ferry and pontoon bridge).[10] A second high rise bridge to the island was completed in 2010.[11]


Oak Island Ocean Water Temperature

Summers on Oak Island 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 50's, 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, e.g., in Oct. 1954 as noted above, Hazel wreaked havoc on the island. A threat in late summer/early fall, the 1996-1999 period was intense with four major hurricanes (Bertha, Fran, Bonnie, and Floyd) making landfall and having significant effects on the area.[13] In October 2016, the eye of Hurricane Matthew passed almost directly over the island inflicting flooding and in some areas extensive damage to the dune system.[14]


  1. ^ https://www.reference.com/geography/oak-island-north-carolina-c332c5382b396487
  2. ^ http://www.topozone.com/north-carolina/brunswick-nc/island/oak-island-20/
  3. ^ http://www.fortcaswell.com/about
  4. ^ Herring, Ethel; Williams, Carolee (1999). Fort Caswell in War and Peace. Oak Island, NC: NC Baptist Assembly. ISBN 978-0967189710. 
  5. ^ "National Register of Historic Places Listings". Weekly List of Actions Taken on Properties: 12/30/13 through 1/03/14. National Park Service. 2014-01-10. 
  6. ^ M. Ruth Little (August 2000). "Oak Island Life Saving Station" (pdf). National Register of Historic Places - Nomination and Inventory. North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office.
  7. ^ http://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/SessionLaws/PDF/1999-2000/SL1999-66.pdf
  8. ^ http://www.oakislandlighthouse.org
  9. ^ http://www.oakislandgolf.com
  10. ^ Furstenau, Wolfgang (1995). Long Beach. Long Beach, NC: Furstenau. ISBN 978-09648233-0-3. 
  11. ^ http://www.starnewsonline.com/news/20101113/long-awaited-oak-island-bridge-opens-for-traffic
  12. ^ NowData - NOAA Online Weather Data, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Accessed February, 2017.
  13. ^ Barnes, Jay (2013). North Carolina's Hurricane History: Forth Edition. Boone, North Carolina: UNC Press Books. 
  14. ^ "Storm Causes Damage in the Millions". State Port Pilot. November 2, 2016. 

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Coordinates: 33°54′49″N 78°06′40″W / 33.9137°N 78.1111°W / 33.9137; -78.1111