Places to Visit Around Sunset Beach and Birding Sites

Jo O'Keefe -- June 10, 2014

Gordon's Networks

This is my favorite. It is located on the left on Brick Landing Road not far from the church. Brick Landing Road is on your right when you take Hwy. 179 from Sunset Beach and Ocean Isle Beach to Shallotte. It is across the street from Jenny's Branch Church at a 90-degree curve half way between the Ocean Isle Beach traffic signals and Shallotte.

The men at Gordon's Networks weave fishing nets. Some work is done outside the shop on the right. On the left side of the shop there are two large drums. One has blue oil-based paint; the other has green. Often nets are strung from one end of that area to the other to dry.

You could call to ask if this is a good time to stop by. The telephone number is 910-754-9713.

2000-year-old Tree

Take Old Hwy.179 from Sunset Beach and Ocean Isle Beach toward Shallotte. Soon after the 90-degree left curve, turn right on Pigot Road and then right again on Village Point Rd. The tree is near on the left. The best view of the entire tree is seen long before you reach it. Remember that!


Shallotte Pointe

Shallotte Pointe is only two blocks past the Live Oak Tree described above. I enjoy the wide open feeling there and the broad expanses of water. Families living there go back many generations.


The Inlet View Bar and Grill

This is at Shallotte Point off Bricklanding Road and is extremely popular. http://www.inletview.com/


Sunset Slush® at Ocean Isle Beach -- between Sunset Beach and Ocean Isle Beach

This delightful, refreshing, vendor of Classic Italian Ice first came to our area via a pushcart in a vacant field at the interesection of Old Georgetown Road and Hwy. 904. In 2008 it opened its first walk-up window retail operation at 6848 Beach Drive SW, Ocean Isle Beach, on Hwy. 179 Business across from Sherwin Williams. Dozens of persons visiting Sunset Beach have written about Sunset Slush on the Sunset Beach North Carolina Facebook page. With over 50 flavors and now soft-serve ice cream, your entire family will be pleased. 910-575-2020, http://sunsetslush.com/.


Museum of Coastal Carolina -- great for families!

Take Hwy. 179 to the second and main traffic signal for Ocean Isle Beach. Turn right, cross the bridge -- from which you can see the waterway because it was built when codes did not require rails, Turn left on Second Street and left into the Museum parking lot. On a rainy day, nothing could be better for children! http://museumplanetarium.org/museum-of-coastal-carolina


Ingram Planetarium

The Planetarium is the partner facility of the Museum mentioned above and another good place to visit on rainy days. The Planetarium is behind Food Lion in Sunset Beach. Its website provides details: http://museumplanetarium.org/ingram-planetarium


Ferry Landing Park

On Ocean Isle, be sure to visit the new Ferry Landing Park on the far east end of the island. It is located on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway at the north end of Shallotte Boulevard. Parking is available. Ferry Landing Park is the site of the original ferry crossing to Ocean Isle Beach. Bring flip flops to walk on large shells. Enjoy relaxing waterway views. Bring your fishing rod and/or a clam rake. Gordon's Networks, the first entry on this list, has an excellent selection of clam rakes and crab baskets. Be sure to obtain a NC fishing license before fishing off any dock or beach strand. You can obtain a license within minutes standing at the kiosk for the Sunset Beach boat launch. Fearry Landing Park is open to the public from 6:00 AM until 10:00 PM. No overnight parking or camping is permitted.


OIB Cemetery

A small cemetery with a broad Live Oak tree is Just west of the two Ocean Isle Beach traffic signals. Pulling off the road is all that is necessary. I have often gone there because I am intrigued by the two graves covered with shells. Years ago the daughter of the persons in those graves wrote a long message to me describing her family's arrival in the area more than a hundred years ago, and also telling me how little was developed. One day I saw a bouquet of red roses, each with a small white sand dollar dangling from it. I took the first photos below in the late 1990s. I took the third and fourth photos in 2013. It seemed that perhaps no one was left to care for the graves. I weeded them before taking the photos.


Ocean Isle Beach Park

This huge, $3 million Brunswick County park is fully equipped and very underused. It is on Olde Georgetown Road. From Sunset Beach, go around the traffic circle to the left toward Food Lion. At Food Lion, turn left on another portion of Hwy. 179. Turn right onto Olde Georgetown Road, still another Hwy. 179.


Inlet Point Plantation Stables

Inlet Point Plantation Stabes provides two of the most unusual activites in the area -- horseback rides on a private island beach and shaded waterway trail rides. Waties Island is the sister island to Bird Island, across the Little River Inlet. It is uninhabited and only used by Coastal Carolina University for marine research and by the stables. Here is contact information: 5800 Little River Neck Rd, North Myrtle Beach, SC 29582. 843-249-2989. http://www.inletpointplantation.com/


Indigo Farms

On the north side of Hwy. 17 is a charming, delightful farm bursting with fresh produce and warmth. It is located just west of Hickman's Crossroads. Hickman's Crossroads is a site unto itself! Indigo Farms will remind you of life decades ago. They have decorations, hay rides, contests, etc. http://www.indigofarmsmarket.com/


Calabash Docks

While I am sure you have visited them, they are one of my favorite places. If you eat at one of the Calabash seafood restaurants, or if you have a beeper and a long wait, you can see them. Or, after dinner, you can bring fries and hush puppies to feed the gulls. If you drive behind Dockside Restaurant and park next to their building, you could ride a wheelchair right out onto the dock parallel to the waterway. I have spent hours there and at other docks in Calabash. When charter fishing boats of the Hurricane Fleet behind Dockside return, at noon and around 4 PM, you can watch men clean fish and throw scraps to pelicans who are waiting even before the boats return.


The Hurricane Fleet

Although several companies offer charter fishing trips and boat rides, the Hurricane Fleet, behind Dockside Restaurant in Calabash, offers a delightful education cruise. Weather permitting, twice each day it takes a boatload of persons out to catch up with a shrimp boat. Dolphins surround the shrimp boat because of the massive catch as the boat with excited passengers approaches. After both vessels stop, the Captain of the shrimp boat pulls up his net and dumps his catch onto a large table. He then fills bags with items found in the catch -- mostly invertebrates such as sea stars, sand dollars, sea urchins and sponges. He will add several Atlantic Sharp-nosed Sharks and skate and whelk egg cases. The captain tosses those treasure bags to crew on the larger vessel. The crew then displays and identifies each item and distributes them to passengers. For information, call 910-579-3660 or visit http://www.hurricanefleet.com/.


Vereen Memorial Gardens

Another marvelous place, tricky to reach because it is on a very short section of Hwy. 179 that splits off from Hwy. 17 as you approach Calabash from Little River. You have to pass it heading south and then turn back heading north. In late afternoon the marsh grass is golden or lime. There is a long boardwalk through the marsh and a T-shaped fishing dock. The Vereen Family Cemetery is on the right when you drive back to the dock and boardwalk. The marsh is splendid.


Governor's Point Lighthouse and Myrtle Beach Yacht Club Boardwalk


Coming from North Carolina, to reach the marvelous boardwalk and charming faux Lighthouse, drive south on Hwy. 17 into Little River. Across the highway, right after the Holiday Inn Express, watch for a huge marina and a sign for the Myrtle Beach Yacht Club. Make a U-turn using the next cut-through, go back slightly, and then turn right into the Myrtle Beach Yacht Club parking lot. Park at the beginning near Hwy. 17, leaving parking spaces near the marina for members.

The lighthouse was built in honor of South Carolina governors.

You can turn left or right to walk on the two boardwalks. They are not connected at the Little River end because Coquina Harbor is open for boat passage.

The lighthouse is at the end of the right boardwalk, which is longer than the left one. The left photo below, courtesy of the Myrtle Beach Yacht Club, was taken from the Little River side, the opening of Coquina Harbor. At the top is Hwy. 17. Near the top right is the green-roofed Holiday Inn and left the MBYC parking lot. The entire boardwalk is shown. It rounds the lighthouse.

Later I learned a quicker but likely illegal way to reach the lighthouse. I drove to the traffic signal slightly further south. It has Waves, Hwy. 9, Hwy. 17, and Hwy. 90. I turned onto the Hwy. on the left and then made an immediate left into a service road. That road leads back to the town homes and condos. I parked right next to the lighthouse in someone's parking space. It would good to put a note in your car window with your cell number saying that you were at the lighthouse and would be "right" back. It is a delightful place to visit. I would only do that if someone in your group cannot reach the lighthouse via the boardwalk.


Little River Waterfront

On the way back to North Carolina, just past Toby's and the Parson's Table, turn right on Mineola Avenue. Driving through here will only take a few minutes yet will give you a chance to see majestic Live Oak trees. Live Oak refers to a group of oak trees that remain green, i.e., are evergreen, during the winter. Tucked away in the furthest corner is a restaurant named Crab Catchers with a refreshingly different style of fried seafood and outside rooftop eating overlooking, before sunset, lime green marsh grass. Visit: http://www.crabcatchers.net/


Callahan's of Calabash Nautical Gifts

My favorite store in the world, home also to St. Nick Nacks. You can find full details at its website: http://www.callahansgifts.com.


The Green Swamp

If you saw an aerial photo of this area, you would see that almost everything on the side of Hwy. 17 away from the ocean is green. It actually is the Green Swamp. Certain types of people will fall in love with the Green Swamp. It has carnivorous plants, alligators, black bear, cypress trees, savannah forests. To visit the Green Swamp, take Hwy. 17 toward Wilmington, pass the old hospital on your right, and turn left at a large intersection with a Hardees. You will be going north; remember that the ocean is south in this area. A parking area for the Green Swamp Preserve is located 5.5 miles north of the intersection the large intersection on the right. Here is a link with additional information: http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/northcarolina/placesweprotect/green-swamp-preserve.xml. After parking, we crossed Hwy. 211 to walk through the pine savannah. We saw pitcher plants. Later we walked in going east from the parking area and found a cypress swamp off to our left in which my daughter caught many species of frogs to identify. You can thank the Nature Conservancy for protecting this land, one of our natural wonders.

Silver Coast Winery

Located off Hwy. 17 on the north side, this is a good place for adults to chill out: https://www.silvercoastwinery.com/



There is an astonishing array of 260 species of birds within the boundaries of the Town of Sunset Beach. The Town includes both the barrier island itself and portions of the mainland. The list below includes the 260 documented species. A few species -- such as sandpipers, terns and pelicans -- are true coastal birds. Most species are found in many parts of the United States.

Bird Island is included not only because you might bird there, but also because it includes the one species on the list not found in Sunset Beach, i.e., the Purple Sandpiper. The species is found in mid-winter at the jetty at the NC/SC state line, accessible only via Sunset Beach and Bird Island. While many species on this list are found on both Sunset Beach and Bird Island, some are only found on the beach.

Sunset Beach has graceful wading birds in marshes, tide pools, mud flats, trees and roost sites. It has shorebirds, i.e., small birds such as sandpipers, that dart at the edge of waves foraging for food. A couple of years ago on April 27th, I saw what appeared to be hundreds of plump Red Knots -- probably migrating through from Florida unlike their thin counterparts from Tierra del Fuego.

The far east end of the island has many species, especially flocks of migrating birds each Spring and Fall. It has nesting Wilson's Plovers, Least Terns, Willets and American Oystercatchers as well as a lone Reddish Egret that forages in tide pools all summer.

On the west end of the developed portion of Sunset Beach, at the back end of 40th Street, many birds are found in mud flats adjacent to Blane Creek. On the western side of 40th Street toward Myrtle Beach there are many wading birds such as Wood Storks, egrets and herons. Birding at all three of the places mentioned so far is best done an hour or more before low tide. Walk to Madd Inlet behind the houses on the west side of 40th street using an empty lot.

The undisturbed dunes on the west end of Sunset Beach and on Bird Island and the jetty provide additional birding opportunities.

There are four important areas on the mainland to visit. The first are the Twin Lakes, two bodies of water on the north side of Hwy. 179 leading left from the bridge toward Calabash. Hundreds of birds roost in trees at the back right edge of the east (first) Twin Lake both during low tide and at dusk. Blue Herons gather in shrubbery at the front right-hand corner of the east Twin Lake. Wood Storks and occasionally a Roseate Spoonbill roost in the tree at the far west end of the west Twin Lake. It is possible to stand right in front of that tree to photograph them. Immediately below are photos taken of birds in that tree.

Lake Shore Drive, beginning on the bridge side of the east Twin Lake and passing behind both lakes, provides opportunities to see wading birds foraging and roosting as well as ducks.

The second location to see many birds foraging is in the mud flats directly across from the Twin Lakes on the south side of Hwy. 179.

Entering Sea Trail Plantation near the bridge and fire station and then turning right at a stop sign by the Maples Club House, leads to osprey platforms and nests. There are large roost sites within Sea Trail.

The fourth location is at Lake Medcalf and Osprey Lake behind the Twin Lakes. Taking Lake Shore Drive to Sunset Lakes Blvd. leads to those lakes. However, with the exception of Purple Gallinules, there are not likely to be species there that are not found at the other three locations.

Here is a link to a checklist. While it is accurate, it needs updating. http://sunsetbeachandbirdislandnc.com/Birds/Sunset_Beach_and_Bird_Island_Bird_List.htm