Oak Island typically offers a temperate climate and gorgeous weather year-round, making it the perfect destination for a relaxing beach vacation with family and friends! But, there is a chance for afternoon thunderstorms during the summer and occasional rainy days no matter when you visit.

If you’re staying on the island and the storm clouds begin to roll in, don’t worry! There is an abundance of indoor activities and entertainment options to keep you and your family having fun while the rain passes. Let’s take a look at the best things to do in Oak Island, NC when it rains:

Museums near Oak Island North Carolina

1. Discover the History of the North Carolina Coast

You’ll find numerous museums and historical sites to discover right down the road in Southport! While many have outdoor spaces to explore, it’s still a fun activity for a rainy day. Our top picks include a visit to the Old Brunswick County Jail, which was built in 1904, and the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport, where you can learn about the Cape Fear River maritime history. Their fascinating exhibits focus on themes like shipwrecks, hurricanes, pirates, and wars (like World War II).

If you’re a history buff, you’ll also enjoy a trip to the remarkable Fort Johnston Museum and Visitor Center in Southport! This site was first established in 1748 by the British to protect the area from Spanish and French attacks. Today, visitors can venture on a guided tour of the interior while discovering the origins of the longest operational fort in the county’s history.


Fort Fisher Aquarium - Rainy Day Activity

2. Visit the Aquarium

If you’re traveling with kids (or are a kid at heart), visiting the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher is a must! Located just south of Oak Island, this spot is perfect for a rainy day activity. The aquarium features over 200 species of animals, including sharks, alligators, otters, and more.

If you love aquariums and feel like island hopping, we recommend checking out Ocean Isle’s Museum of Coastal Carolina for a day filled with live sea animals, art, and local-history exhibits! The Ingram Planetarium is also right down the road and is a very entertaining place to explore for the entire family, especially on a stormy day.


Go Dining on Rainy Day in Oak Island NC

3. Sample the Local Food Scene

One of the best things to do in any town is to explore the local food scene, and Oak Island is no exception! There are plenty of great dining options to choose from, whether you’re looking for oceanfront restaurants with views of the Atlantic ocean or a casual place to stop for ice cream during a quick rain shower. In fact, there are too many to name within this article.

If you want to stay on the island, the top spots include Island Way, KoKo Cabana, Little Bits Grill, Kai-Joe’s, Bob’s Dogs, Shagger Jacks… and the newest addition, Loneride Restaurant and Brewery.

A popular spot to dine and watch the storms is at the waterfront of the Old Yacht Basin in downtown Southport! Here you can overlook the Intracoastal Waterway from one of the many restaurants – like Provision Company, Fishy Fishy Cafe, and more.


See a Movie at Surf Cinema in Southport

4. Catch a Movie at Surf Cinema in Southport

Looking for a classic rainy day activity? Head to the movies! Surf Cinema in Southport is a historic theater that originally opened its doors in 1949. Today, it has been completely restored and offers an excellent selection of newly released films. They even offer 3D features occasionally, so keep an eye out for various showings with this added bonus!

If you’re seeking an immersive IMAX experience and don’t mind the drive (or ferry ride) to Wilmington, the Regal Mayfaire is the spot to go. They even have Jaws 3D on the list of movies showing right now!


Shopping Oak Island NC

5. Retail Therapy: Antiquing, Art Galleries & More

If the rain puts a damper on your beach plans, you can take advantage of the many shopping opportunities in Southport for a day of retail therapy! Stroll down Moore Street for charming boutiques and gift shops, or visit one of the town’s antique stores and art galleries. From re-purposed antiques to clothing and extravagant coastal décor, we’re positive you will find the perfect souvenir to take home with you.

Our favorite place to visit with the kids? The Christmas House on Moore Street! Here you’ll find an assortment of unique coastal-themed gifts, puzzles, and home decor.


Spa Day Oak Island North Carolina

6. Indulge in a Spa Day

What better way to relax on a rainy day than with a trip to the spa? Treat yourself to a massage at Beachin’ Day Spa or a facial peel from Island Aesthetics and Wellness! Maybe a girl’s day at the nail salon sounds like fun? Palm & Sol Nail Boutique has you covered.

There are so many places to pick from on and around the island, each offering unique treatments and services sure to help you relax and rejuvenate. Some will even come to your vacation home to perform their services!


Visit Downtown Wilmington NC

7. Head into Wilmington for a Day Trip

Just a short drive away, the city of Wilmington offers an array of things to do on a rainy day! From exploring the historic downtown area to visiting the Cape Fear Museum or checking out the animals at the NC Zoo, there’s something for everyone in Wilmington. There’s even an indoor glow-in-the-dark mini golf course that the kids will love (like “midnight bowling,” but mini golf instead).

Other favorites include the Children’s Museum of Wilmington, the USS North Carolina Battleship, the Cameron Art Museum, and the infamous trampoline park.


Things to Do at Vacation Rental on a Rainy Day

8. Ride Out the Storm at Your Vacation Rental

Of course, sometimes, the best thing to do on a rainy day is to simply stay in and ride out the storm! Fortunately, many of our Oak Island vacation rentals come equipped with plenty of amenities to keep you entertained, including sensational views, private pools, screened-in porches or wraparound balconies, and more. Whether you’re looking to curl up with a good book or spend some quality time with your family, you’re sure to find the perfect rental for your needs!

Here are a few ideas to keep you busy and having a blast indoors, even when it rains:

  • Play board games, cards, or puzzles
  • Get creative by writing and drawing with an inspirational coastal backdrop
  • Have fun in the kitchen together by creating a meal from scratch, order a to-go pizza from Pepperoni Grill, or hire a private chef
  • Snuggle up and have a movie marathon (with popcorn, snacks, and plenty of ice-cold drinks)
  • Build an indoor fort from blankets and pillows for the kiddos 
  • Take a relaxing bubble bath with your favorite book or magazine

Storm Oak Island North Carolina

Enjoy These Things to Do in Oak Island, NC When it Rains

As you can see, there’s no need to let a little rain ruin your beach vacation! With so many things to do in Oak Island, NC, you and your family are sure to have a blast no matter what the weather brings. So, we invite you to get out there and enjoy all that our island has to offer, rain or shine!

Don’t have accommodations picked out for your next trip to OKI? We offer a wide selection of premium rentals on Oak Island — from cozy cottages to magnificent 6-bedroom homes with private pools. You can start by browsing through all of our vacation rentals on our website, and our team is here to help with recommendations for you and your group! Simply give us a call or send us a message.