Thinking about visiting Oak Island this fall? Just because it’s after Labor Day doesn’t mean that the fun has ended! It’s one of the best times of the year to visit, with a perfect blend of warm afternoons and slightly cooler nights. Plus, there are so many fun activities and events happening — like golfing in enjoyable weather and the annual Oak Island king mackerel tournament!

No matter your reason for being here, autumn is one of the best times to experience Oak Island, NC! Not to mention, there are fewer crowds and lower rates this time of year. Keep reading to learn about the top 10 things to do on Oak Island in the fall season.


1. Escape for a Day on the Beach with Fewer Crowds

What the Beach is Like in the Fall on Oak Island, North Carolina Coast Vacation

While the beach feels expansive no matter when you visit Oak Island, you’ll be greeted with fewer crowds after Labor Day! And, if you love soaking up the sun in the summer months but find the afternoons can get a bit hot, then you will love the fall on Oak Island! From September through November, the NC coast offers a welcoming climate that allows you to enjoy the beach comfortably throughout the entire day.


2. Unleash on the Beach with Your Pups

Oak Island Dog Unleashed on Beach in the Fall

Speaking of fun in the sun, Oak Island allows dog allows dogs on the beach year-round! There’s nothing like taking a stroll on the shore or splashing in the waves with your furry friend. Plus, during the “off-season” (from October 15 to March 15), dogs can even be off-leash while on the beach between 6 am to 8 pm every day. You’ll find clearly defined “off-leash” areas on the beach access signs at marked locations around the island to locate the designated “off-leash” places during this period.

Ready to start planning your next trip? We have a large selection of pet-friendly vacation rentals on Oak Island, so you don’t have to leave your pup behind at home!


3. Gather Around the Fire

Beach Fire on Oak Island in the Fall

Yes, that’s right! Bonfires on the beach are allowed between November 16 to April 30. The only thing you must do is get a free permit from the local fire department. After that, you’ll be all set to grab your firewood and head to the beach.

Just keep in mind that you must apply for a permit within 72 hours of your planned beach fire on Oak Island. You can learn more about the permits and take a look at frequently asked questions by clicking here.


4. Baby Sea Turtle Hatching Season

Oak Island Beach Nature - Sea Turtle Season

The OKI beaches are a popular nesting spot every year for both Loggerhead and Kemp’s Ridley! The nesting and hatching season on Oak Island starts annually at the beginning of May and runs through the end of October! At the end of the season is when you’ll begin to see the baby sea turtles emerge from their nests to make their journey into the Atlantic Ocean.

From here, they will begin their journey to feeding grounds, which may span as long as 20,000 miles. After they reach adulthood (between 25 to 30 years), these magnificent creatures are believed to return to the beach where they were hatched to lay their own eggs. Quite incredible, right? Learn more by visiting the Oak Island Sea Turtle Protection Program’s (OISTPP) website.


5. Climb to the Top of the OKI Lighthouse

Oak Island Lighthouse Tours

Did you know that the Oak Island Lighthouse is 153 feet tall? There are exactly 131 steps to the balcony where you can enjoy 360-degree views of Oak Island and the neighboring areas! If you ask us, these unparalleled views are well worth the climb.

If you want to see the sights for yourself, tours in the off-season run from September through May and can be requested for any day of the week. Scheduling is based on volunteer availability, so we recommend contacting them as soon as possible to make sure they can accommodate you. Visit the OKI Lighthouse’s website for more information or email oakislandlighthouse@gmail.com to request a tour during your next stay.


6. Throw out a Line & Experience Incredible Coastal Fishing

Fishing on Oak Island with the Family off a Dock

It’s not a secret; the North Carolina coast is well known as one of the best places to fish in the United States! Plus, it’s one of our favorite fall activities on Oak Island. With cooler air and water temperatures, this time of year offers a wide variety of fish species that can’t be found during the summertime.

In-shore, you’ll encounter king mackerel, speckled trout, bluefish, grouper, mahi-mahi, tuna, and red drum. If you prefer to go along the shoreline of the Atlantic, you’ll have an opportunity to catch flounder, whiting, red drum, black drum, and pompano. And, if chartering an offshore fishing adventure is up your alley, notable finds include king mackerel, black-fin tuna, grouper, snapper, wahoo, and more!

When you visit, you can find fishing licenses can be purchased online or are on sale in most local sporting goods, tackle, and gun shops throughout the area.


7. U.S. Open King Mackerel Tournament

US Open King Mackerel Tournament in Oak Island and Southport

This brings us to what is regarded as the granddaddy of all king mackerel competitions… the annual U.S. Open King Mackerel Tournament! For fishing enthusiasts, this is the one fall event to put down in your calendar. If you aren’t familiar, this competition is one of North Carolina’s oldest and most prestigious fishing events every year. It draws in over 400 boats of various sizes and is highly admired by locals and anglers alike. Not to mention, the prize for the winner is $25,000 in cash.

You can join in the fun and experience this treasured part of Oak Island and Southport history at the beginning of October! It’s going to be a blast, no matter if your eye is on the grand prize or you are looking for something fun to do on the North Carolina coast and want to watch the fisherman as they bring in their catch.


8. Sample the Freshest Seafood in North Carolina

Fresh Seafood Coastal North Carolina

Seafood doesn’t get any fresher than on Oak Island, and you’ll have your choice of some of the top coastal North Carolina restaurants here! If you’re looking for a place to eat with a breathtaking ocean view, The Island Way is the spot to go. This upscale steak and seafood dining experience is open Wednesday to Sunday every week (from 4:30 pm – 9:00 pm). They offer fresh catches of the day and a wide variety of other menu items that will be sure to please everyone in your family.

Turtle Island is also an exceptional choice on the island that we love! Here you’ll find casual dining in a tropical setting with great Caribbean-inspired seafood. The diverse menu also includes steaks, chicken, pork, salads, and more!

If you’re looking to explore the area a bit more, we recommend heading to Southport as well. Check out all of the local Oak Island restaurants we recommend in our online guide.


9. Grab Your Clubs & Play a Round of Golf

North Carolina Coast Golfing - Oak Island

Oak Island is a golfer’s paradise with breathtaking scenery, coastal backdrops, and a mild climate year-round! However, if you think it’s hot during the summer months on the North Carolina coast… then you’ll find that the cooler (yet still mild) climate from September through November provides the perfect playing conditions! Plus, with 6 golf courses nearby and even more courses only minutes away in Brunswick County, you’ll have a diverse range of options to choose from no matter your skill level!

Some of our favorite golf courses nearby include the Oak Island Golf Club, Oak Island Par 3 at South Harbour, The Lakes Country Club, and the Bald Head Island Club. You’ll also find private and group lessons for golfers of all ages, so bring the family and kids along for a day of entertainment!


10. Enjoy the Fall Festivals Nearby

Oak Island Festivals in the Fall - Riverfest Wilmington Place to Stay

Last but certainly not least, the family-friendly festivals you love continue throughout the fall months! Some of the most popular festivals near Oak Island include:

  • Sunset at Sunset Festival in Sunset Beach, NC
  • The North Carolina Oyster Festival in Ocean Isle Beach, NC
  • Riverfest in Wilmington, NC
  • NC Festival by the Sea in Holden Beach, NC

Join Us for the Slower Pace & Lower Rates

Visiting Oak Island in Autumn - Lower Rates & Fewer Crowds

Ready to begin planning your fall vacation to Oak Island? Now is the perfect time to enjoy the slower autumn pace, mild temperatures, and lower rental rates! You can start by browsing through our vacation rentals, and please don’t hesitate to give us a call if you have any questions. Our team would love to help you plan your next coastal North Carolina getaway.