Ocean Isle is a seven-mile long barrier island located between Holden Beach and Sunset Beach in Brunswick County. There are only about 500 year-round residents on Ocean Isle, but the population in summer months burgeons to 20,000. Much of the development of the island owes to the investment and aegis of Odell Williamson. Returning from World War II, Williamson purchased huge swaths of the island, as well as surrounding mainland properties. Over the ensuing years he set about creating a real estate enterprise that determined the shape of modern Ocean Isle. The island is accessed by one high-rise bridge, named for Williamson, which spans the IntraCoastal Waterway. A small airport is located on the mainland, about one-quarter of a mile from the bridge.
Ocean Isle and Oak Island stand alone in terms of Brunswick County islands for enjoying a reasonable number of restaurants, though Ocean Isle's restaurants are typically more upscale. In addition to the restaurants, Ocean Isle hosts the Museum of Coastal Carolina on the island, a small service station, family venues such as miniature golf and an ice cream parlor, and a few retail shops. The island also boast 72 canals among its cottage communities, making it a favorite vacation cottage rental area for boaters. In the fall months, the Ocean Isle area welcomes the North Carolina Oyster Festival, and the Purple Foot Festival, which takes place at nearby Silver Coast Winery.
There are some two dozen golf courses within a fifteen minute drive of the island, including some of North Carolina's most highly-rated public courses, such as Brick Landing, Brunswick Plantation, Crow Creek, the Lion's Paw courses, Meadowlands, Oyster Bay, The Pearl, three courses at Sea Trail, and Thistle. Ocean Isle is perhaps Brunswick County's most popular island getaway for vacationers given its combination of accessibility, amenities, and tranquility.
Ocean Isle Beach has 72 canals.