Tar Heel Trek: Brunswick County

The following is a guide to Bald Head Island written in the form of a children’s book:

One summer we took the ferry to an island.  We stayed in a little house on the beach and watched the ocean move.  We put on suntan lotion and laid towels out on the sand.  We built castles that ceased to stand and saw the waves come closer and closer to our little house.  The days were hot, the nights were dark.  We climbed Old Baldy to see what we could see, and we saw, of course, the sea.

Old Baldy
Old Baldy Lighthouse (image: tripadvisor.com)

Okay, that’s enough of that.

Home to some of North Carolina’s most beautiful beaches, Brunswick County boasts oceanfront views and the last miles of the mighty Cape Fear River before it mixes with the sea.  Located in the Coastal Plain region of Southeastern North Carolina,  it is truly a county of water with some intriguing points of interest on dry land, as well.

Orton Plantation
Orton Plantation (image: 4windsand7seas.com)

According to A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Eatern North Carolina, Orton Plantation “epitomizes the romanticized ideal of the southern mansion.”  Built in 1730, Orton is “the lone survivor of the great plantations that once fluorished along the lower Cape Fear.”  I visited Orton once; our family’s wood-paneled station wagon pulled up to the gigantic white columned house just as a torrential downpour began.  When I think of Orton, I think of eating our picnic lunch in the back of the car and drawing things in the fog on the windows.  A good memory, but alas, not much help to you, traveler.

A colonial port of great prominence, Brunswick Town was the first permanent European settlement on the lower Cape Fear.  In his Encyclopedia of North Carolina, William S. Powell writes , “The ruins of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church remain, with brick walls 3 feet thick and 25 feet high.”  These ruins are a sight to see, and though the sky intrudes where the ceiling once was, visitors get the sense that they are experiencing North Carolina as it once was.

The ruins of St. Philip's Episcopal Church at Brunswick Town State Historic Site (image: Wikipedia)

If you’re more of a people person, Brunswick County hosts festivals and events throughout the year: the Christmas-by-the-Sea Festival, the North Carolina-by-the-Sea Festival, and the North Carolina Oyster Festival.  I’m noticing a trend here.  Whether you plan to stay on land or venture into the sea, Brunswick County is sure to be a wonderful Tar Heel Trek.