EZ Home Search Guide to Living in Brunswick County, NC

Brunswick, North Carolina house, beaches, and fishing pier

EZ Home Search Guide to Living in Brunswick County, NC 

Are you thinking about living in Brunswick County, North Carolina? You're looking at a great place to live! Locals love watching sunsets from the porch and being away from the bright city lights.

The lifestyle is calm and laid back. While the area's beaches are a star attraction, the whole county has plenty to experience. Best of all, Brunswick County has a relatively affordable price of living, allowing you to enjoy a life where others simply vacation. 

Learn about Brunswick County, the attractions residents enjoy, and why people come to stay.

About Brunswick County

This is a special area in North Carolina. Here you will find over 50 miles of coastline, a mild climate, and friendly people. Known as the Brunswick Islands, the county has a collection of communities with unique character strung along the Atlantic seaboard. In total, there are six beaches. 

The oceanfront is just part of the shoreline. Two rivers make up part of Brunswick's borders: the Cape Fear River to the east and the Waccamaw River to the northeast. In the center lies the Green Swamp Preserve, a natural area essential to the Lowcountry environment and the largest swamp in North Carolina.

In addition, Brunswick County is home to Calabash and its famous Calabash-style cuisine. With over 30 golf courses, it's the northern part of the famous Grand Strand.

The cost of living here is on par with the national average. The cost of living index sets 100 as the national average, and Brunswick has an overall 101.8. Healthcare is the most expensive index category, while transportation is the cheapest. 

Brunswick County History

Native Americans were the first inhabitants of Brunswick County. Locals called them Cape Fear Indians or Town Creek Indians, but their proper name has been lost to time. European settlers forcibly removed them to a reservation in Williamsburg County, South Carolina, in 1716. 

After early exploration by the British and Spanish, and several failed colonization attempts, settlers finally began to use Cape Fear's deep-water harbor to settle the area. The local waterways were crucial transportation corridors.

Brunswick County was officially created in 1764, with Brunswick Town becoming the county seat. It was established out of part of New Hanover County. 

During the American Revolution, the British burned Brunswick Town to the ground. The town was never rebuilt, and by the early 1780s, it was abandoned. The county seat was moved to Lockwood Folly, then to Smithville, renamed Southport. In the 1970s, the county seat moved from Southport to Bolivia, a town closer to the county center. 

During the 1800s, the easiest way to move goods around was by using the rivers. Towns were established along the waterfront to make trade easier.

The US Army Corps of Engineers dredged the US Intracoastal Waterway in the 1930s. It created several barrier islands that became attractive properties after World War II. Development began booming in the 1950s and 1960s. These islands became popular vacation attractions and remain so to this day.

Brunswick County Cities and Areas

Brunswick County is most known for its islands and the small beach towns that have popped up along the oceanfront. National Geographic Traveler named Holden Beach as one of the country's best family beaches. Caswell Beach is the least inhabited of the Brunswick Island beaches and has many stretches of open sands. Oak Island has ten miles of uncrowded shoreline for an old-fashioned summer beach vacation. 

Bald Head Island lies two miles off Southport and is accessible by ferry or private boat. It has a resort-style atmosphere and pristine beaches. Southport at the mouth of the Cape Fear River was nicknamed America's Happiest Seaside Town. It's been used in movie sets and is a unique destination.

Calabash, a picturesque fishing village at the South Carolina border, is known as the "seafood capital of the world." The lightly breaded and fried seafood has become famous as Calabash-style cooking. 

Brunswick County on the mainland still has plenty to offer. Bolivia serves as the county seat. Located near the county's geographical center, it is a small town with lots of southern charm. Shallotte and its surrounding neighbors offer river views. Leland is an inland town near the Brunswick Islands, and the attractions in Wilmington are just across the Cape Fear River. It's also ideally situated to the numerous golf courses in the area.

Just across the Cape Fear River awaits downtown Wilmington and its urban amenities.

Brunswick County Job Market

Tourism is a major contributor to the Brunswick County economy. However, the area does have job market diversity, with other leading industries being manufacturing, retail, and construction. Residential real estate construction was reaching levels close to before the Great Recession, with hundreds of new homes being built across the county.

The leading employing industry was retail trades, which accounted for 16% of employment in the county. That was followed by accommodation and food services, which employed 14% of available workers, followed by government, health care and social assistance, and public administration.

Based on the number of employees, the county's top employers were the Brunswick County School District, Brunswick County, Duke Energy Progress, Walmart, Brunswick Novant Medical Center, and Brunswick Community College. 

Brunswick County's unemployment rate stood at 5.8% in July 2021. The United States averaged 6%. Over the last year, the county's job market has grown by 2.7%. Projections place job growth over the next decade at 42.8%, which is well above the US projected growth rate of 33.5%. 

Brunswick County Real Estate Market

As of July 2021, the local real estate sales were up 56% year-to-date compared to 2020. The trend over the preceding months has been increased prices and low inventory. 

The number of available new listings decreased 6% year-over-year. At the same time, average sales prices have risen 27%. The average sale price for July was $430,096.

The local market report notes that the average price increases have been fueled by more sales in the luxury real estate market. 

Property taxes in Brunswick County stood at 0.4850 in 2021. This means the county collects almost 0.49% of your property's assessed fair market value. The county re-evaluates properties every four years.

EZ Home Search provides current market data and listings for Brunswick County communities of Bald Head Island, Calabash, Leland, and Southport.   

Brunswick County Demographics

The US Census reported 136,693 residents in April 2020. The number of new residents has grown 21% since 2010. The 2030 population projection is 167,945, an 18.6% anticipated gain.

The Brunswick County average age is 50.9. Around 86% of residents identify as white, while 11% identify as black. The median household income for an area resident was $49,359. In terms of education, around 27% have a bachelor's degree or higher. 

Brunswick County Education

The Brunswick County School District operates a total of 24 schools. There are nine elementary, five middle, four high, one alternate, and one K-8 school. 

Approximately ten private schools were available to Brunswick County residents in 2021. The top-ranked schools were L & L Montessori school and Southeastern Christian Academy.

Brunswick Community College provides higher education opportunities. It offers associates degrees in art, science, and engineering. It also has high school pathways, certificates, and diplomas to prepare for entry-level jobs in paraprofessional and health care Industries. 

Brunswick County Healthcare

Brunswick County Health Services has programs for children and adults. Many of its services have an income-based sliding scale to assist the uninsured. It also has community outreach services and health education. 

Novant Brunswick Medical Center is the emergency services provider for the area. In addition, it offers maternity care, surgery, outpatient diagnostic testing, and other essential community health care programs. It is located off of Highway 17 in central Brunswick County. The facility has 74 beds and five operating rooms. 

Dosher Public Hospital operates from Southport. The not-for-profit community hospital serves Smithville Township, which includes Bald Head Island, Caswell Beach, Oak Island, and the eastern portions of Saint James.

Brunswick County Things To Do

The Brunswick Islands are a special place with lots of unique character. From the resort-like Bald Head Island to the pristine Oak Island, find a beach spot that's perfect for you. 

Besides the miles of shoreline and beaches, one of its primary attractions is its access to fishing. The waters off the coastline are filled with trophy fish. Book a deep-sea charter, fish off the coastline, or cast a line in one of the area's rivers.

Why not try a dining tour? There are not many places where you can watch your dinner come in off the boat. The famous Calabash cuisine is a big draw. The light breading lets the fish, shrimp, or crab flavor shine. 

On the days you do not feel like hanging out around the water, why not try some of the championship golfing in Brunswick? A total of 540 holes of golf await you. Pick from 30 championship golf courses in the area, each with its own unique challenges. Popular courses are at the Brunswick Plantation Resort and Golf, the Pearl, and Rivers Edge.

The area also has several festivals that take place throughout the year. Some of the most popular include the North Carolina Oyster Festival and the Days At The Dock Festival. 

Brunswick County Local Attractions

Visit two of the state's oldest lighthouses, Old Baldy and the Oak Island Lighthouse. Climb to the top and appreciate the ocean views. Reservations are needed for an interior tour.

Check out the ruins of Brunswick Town, a colonial-era settlement that was burned by the British during the American Revolution. Fort Anderson was built on top of the town's remnants.

The Museum of Coastal Carolina exhibits the area's natural history in life-size replicas of marine animals. Its Ingram Planetarium brings the stars to earth.

Visit the Brunswick Nature Park, 900 acres preserving North Carolina's coastal wildlife. You can also paddle down the Brunswick River to spot ospreys and egrets hunting for their dinner. 

Ride the passenger ferry to Bald Head Island and leave the stress of the mainland behind. The island has pristine beaches, miles of shoreline, a golf course, shopping, and more outdoor adventures. 

Brunswick County Dining

You can't live in Brunswick County without appreciating the home of Calabash cuisine. The so-called "Seafood Capital of the World" created the lightly breaded spice mix that has given the area a name. You will find family-owned restaurants up and down around the Calabash area serving this distinctive Seafood style.

The area truly is a seafood lover's paradise. Local restaurants take advantage of the direct access to the fish, shrimp, and crab that live off of the local waters. Just to give you an idea of what is available, here are a few restaurants:

  • Oliver's On The Cape Fear is a destination for a nice night out with family and friends with large interior windows and an outdoor porch on the waterfront.
  • The Purple Onion Cafe is an eclectic American dining joint.
  • Mojo's on the Harbor serves Italian and American cuisine waterfront.
  • Ports Of Call has globally inspired dishes using seasonal ingredients.
  • The Boundary House is an American and seafood restaurant in Calabash. 

Brunswick County Shopping

Up and down the island towns, you will find some unique specialty shops and low-cost Surf Shop retailers. Explore the numerous art galleries, gift shops, and boutique clothing stores in a walkable downtown area in Southport. Calabash is another town with nautical-themed stores selling art and collectibles. 

Shallotte has a mix of shopping centers with national brand names and antique stores. More brand-name shopping is near St. James and Southport.

Brunswick County also has several specialty markets. The Market on Mulberry is held every other Saturday through May and July. The Shallotte Farmers Market is another opportunity to get goods directly from farmers and local vendors.

Living in Brunswick County

If you're looking for a carefree lifestyle with an affordable cost of living, explore Brunswick County, North Carolina. The Brunswick Islands are rich with a laid-back underdeveloped feel. Here you won't find tons of condominiums blocking the ocean view. Still, the amenities are vast, especially if you enjoy golf and water recreation. Walk the miles of shoreline and simply enjoy what nature has to offer. 


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