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Brunswick Countyis a county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina.
As of 2006, the population was 94,945. Its county seat is Bolivia
The county was formed in 1764 from parts of Bladen County and New Hanover County. It was named for the colonial port of Brunswick, NC (now in ruins) which was itself named for Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg; at the time held by the British kings of the House of Hanover.
Law and government
Brunswick County is a member of the regional Cape Fear Council of Governments.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 2,720 km² (1,050 sq mi). 2,214 km² (855 sq mi) of it is land and 506 km² (195 sq mi) of it (18.59%) is water.
The county is divided into six townships: Lockwoods Folly, Northwest, Shallotte, Smithville, Town Creek, and Waccamaw.
- Pender County, North Carolina - north-northeast
- New Hanover County, North Carolina - east
- Horry County, South Carolina - southwest
- Columbus County, North Carolina - northwest
As of the census² of 2006, there were 94,945 people, 30,438 households, and 22,037 families residing in the county. The population density was 33/km² (86/sq mi). There were 51,431 housing units at an average density of 23/km² (60/sq mi). The racial makeup of the county was 82.30% White, 14.38% Black or African American, 0.68% Native American, 0.27% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 1.32% from other races, and 1.01% from two or more races. 2.68% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 30,438 households out of which 25.70% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.10% were married couples living together, 10.20% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.60% were non-families. 22.90% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.60% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.38 and the average family size was 2.76.
In the county the population was spread out with 21.20% under the age of 18, 7.00% from 18 to 24, 25.70% from 25 to 44, 29.20% from 45 to 64, and 16.90% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 96.70 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.90 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $35,888, and the median income for a family was $42,037. Males had a median income of $30,138 versus $22,066 for females. The per capita income for the county was $19,857. About 9.50% of families and 12.60% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.40% of those under age 18 and 8.10% of those age 65 or over.
Cities and towns
- Bald Head Island
- Boiling Spring Lakes
- Carolina Shores
- Caswell Beach
- Holden Beach
- Oak Island
- Ocean Isle Beach
- Sandy Creek
- St. James
- Sunset Beach
- Piney Grove
Wilmington is one of the fastest growing cities in the country; Myrtle Beach is already thought of as the Bible Belt’s Las Vegas and tour-bus heaven. Between those two thriving areas is Brunswick County – nearly 50 miles of pristine shoreline along five barrier islands. Newcomers find Brunswick County appealing because it offers a quieter lifestyle and more affordable housing than New Hanover County. Catch it while you can.
Though the area is moving into the path of the developers’ dreams, with more hotels and resorts and newer, larger bridges planned, it has yet to lose its relaxed charm. In addition to quiet beaches, newcomers will enjoy historic Southport, reminiscent of a colonial fishing and shipping village, and the excavated colonial village of Brunswick Town.
Golfers will find at least 35 champion courses within the county and hundreds more in the surrounding cities and countryside.
Yet, the area is quickly changing. Economists predict that Brunswick County will triple its population and expand its economy in double digits each year for the next 10 years, boosted by the completion of the I-140 Northern Outer Loop.
Just north of the South Carolina border is Calabash, famous for its many restaurants serving a deep-fried style of seafood that has earned it the title of “seafood capital of the world.’’ The town has about 1,350 permanent residents.
Perhaps that’s why Brunswick has grown so dramatically over the past 20 years and is expected to continue growing over the next 20. In 1980, just over 35,000 people called Brunswick County home. That jumped to more than 50,000 by the 1990 census. The census for 2000 confirms a population of more than 73,143, with the largest part of that coming from retirees, and an estimated 85,000 today – an increase of 16 percent just in the past six years.
The county government began preparing for the growth, and even encouraged it, with the construction of a water system that serves the whole county. New towns have been incorporated and other areas have been annexed in all corners of the county.
The population is not only expanding, it is also getting older, suggesting that an influx of affluent retirees is helping drive the growth. The rapid growth has created a commercial and residential construction boom.
At the southeastern tip of Brunswick County is Southport, set at the western edge of the mouth of the Cape Fear River, with a population around 2,600. Packed with antique shops and eateries, Southport is easily accessible from N.C. 87 to the north or N.C. 211 to the west, or by taking a relaxing ride on the state ferry from Fort Fisher on U.S. 421.
The town’s history goes back to confrontations between rebellious colonists and British authorities during the Revolutionary War period and includes a long and salty time as a primary N.C. seaport. The historic feel and architecture has made it a favorite spot for filmmakers, who filmed “I Know What You Did Last Summer” and “Crimes of the Heart” there, among other features.
Southport is known for its huge North Carolina Fourth of July festival and fireworks (in fact, it was one of the first locations in the country to celebrate the holiday, starting in 1795). The town is also close to several historic sites including Brunswick Town, Fort Anderson and Orton Plantation.
Brunswick Town is the county’s first colony, founded in 1726 by Maurice Moore, the son of a former South Carolina governor. It became a shipping port for tar, turpentine and pitch exports. In 1776, the town was razed by British troops and abandoned. Nearly 100 years later, the site of Brunswick Town became Fort Anderson, a Confederate fort in 1861 as part of the river defense of Wilmington.
During the 1950s and ’60s, archaeologists discovered the town’s historic structures, including St. Phillip’s Anglican Church, which dates back to 1754. Visitors can see some of the homes and buildings that remain along with historic artifacts in the visitors center.
Halfway between Wilmington and Southport, Orton Plantation is a rice plantation established in the early 1700s and known for its high-quality produce. Although the home remains a private residence, the grounds and gardens are open to the public. The gardens, first created in 1910, were expanded between 1935 and 1950 to its present 20 acres of rich, colorful vegetation ranging from azaleas and camellias to mixed pines and hardwood trees. A diverse array of wildlife – including alligators – also inhabits the plantation.
Right across the mouth of the river from Southport is Oak Island, which is divided north to south into the beach towns of Caswell Beach, Yaupon Beach and Long Beach.
Caswell Beach has some of the highest property values on Oak Island, perhaps because it is such a quiet and desirable place to be. The town takes its name from Fort Caswell, built in 1826, seized by Confederate forces in 1861 and held until 1865. It now houses the North Carolina Baptist Assembly, which welcomes thousands of visitors of all denominations each year.
The Oak Island Lighthouse is one of the most impressive structures in the region, standing 169 feet and beaming its light more than 19 miles – the brightest light in the United States and the second-brightest light in the world. Located at the southeastern tip of Brunswick County at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, the lighthouse was built in 1958 to replace the Cape Fear Lighthouse. In 2004, the Oak Island Lighthouse became the property of the Town of Caswell Beach.
Just to the south of Caswell Beach is Yaupon Beach, which merged with its southern neighbor, Long Beach, in 1999 to form the town of Oak Island, the largest town in Brunswick County with 7,400 permanent residents. Considered a family beach, Long Beach is known for its protection of families of sea turtles, which come to the beach to lay eggs. Hundreds of volunteers watch the nests and ensure that baby turtles make their way to the ocean.
To this day, Oak Island has only a small amount of commercial development, instead devoting most of its available space to residential dwellings.
A group of three islands forms a row just to the south of Oak Island. Called the South Brunswick Islands, they include Holden Beach, Ocean Isle Beach and Sunset Beach.
Holden Beach is about eight miles long and holds about 900 permanent residents. It protects its “family beach resort’’ image through zoning rules that include a 35-foot building height limit. The island features a fishing pier, fish houses and several charter boats among its handful of businesses, while the unincorporated area leading to the beach has miniature golf courses, a mini-car track and a bumper-boat pool.
Entrance to the island is by way of a high-rise bridge that at its peak offers a great view of the island and surrounding areas. Because there is little room for development left on Holden Beach, real estate prices are relatively steep.
Ocean Isle Beach is southwest of Holden Beach, across Shallotte Inlet, and northeast of Sunset Beach, across Tubbs Inlet. It is surrounded by golf courses and features its own airport. The town has about 500 permanent residents. Ocean Isle Beach has more condominiums and high-density housing than neighboring Holden and Sunset beaches, which has prompted the board of commissioners to study reducing the number of units allowed per square acre.
Ocean Isle Beach is the home of the Museum of Coastal Carolina, a natural history museum with exhibits of live sea animals, seashells, saltwater fish, birds, marsh animals and snakes, as well as Native American artifacts and relics from the Civil War. It hosts special programs for children and adults.
Sunset Beach is a tiny three-mile-long sliver of beach that is accessible by a single-lane bridge with a population of about 2,000 people. Commercial development includes a few restaurants, a store and several golf courses. Of particular note is Bird Island, accessible from Sunset Beach only at low tide. As an uninhabited state preserve, the island is home to a variety of coastal birds and other wildlife.
The Sea Trail Golf and Conference Center at Sunset Beach is a resort that offers several residential communities including villas and single-family homes.
Part of the Museum of Coastal Carolina, Ingram Planetarium and Science Center on Sunset Beach includes programs and hands-on astronomy exhibits for visitors of all ages. The 85-seat domed theater provides an 360-degree sound and light show.
Bald Head Island, the southernmost cape island in North Carolina, is truly an escape from everyday life. Accessible only by powerboat or pedestrian ferry, the island allows no cars within its 12,000-acre enclave. It is also the home of the Bald Head Lighthouse – also known as “Old Baldy” – built in 1818. Visitors can tour the lighthouse, which features spectacular views from the top.
Calabash is on the mainland, but is of note because of its reputation for fine seafood, which comes off the shrimp boats that dock along the Calabash River. Dozens of specialty shops and art galleries in Calabash offer unique shopping opportunities.
Farther inland, Waterford of the Carolinas in Leland is a new development with creeks and streams, which wind through the community, and Osprey Lake. Almost every homesite is on the water. The neighborhood offers new brick patio homes and custom brick homes. Waterford features a community pool and clubhouse, a tennis facility and trails.
PHOTO COURTESY OF NC DIVISION OF TOURISM, FILM AND SPORTS DEVELOPMENT