The Community of Oak Island unofficially began in 1825 with the construction of Fort Caswell. The construction of the Oak Island Lighthouse and Oak Island Lifesaving Station in 1889 safeguarded sailors from the brutal waters of the nearby Cape Fear River. The fort and lighthouse were the first areas of Oak Island to have permanent population and this increased the fishing and import commerce of the area, yet it didn't become a tourist spot for nearly half a century later when the beach became open to the public.
Oak Island remained undeveloped until 1939, and was well known to be an excellent location for fox hunting, and the sport remained an important part of the Island's early years. The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway was completed in 1936 and this made Oak Island a true island as the waterway dredging deepened sections of the Elizabeth River, cutting it off from the mainland.
In 1938, Ernest Middleton purchased land on Oak Island and began development of the area on Oak Island known as Long Beach. Long Beach was officially open to the public in 1939. The town now had twenty bath houses, a canteen with a dining room and a pavilion. On Saturday nights there were orchestras playing and dances at the pavilion for visitors to enjoy. Some roads had been constructed and the first oceanfront lots were put up for sale.
The Town of Oak Island is actually a result of the 1999 merger of the small towns, Yaupon Beach and Long Beach. Oak Island and Southport boast the largest commercial district of the Brunswick County Beaches and offer a wealth of restaurants, shopping centers and activities throughout the area.
Visitors who travel to the beautiful beach community of Oak Island love the first glimpse they get as they drive over the bridge and natural marsh grass of the Intracoastal Waterway. The island's twelve and a half miles of scenic beauty offer so much for people to enjoy. Beautiful beach cottages line the coastal plane where sea grass and seashells are scattered along the shores. Beginning at the Oak Island Lighthouse on Caswell Beach, incredible views spanning the Intracoastal Waterway and Atlantic Ocean create a sense of wonder. It seems that in every direction, there is a spectacular view and a perfect place to enjoy a restful vacation.