Oak Island is a seaside town located in the southeastern corner of North Carolina. Part of Brunswick County, the major portion of the town is on Oak Island which it shares with Caswell Beach. Founded in 1999 as the result of the consolidation of two existing towns, Oak Island's main industry is tourism. Per the 2010 census, it had a permanent population of 6,783 which in 2019 was estimated to be 8,386. Its average summer population ranges from 30-50,000 and the town is considered to be a part of the Myrtle Beach metropolitan area.
Oak Island, on which much of the town sits, has been inhabited since the early 19th century when Fort Caswell was constructed on its east end in 1838. The island developed slowly, but by the late 1930s it began attracting people from nearby Southport with fox hunting popular in the areas along the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). In 1954, Hurricane Hazel struck, leaving only five buildings standing on the west end of the island The island recovered quickly however, and the towns of Long Beach and Yaupon Beach were incorporated in 1955. Along with this increasing level of development came strident demands for a reliable crossing of the ICW to provide access to the island.
When the ICW was completed in the late 1930s, a swingbridge initially provided this service. Destroyed by a barge strike in 1971, construction of the high rise Barbee Bridge began almost immediately; it opened for traffic in 1975 (interim service included a ferry and pontoon bridge).