Taking Seafood to the Next Level
Calabash, NC History
Calabash, just over the bridge from Sunset Beach, is a part of a 48,000-acre grant that was made to Landgrave Thomas Smith in 1691. Originally, the area was known as Little River and, until 1735, it was part of South Carolina. The area's first settlers were mainly from New England and Charleston, South Carolina. One settler, Nicholas Frink, came to the area in 1735, and his grandson, Samuel Frink, became a major plantation owner.
During the late 1700s, the Altson family owned most of what is now Calabash at Little River Neck. In the late 1800s, the area was dubbed Pea Landing due to the growing and shipping of peanuts to Wilmington. It wasn't until 1883 that the village requested a post office, and the name on the application was Calabash.
Calabash was incorporated in 1973. In 1989, Calabash consolidated Carolina Shores Village into the town. But in 1998, the Town of Calabash voted for the removal of Carolina Shores from the corporate limits of the town. By 2002, Calabash had almost doubled the town's area and population with the help of two major subdivisions, as well as many town enhancements and beautification projects.
Seafood Capital of the World
In the late 40s and early 50s, Calabash became known for its seafood and was named the "Seafood Capital of the World". Today's Calabash is no longer the fishing village it once was, but it still has the feel of a fishing village.
Calabash's reputation as the "Seafood Capital of the World" is due in large part to its more than 30 seafood restaurants in a square-mile area that hosts more than one million diners each year. Many of the restaurants are right on the water, where their docks are used by fishing boats to unload fish directly into the restaurants' back doors. Be sure to ask for your dinner "Calabash-style," which is a local seafood method popular with locals and visitors alike.
This port-side town is just over the bridge from Sunset Beach, but its rustic, old-world charm makes it feel miles away. Calabash is still a bustling fishing village that relies on its natural resources for business and tourism. There are also numerous specialty shops featuring gourmet food and boutiques filled with captivating wares, as well as many local art galleries offering the works of various artists, some local. Calabash is also surrounded by six beautiful golf courses.
Due to Calabash's location—it's the southernmost river town and it's also near the Atlantic Ocean—Calabash was the site of the first Calabash Restaurant, an oyster roast that opened in 1935.
There are many theories as to how Calabash-style cooking came about. Legend has it that in the 30s, fishermen brought in their catch and were met by the locals to see what was caught and what they could buy. Calabash rapidly became known for its fine quality of fresh shrimp and fish. Most of the fishing crews ate nearby, and the smells of fresh fish cooking wafted through the village, causing the locals to seek out the source of the delicious smells and buy any leftovers.
But it was only when local businessman Clinton Morse started serving tubs of deep-fried seafood that had been dipped in a light seasoned batter, cooked golden brown and served very hot, that "Calabash style" seafood was created.
It was those very waterside picnics that marked the beginning of a number of area restaurants that still today serve seafood fresh off the fishing boats. Calabash isn't famous for its beaches—this community is all about the seafood, and people come from far and wide to savor Calabash's delectable cuisine. Many of Calabash's restaurants, some of which claim to be originals, are located along main street, ready to serve it up Calabash-style to both locals and visitors.
Life in Calabash
Though famous for its fine seafood restaurants, eating isn't the only way to spend your time in Calabash. Popular outdoor activities include watersports (surfing, swimming, and beachcombing, among others), golf, fishing, boat rentals, jet ski rentals, bike rentals, shopping, kids activities, a waterfront walkway, and deep sea fishing.
Calabash could also be considered a golfer's paradise-there are some 30 golf courses within 30 minutes of the village community. In fact, Brunswick County may soon be considered the golf capital of the coast. Among the area courses to choose from are St. James Plantation, which includes The Reserve Club, The Founders Club, The Members Club and The Players Club; Winding River Plantation, which offers Carolina National Golf Club, designed by Fred Couples; Ocean Ridge Plantation, which includes the "Big Cats" courses of Lion's Paw, Panther's Run, Tiger's Eye, Leopard's Chase, along with the addition of Jaguar's Lair in Fall 2008; and The Pearl Golf Links, which is tucked along the Calabash River on a 900-acre marsh preserve.
Boaters can enjoy sailing or idling along the Calabash, Cape Fear, and Lockwood Folly Rivers, as well as the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean. Anglers can venture off land and try their hand at deep sea fishing on charter and private boats that take you right to the fish. You might catch a marlin, sailfish, dolphin, king or Spanish mackerel, wahoo or bluefish.
And for those who choose to stay on shore, options include fishing, crabbing, shrimping, and clamming—all are abundant in tidal creeks and along the Intracoastal Waterway.
Nearby beaches include Sunset Beach (10 minutes away), Ocean Isle Beach (15 minutes away), and Holden Beach and Myrtle Beach (20 minutes away).
Be sure to visit the Hurricane Fleet Deep Sea Fishing Center, located in the center of Calabash. Find out how and where the shrimp are caught as you take a cruise on the 90-foot Hurricane II, which engages working shrimp boats while their crews explain shrimping along the Carolinas. You will see dolphin and sharks feed on the by-catch as the nets are pulled only a few feet from the bow of the Hurricane II. The popular Dolphin Adventure Cruise is a favorite among adults and kids alike. The Hurricane Fleet also offers open party boat fishing-they're known for their deep-sea fishing experience, and they also offer half-day excursions. Their fleet of sport-fishing vessels is available for private charter for inshore, offshore and Gulf Stream fishing for tuna, dolphin and wahoo. All fishing cruises include bait, tackle, rod and reel and fishing license, and all vessels are U.S. Coast Guard approved.
Directions to Calabash
To get to Calabash from Wilmington, follow U.S. 17 south about 50 miles, past Shallotte. At Calabash road, turn left (south) into downtown Calabash. From Holden, Ocean Isle or Sunset beaches, follow N.C. 179 west to Calabash. From Myrtle Beach, follow U.S. 17 north through North Myrtle Beach and Little River, South Carolina. Turn right (east) on S.C. 179. At the North Carolina line, it becomes N.C. 179. Follow 179 to downtown Calabash.
There are four area airports. Major airline service is offered through two - Wilmington International Airport and Myrtle Beach International Airport. Brunswick County is midway between both airports and about 45 minutes away from each. There are also two small airports in Ocean Isle Beach and Oak Island.