In the early 1970s Rube McMullan, a Greensboro NC native graduated from the University of Georgia and began his successful career in real estate and land development in the Atlanta area. Meanwhile he was jotting down his ideas for different business ventures.
By the time he started a family, his roots and the lure of the ocean started calling him. As a youth, he had spent many summers fishing from the Carolina Beach Pier under his mother’s tutelage. He often watched the boats go by and wished he was on one.
“When my wife and I had our family, we knew we wanted to raise them on the water, too,” he says. “A North Carolinian always finds his way back to his roots.”
Ocean Isle Beach seemed to be the perfect place, so in 1981, the McMullans bought their beach house. There he taught his boys how to fish and boat.
More than 20 years later, the avid saltwater fisherman crossed another idea off his list when he purchased a canal-front lot on the island and built a marina there. Sons Brant and Barrett shared their father’s love for saltwater fishing, so much so that both men settled in Ocean Isle Beach after college and became charter captains. The new marina was the perfect place to grow a family business, and the Ocean Isle Fishing Center (OIFC) was born in 2002.
Today the OIFC marina is home to boat and Jet Ski rentals, a restaurant, a gift shop and charter fishing operations. It is also home to six saltwater fishing tournaments a year, including the renowned Jolly Mon King Mackerel Tournament in June.
Fishing is a major passion but it was on a visit to a family farm in Mississippi that the seeds for a zipline adventure park were planted in the McMullan patriarch. “The kids were riding this homemade zipline and having such a great time,” he says. “It just got me to thinking…”
McMullan’s Shallotte River Swamp Park opened in June 2015. The 60-acre venue offers ziplines, an aerial park ropes course and swamp boat tours. The rustic, cabin-style gift shop includes equipment fitting rooms for both the zipline and the aerial park. Upstairs there are rooms for birthday parties and corporate training. Porches with rocking chairs flank the front and back of the building.
The zipline area includes five towers, ten lines and three hanging bridges, taking riders on a 2.5-hour aerial tour 40 feet above the pristine swamp. Groups of up to eight guests go through an extensive ground school in which they learn how to use the equipment properly. Two seasoned guides accompany each group. Reservations are recommended for the popular ride.
The adventure is not for the faint of heart, however, and McMullan made sure there was a graceful way to back out of the trip if a rider is uncomfortable with the height. Midway up the 90-foot tower launch there is a short practice run called the bailout. “It’s much better to have an idea of what the ride is like before you get out there,” he says. “Because once you leave this tower your feet don’t hit the ground until you return.”
Watch this Ocean Isle Eco Adventure Park Video and experience a majestic tour while you explore the ecological benefits of this natural environment or indulge in one of the many action activities they have on hand at The Swamp Park & Outdoor Center. You can choose from one of their three fun-filled activities or maybe do them all!
McMullan rode it several times in the testing phase. “You see 300-year-old cypress trees,” he says. “The wildlife is really unbelievable.”
The aerial park was inspired by an experience he had with his oldest granddaughter, Caroline. “We went on a ropes-challenge course on a trip to Charleston,” he says. “That ten-year-old was fearless.”
At the Swamp Park the three-tier ropes course includes 49 challenge items and is open to guests from ages 4 and older.
“You start out on the lowest tier and once the guides see that you are comfortable, you can progress up higher,” McMullan says.
Experience the area with their guided Zipline tours, climb on the Aerial Adventure Park, or relax and enjoy the Shallotte River on the Swamp Tour. For the more adventurous, climb to the top of the Main Tower and step off on their Quick Jump event. It is sensational! Visitors take in a variety of natural sights and sounds that encompass this beautiful region. This is the perfect combination of adventure seeking and ecological education.
With something for all ages, these spectacular adventures and breathtaking views are all there waiting for you! The Swamp Park is located at 5550 Watts Road on the mainland section of Ocean Isle Beach, NC between the island and Hwy 17.
And what great idea will McMullan sketch out on his next scrap of paper? “I have to stop for a while,” he says with a wink. “We are running out of McMullans. We will have to wait a little while until the third generation grows up.”