Wilmington and Its Island Beaches

Wilmington and Its Island Beaches

Wilmington's historic river district winds around the iconic Cape Fear River

Wilmington and nearby Carolina, Kure and Wrightsville beaches await with gardens, shopping, great restaurants and plenty to do for the entire family.

5-Day Itinerary

Day 1: Take a garden stroll and a walking tour, and then step back into history.

Day 2: See historic Wilmington by horse-drawn carriage and by night.

Day 3: Enjoy coastal weather with outdoor fun.

Day 4: Commune with nature in beautiful gardens.

Day 5: Enjoy family entertainment for all ages.

Day 1: Historic Wilmington

An inspiring place to start is Battleship North Carolina. Walk the nine decks of the restored World War II battleship, and see the crew quarters, engine rooms and museum. (suggested time: 1.5 hours)

Head to the Burgwin Wright House and Gardens. This beautifully restored Georgian-style home is decorated with 18th- and early 19th-century furnishings and graced by lovely gardens. Demonstrations are held in a colonial kitchen building, and you’ll find re-enactments in the 18th-century jail. (suggested time: 1 hour)

Have lunch at a waterfront restaurant or one of many eateries in downtown Wilmington. Spend the afternoon on a Wilmington Adventure Walking Tour, exploring the city’s historic district through the eyes of a long-time resident. (suggested time: 2 hours)

Next, stop in at the Cape Fear Museum, North Carolina’s oldest history museum. The museum features a collection of more than 35,000 artifacts that showcase the history, science and culture of the southern Carolina coast. (suggested time: 1 hour)

Day 2: Sightseeing by carriage, riverboat and foot

Start the day with a Carriage and Horse Drawn Trolley Tour. Narrated by a costumed driver, this is a ride that will take you back to a time when the pace of life was much slower. (suggested time: 1 hour)

Head for downtown Wilmington to browse antique and apparel shops, as well as art galleries. Enjoy an afternoon sightseeing cruise along the Cape Fear River, where you'll learn about the history of the area, marine and animal life, and fun facts on movies filmed there. But if you'd rather cruise the waters in the evening, the riverboat operator offers sunset cruises Wednesday to Sunday, and a murder mystery show each Tuesday. (suggested time: 1.5 hours)

The Cameron Art Museum is a 42,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility that features North Carolina and American art from the 18th century to today. The 9.6 acre campus also features a historic Civil War site, changing exhibitions, museum shop and cafe. (suggested time: 2 hours)

This evening, sign on for the Ghost Walk of Old Wilmington, an enchanting 90-minute tour through the streets and alleyways of downtown. A costumed guide will introduce you to a host of lost souls to who still haunt this charming city. (suggested time: 1.5 hours)

Day 3: Fort Fisher and Carolina Beach State Park

At the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, journey from freshwater rivers and swamps, to coastal waters, and into the open ocean beyond. Walk through the half-acre glass-covered conservatory with alligators, catfish and more. Marvel at the 250,000-gallon marine exhibit with views of sharks, eels and barracudas. (suggested time: 1 hour)

Before its January 1865 fall, Fort Fisher protected blockade-runners en route to Wilmington. It was the largest earthen fort in the South. Tour the trail at the Fort Fisher State Historic Site and Civil War Museum, view a presentation about the history of the fort, and check out the view from the oceanfront overlook and revetment. (suggested time: 1 hour)

At Carolina Beach State Park, wind your way through habitats along nature trails with more than 50 species of trees, shrubs and plants, including the Venus flytrap, a rare carnivorous plant indigenous to this area of North Carolina. (suggested time: 1.5 to 2 hours)

Day 4: Greenfield Park and Airlie Gardens

Revel in the scenery at Greenfield Lake Park & Gardens. A five-mile scenic drive surrounds this 200-acre city park with a lake, 20 acres of gardens, nature trail, and walking and biking loop through Spanish moss-draped cypress trees. (suggested time: 1 to 1.5 hours)

After lunch, head to Airlie Gardens, a historic area encompassing 67 acres of beautiful Gilded Age gardens with 10 acres of freshwater lakes. Admire the azaleas, and hog the shade of the more than 400-year-old Airlie Oak. Then wander the New Hanover County Extension Service Arboretum with 4,000 species of native plants and a Japanese Tea House Gazebo. (suggested time: 1 to 1.5 hours)

Day 5: Cape Fear Serpentarium and Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park

Begin your day at the Cape Fear Serpentarium, a thrill for snake haters and snake lovers alike. More than 80 species of the world’s most fascinating and dangerous reptiles live here in simulations of their natural habitats. Among these exotic and indigenous specimens are venomous snakes and constrictors, crocodiles and great lizards. (suggested time: 1 hour)

Next, it’s on to a complete family entertainment center, the Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park. The park offers everything from waterslides and a wave pool to Grand Prix go-carts, jungle miniature golf, laser-tag, arcade and more. The Big Splash Cafe serves lunch. (suggested time: 3 hours)

Enjoy all the area has to offer by mixing and matching events to your particular interest. Be sure to check days and hours of operation for each venue.


There’s much to see and do in North Carolina, so read on.

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