Wilmington/Cape Fear Coast, North Carolina
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Personality Types that Like it Best
Did You Know … ?
- Hollywood filmmakers have logged more than 400 film-related credits in the Wilmington area.
- The Venus flytrap grows naturally only within a 60- to 100-mile radius of Wilmington.
- Orton’s Music and Billiards in Wilmington is America’s oldest poolroom (1888).
- Wilmington was called New Carthage, New Liverpool and Newton before it got its present name.
- Anna McNeill Whistler, of “Whistler’s Mother” fame, was born in Wilmington (1804); the painting has never lived in the U.S.
Hollywood on Cape Fear River
Wilmington and its associated beaches sit at the southern end of the North Carolina coast; this provides them the best weather in the state. Such weather translates into greenery and flowers, and year-round golf. Although area waters won’t do for year-round swimming, surfers in wetsuits can pursue their passion anytime. The beach towns are on islands but accessible via bridges.
The city and its area have numerous connections to America’s past. Recalling the Civil War, Fort Fisher, built largely of earth and sand and now a museum, kept Wilmington’s port open longer than other Confederate Atlantic port, until 1865 when the fort fell. During the American Revolution, the British occupied and evacuated the city in 1781. And, these days, the storied World War II battleship North Carolina is moored on the Cape Fear River here.
Nearby Poplar Grove Plantation provides a different window onto a past characterized by gracious living — and slavery. Also, in town, tourists may visit the Bellamy Mansion, the Burgwin-Wright House and Latimer House, all now museums.
Such houses are the tip of the iceberg, though, in a city with a riverside historic district encompassing some 320-plus city blocks. Visitors may tour the district in a horse-drawn carriage, by trolley, on a Segway or on foot. River cruises provide their own overview.
Given the built-in settings for period pieces and the weather, it’s no wonder Screen Gems Studios wanted an outpost here. The city also is considered to be among the world’s most haunted. Accordingly, walking tours focus on “Wilmywood” and ghosts.
Flowers are front and center in notable gardens and particularly at the annual Azalea Festival. Further, the city offers the de rigueur trappings of a modern metropolis, with galleries, museums, good restaurants and lively nightspots.
Finally, Wilmington has one more card to play — access to beaches, the ocean and services to facilitate enjoyment of both. From these beach towns, Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach, visitor options run the gamut from boating or fishing to diving or surfing, not to mention swimming and sunbathing. Furthermore, the towns host their share of area festivals, as well as fishing tournaments.
Things to do for Venturers
- The bad news is shifting shoals made it dangerous for shipping, resulting in shipwrecks. The good news is the wrecks make for fascinating diving. Go for it.
- Look for some of the best East Coast surfing at Wrightsville Beach. It’s a place for stand-up paddle boarding, too.
- Get serious about the area’s history. Visit the Fort Fisher State Historic Site and Museum, location of Civil War fighting. Also, take time at the Poplar Grove Plantation to delve into the story of the still-extant Gullah Geechee language and culture shaped by African slaves on the U.S. southeast coast. The plantation is part of the Gullah Geechee Corridor under the National Park Service.
- Liven up your nightlife at Wrightsville Beach, which offers beach bars, waterfront restaurants and local hotspots with live music. If this is too sedate, check your choices in Wilmington.
- Dance in the sand when you show up for the Carolina Beach Music Festival.
- Camp at Masonboro Island, accessible only by boat, off Wrightsville Beach. It is part of the North Carolina Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve. Limitations apply in order to protect a fragile habitat. Visitors may use the beaches, which provide miles of walking in a pristine setting.
Things to do for Centrics
- Sharpen your knife (and fork) and attend the autumn Taste of Wrightsville Beach or the springtime Wilmington Wine and Food Festival. Or, jazz it up at the Pleasure Island Seafood, Blues and Jazz Festival, also in the fall.
- Take a narrated ghost walk in Wilmington. The city says it is considered to be among the most actively haunted in the world. Also, there is a guided pub crawl devoted specifically to hauntings in local pubs.
- Follow the Venus Flytrap Trail at Carolina Beach State Park for a good look at a plant with leaves that trap insects.
- Toss in a line from one of several fishing piers. Or, join a half- or full-day fishing excursion into deep waters.
- Take basket weaving classes at Poplar Grove Plantation.
- Hop on a Segway for your tour of Wilmington’s 230-plus-block designated historic district. Also, take a water taxi ride to the World War II Battleship North Carolina.
Things to do for Authentics
- Take the Hollywood Location Walk in Wilmington to see where numerous TV shows and movies have been filmed.
- Take advantage of one of several free weekly concerts held in summer in each of the four destinations. Also, play golf. It is big around here.
- At Wilmington, take a narrated sightseeing cruise aboard the Henrietta III Riverboat. Or cruise on the Cape Fear River on a 30-foot sailboat.
- Take the kids to the Children’s Museum of Wilmington, where activities include dressing like pirates. Other options include a pirate-themed cruise tour offered by a vendor in Wrightsville Beach and viewing real shipwreck artifacts from the days of pirates at the North Carolina Underwater Archaeology Center at Fort Fisher.
- Smell the flowers at the springtime North Carolina Azalea Festival.
- See loggerhead sea turtles at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. These endangered turtles nest on Kure Beach in summer.
For more information, consult the Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau at www.wilmingtonandbeaches.com