Wrightsville Beach, close neighbor to Wilmington North Carolina, is part of the unique coast of North Carolina. Most of the beach towns in the state are on a series of barrier islands (Outer Banks) separated from the mainland by a body of water called a sound. Parts of the sounds have been connected through the historic Intracoastal Waterway.
Wrightsville Beach originally could only be reached by boat. Early sportsmen built the Carolina Yacht Club on the beach in 1853, making Wrightsville Beach one of the earliest recreation sites on the shore. The 1870s and 1880s brought construction of a road and rail tracks connecting the beach to the mainland. From then on, Wrightsville Beach grew as a popular resort.
Wrightsville Beach is about 10 miles from downtown Wilmington and 140 miles from Raleigh. Wrightsville Beach is known for its beaches, surfing, fishing, and family-friendly atmosphere.
Wilmington is so close, you may want to consider visiting this historic port city on the Cape Fear River. Wilmington was a colonial capital for North Carolina, a base for blockade runners during the Civil War, and a thriving ship building port during World War II. Front Street and Water Street run parallel with the Cape Fear River. You can stroll along and find all kinds of things to do, eat, and buy, or take a narrated carriage ride. The Wilmington Railroad Museum, The Cotton Exchange complex, the Riverwalk, and Riverwalk Landing are all along here. As you go east down Market or Dock Street there are many marked historic homes. Across the river you can visit the USS Battleship North Carolina.
The Bellamy Mansion Museum of History and Design Arts is on the corner of Market Street and 5th Avenue. Built in the 1850s, the home can be toured as a picture of antebellum life, including the quarters for the enslaved people. There is usually an art or architecture show on exhibit. Tours are available Tuesday through Sunday. http://www.bellamymansion.org/
The Cape Fear Museum is on Market Street between 8th and 9th Street. Plan to spend a couple hours here to learn about the history of the Cape Fear area and see special exhibits. I love the skeleton of the giant ground sloth from over a million years ago! The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday with an entry fee of $8 for adults and $5 for children. http://www.capefearmuseum.com/ Airlie Gardens was started in 1901 and has a wonderful collection of azaleas, camellias, and oaks. This land on Bradley Creek behind Banks Channel was once used for raising rice. At one time there was a large old house which served as an inn for the Wrightsville Beach area. Visiting in March or April will reward you with tulips, camellias, or azaleas (the gardens are on the tour during the Azalea festival held each year in April.) There is always something going on at Airlie Gardens such as concerts, bird hikes, art exhibits, oyster roast, and December holiday lights. Airlie Gardens is open daily from April through December. Admission is $9 for adults, check the website for hours and other ticket prices. http://airliegardens.org/
Drive east on Airlie Road to Wrightsville Beach. There are lovely homes facing the waterway and boats to watch. (For more lovely homes, turn left on Eastwood Road and right on Summer Rest Road.) Turn right on Causeway Drive to cross the drawbridge into Wrightsville Beach.
Map of Wrightsville Beach and Wilmington
Redix Outfitters store is on the corner of Keel Street right after you cross the bridge. The Gardener and I just love this store. There are the T-shirts, towels, and hats you might expect in a beach store. There is a wonderful toy section and a great selection of beach chairs. The back of the store is a fisherman’s joy with all kinds of rods, reels, and other equipment. The fashion section has large men’s and women’s departments with shoes and accessories. I love the colors and styles they carry. Some of the brand names include Olukai, Eliza B, Jams, Tommy Bahama, Southern Tide, Vineyard Vines, Escapada, Quiksilver, and Joules. http://www.redixstore.com/
The Wrightsville Beach Museum of History is on W Salisbury Street. Some of the original beach cottages have been moved here to house the permanent and special exhibits. Visiting the museum gives a bit of the experience of what it was like to live at the beach in the 1920s. I love all the old artifacts in the kitchen such as lusterware and egg beaters. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday with free admission (donations are welcome!) http://wbmuseumofhistory.com/
Lumina Avenue is the main street all along the Wrightsville Beach island, stretching from the Coast Guard station on the south to the Shell Island resort on the north. The beaches are public access, you just have to find a place to park and walk to the beach along one of the marked paths. There is some on-street parking and a few large parking lots. Some of the parking lots have a pay station, but many spots have a meter and that means bring lots of quarters! Of course if you are spending the night at the beach you will get parking.
The Johnnie Mercer Pier was built in the 1930s and has always been a popular spot for fishing, a snack, and shopping. The pier has been rebuilt a few times because of storm damage (such as Hurricane Hazel and Hurricane Fran). There is a public bath house near the pier, the beach is very nice there, and there’s a lot of metered parking within walking distance. http://www.johnniemercerspier-nc.com/
Wrightsville Beach has lots of houses and you can rent a house or condo. The main hotels are:
- Surf Suites: http://www.thesurfsuites.com/
- Blockade Runner: http://blockade-runner.com/
- Silver Gull: http://www.silvergullmotel.com/
- Holiday Inn Resort: http://wrightsville.holidayinnresorts.com/
Restaurants in Wrightsville Beach
I love eating seafood in Wrightsville Beach. Sometimes, The Gardener will wake up on a weekend day and say “let’s have dinner at the beach!” We will drive down, eat brunch, enjoy ourselves, eat an early dinner, and get back home for bedtime!
- The Causeway Café is open 6 am to 2:30 pm and no credit cards. It’s a diner-style restaurant with tons of choices, with seafood and without. I love their malted waffles and The Gardener likes their seafood omelets and benedicts. https://causewaycafe.wordpress.com/welcome/
- The Bluewater Grill faces the Intracoastal Waterway. It has a good bar (we’ve gone there to watch the Preakness Stakes.) You can sit inside or outside and watch the boats go in and out as the drawbridge opens and closes. Last time we were there we enjoyed the coconut crusted shrimp (wonderful coleslaw!) and trigger fish with their special North Carolina shrimp sauce (it has a little Cajun kick.) https://www.bluewaterdining.com/
- The South Beach Grill has a wonderful menu and seating inside and out. They make a seafood napoleon with fried green tomatoes and grouper Linda with a pecan crust and crabmeat. http://www.southbeachgrillwb.com/
- The Oceanic is on the spot where the old Lumina ballroom once stood. They have indoor seating and outdoor seating is on a pier on the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a great place to watch beach volleyball and surfers. https://www.oceanicrestaurant.com/
- Intracoastal Waterway from Outer Banks
- Wilmington and Beaches
- Battleship North Carolina
- Wrightsville Beach parking
- Cape Fear (1962) at IMDb
- Bryant Real Estate
- Cape Fear Garden Club has Azalea Festival information