Throughout my life I’ve been to loads of beaches. I prefer the ones that are laid back and quiet with not even an ounce of a crazy nightlife scene. Never have I been a partier, nor will I ever be. That’s part of the reason Wilmington, North Carolina is the perfect coastal destination.
The city is situated along a triangular area of land with the Cape Fear River on its West and the Atlantic Ocean on the East. Wilmington capitalizes on the beauty of the Cape Fear River with its Riverwalk. If you’ve seen the television show One Tree Hill, you’ve seen it too. The iconic “Naley” moment where Nathan tells Haley, “Don’t say I never gave you anything” was filmed on the Riverwalk.
To the Southeast, you’ll find three of the areas barrier island beaches—Wrightsville, Carolina, and Kure Beach. The best part about these beaches is they’re rarely packed. Wilmington is really not thought of for its beaches, meaning visitors are able to find a quiet spot on the beach void of any garbage, a rarity as you make your way up the East Coast.
The city is located in a famous area. The Cape Fear River located to the West of the city gets its name from the Bay area into which it flows. The Bay was first mentioned in the latter half of the 16th Century. Believe me I was stunned too. Sir Richard Grenville, cousin of Sir Walter Raleigh (namesake of NC capital), got stuck with his ship and crew while sailing to Roanoke Island, which was an up-and-coming military colony at the time. That’s right, the same Roanoke that would eventually become the “Lost Colony”. His crew were fearful if they would ever get out of the bay. Hence the present-day name of Cape Fear.
As our country progressed, Wilmington played its part in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. The Battleship the USS North Carolina that was used in the Pacific Theatre during WWII is docked on the Cape Fear River. The ship is open to the public. As you drive or walk through the area you can still see historic architecture. A famous tourist destination is the Bellamy Mansion, known for its Victorian architecture.
While I was visiting, I tried two restaurants in the area. The first was Elijah’s Restaurant. The restaurant is located right along the Riverwalk. Patrons have the option of sitting outside or inside. Both options still give you a great view of the river. I ordered Fish & Chips and was not disappointed. The server was friendly and charming and the service was quick. We were in and out in 30 minutes. All along the Riverwalk you’ll find small restaurants and shops. The atmosphere is extremely relaxed and it’s a great way to wind down during the evening.
The second restaurant was located on Wrightsville Beach, about 20 minutes from Downtown Wilmington. The restaurant, The Oceanic, is located right on the crest of the barrier island giving a great view of the Atlantic. The Oceanic offers American dinning in the restaurant, upstairs or downstairs, or on the pier that juts out from the back. If you decide to come here make sure to call ahead and make sure there are no private events. Many weddings are held here because of the stunning view from the pier.
At the Oceanic, I had cup of Seafood gumbo and a crab cake sandwich. Both were great. Although, if you’re used to the Maryland crab cakes, beware that North Carolina crab cakes do taste different. The service for The Oceanic was a bit slow. But I think that is part of the atmosphere. It’s a cozy, beach restaurant.
Even if it is Labor Day and the summer is officially over, any time of the year is a great time to visit Wilmington, North Carolina.
2 Ann Street
Wilmington, NC 28401
703 S. Lumina Avenue
Wrightsville Beach, NC 28480