Wilmington's beach communities introduce new generations to old-style, vintage experiences when the past and present collide happily at Carolina Beach and Kure Beach, North Carolina, forming a perfect mix of things to see and do that combines new features with historical milestones. From the Carolina Beach Boardwalk to Fort Fisher State Historic Site, you can visit several present-day attractions offering a nod to the past. These coastal communities are ideal for groups like multi-generational travelers – you will find plenty to please everyone from grandma and grandpa to the grandkids, and everyone in between.
Carolina Beach Boardwalk
Captain John Harper built the first boardwalk in 1887 as a walkway on the sand made from boards so visitors could stroll the beach without sinking into the sand. Over the years, the boardwalk was rebuilt and restored numerous times as a result of natural wear and tear. The vintage icon has since made Budget Travel’s list of America’s Most Awesome Boardwalks and has been featured by CNN, FOX News and USA TODAY.
Fort Fisher served as a vital port during the Civil War, allowing blockade runners to supply necessary goods to Confederate armies inland. By 1865, the supply line through Wilmington was the last remaining supply route open to Robert E. Lee’s army. Fort Fisher finally fell after a massive assault in 1865 and the Confederacy was defeated. Today, you can tour the remains of the fort at Fort Fisher State Historic Site – approximately 10 percent of the fort still stands along with a restored palisade fence.
Carolina Beach Music Festival
Legend has it that shagging and beach music originated at Carolina Beach around 1948 and became widely known by the term “beach music” by 1965. The genre died out in the late 1960s but experienced a revival a decade later and is still going strong today. The first Carolina Beach Music Festival was held in 1985.
Kure Beach Fishing Pier
L.C. Kure built the original Kure Beach Fishing Pier in 1923. The pier was rebuilt and restored several times as a result of wear and tear over the years. The Kure Beach Fishing Pier is now one of the oldest piers on the Atlantic Coast.
Travelers have been visiting Carolina Beach and Kure Beach long before high-rise condos and hotels were built on the coast. Popular guest accommodations in Kure Beach have their beginning decades ago, like the Beacon House Inn Bed & Breakfast that was originally built as a boarding house in the 1950s, the cozy Palm Air Cottages that were built in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and the Moran Motel, a one-story wing building that originated in 1959. In Carolina Beach, the Joy Lee apartment complex has been enjoyed as a vacation spot since 1945, while the wooden-framed Wanda Inn dates all the way back to 1910.
Carolina Beach offers the best of a North Carolina beach experience from the past with a family-friendly spin for today. Experience a nationally recognized seaside boardwalk, Carolina Beach State Park, one-of-a-kind events, world-class fishing, miles of beautiful beach, and all kinds of people united by their love of good times. There are a lot of beaches in North Carolina, but only one Carolina Beach.
Kure Beach offers a naturally beautiful setting in a peaceful, small-town atmosphere. North Carolina’s small wonder lets you relax and reconnect at the kind of naturally beautiful beach you visited as a kid, while also enjoying nearby state attractions like Fort Fisher State Historic Site and the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, an oceanfront park, and a historic pier.
There were a few other things I would have loved to do in the area provided I had the time. There is always a list of places I have pending somehow. Definitely checkout the visitors bureau since they have all the maps and you can use the walking map to check out all places within walking distance. They also have an app you can use on your phone for your own guided tours of the place. They have a cruise of the Cape Fear river (no relation to the movie) which would have been fun to do but was not available the days I planned on being there. A walk along the river front is highly recommended. Cute shops, restaurants and lovely historic building dot the water. The railroad museum and the Battleship N. Carolina are other points of interest. Also in Wrightsville Beach, additional dining I can recommend are South Beach Grille, Tower 7 and Trolly stop as well as Cafe del Mar, Causeway Cafe and Oceans, and shopping at the Forum, Mayfair Center or Lumina Station. You can also visit Wrightsville Beach Kayak for some fun in the water or walk The Loop which is a 2.45 mile fitness trail that circles the island and frequented by local walkers, joggers, etc. You can also check out the Wrightsville Beach Museum and Coastal Education Center if that sort of thing piques your interest. Overall, I would say Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach are fantastic getaway locations from Atlanta with something for everyone in the family to indulge in and do. You can choose to just laze at the water front or get active and walk around learning more about the local history and businesses. I leave you here with some pictures from the rest of the trip I have not shared before. Thanks WB and Wilmington NC for fantastic time - I will be back!
Within walking distance of the inn were located 3 historic homes. I originally intended on maybe seeing only one but once I visited and learned about all the lifestyle and folklore attached to it, I could not stop myself form visiting the other two. I had the morning to spare before I left Wilmington so it seemed fairly good time to be able to do the tours. They do have tour times if you want a guided tour so be sure to keep that in mind and plan accordingly. Luckily I made it in time to pace myself for all three guided tours and that turned out to be good. Its always fascinating, for me, at least, to learn about how people lived and what the social norms and mores were at a certain time. That's just the Sociology major in me getting a kick out of it. I checked out Bellamy Mansion, Burgwin-Wright house and then Latimer house museums - you can get a 3 in 1 ticket at any one location an then just head on over to each house.
Bellamy mansion is a victorian style home with great antebellum architecture. This sis a 10,000 sq ft civil war home built for physician Bellamy, his wife and nine children, and one of the few where you can see the restored slave quarters as well.
The Burgwin-Wright house is more of a 1770s home with Georgian architecture and colonial style gardens. There's many artifacts from the 18th and 19th century and the two level terraced gardens are gorgeous. The website offers a handy timeline of events if you are into history.
The Latimer house meanwhile is more of an example of upper end life in the 50s. It has 14 room and more than 600 historic objects. This is more of an Italian style architecture and design easily noticed by the arches and hallways, and a division between the formal and informal areas of the home.
You can easily walk to all three if you time your guided tours well enough in advance. Its just amazing to listen to stories of lifestyles form an another era altogether!
Considering all the eating I had resorted to I decided I needed more walking to wear it all off so off it was to the Hollywood walking tour. Interestingly, I was one of the least eligible candidates to be on this tour really. A lot of the other members of the group were serious TV show crazies so they knew what the guide was talking about when he pointed to places where One Tree Hill or Dawson's Creek had shot. I really only knew where the movies had been filmed, a few, maybe...again, this is a walking tour so comfy shoes and clothes are the order of the day if you decide to do this. It appeared we had just missed some shooting earlier that day in the historic district but our guide took us all around the area and it was kinda funny to see people cutely posing at places where their fave show characters had shot at. Among the many movies shot here include Iron Man 3, Sleeping with the Enemy, We're the Millers, and 28 Days. He even spotted a few movie scouts looking for locations for some recent productions. The tour is at least and hour and a half and goes all around the district. The good part is pretty much all the activities start at the river front so you just need to show up and figure out your tour for the day. The not so good part if you think of it is only that it can be a long walk if you are not prepared so definitely do not carry heavy bags on this trip. It is outdoors so dress for the weather but take your camera with you if you watch shows on TV because you will want to take pictures everywhere and will probably recognize many spots as well. I followed this with the wine hour at the inn and then a stroll over to 123 Princess St for dinner at Manna. They serve new american cuisine and they are pretty good at it. Posh place, nice ambience, upper end dining but the food was fantastic. They do have a seasonal menu you cans ee online so plan to eat, and eat well, before you go!
Lucky me that the Taste Carolina gourmet food tour folks decided to show me around Wilmington! So this morning was a walking tour of tastings across the area. The lovely Courtney Matheson of Delish - fresh eats with Courtney was my personal city guide as we walked around meeting local restaurant owners and learning about their offerings. PS - Courtney also offers personal chef services, cooking classes and baby food workshops!). We checked out Happy Bowls, Le Catalan, The Fork n Cork and Aubriana's. Courtney also gave me handy list of a few other places to check out while in the area. I was only able to try Manna but if you like, make a beeline for these recommendations by a local - Cousin's Deli, Dixie Grill, Hot Pink Cake Stand, The Blind Elephant and The Fortunate Glass.
Happy Bowls is a acai-focussed health store run by Wilmington native Zack and his dad. They also have a store in NYC and two in Puerto Rico. Vegetarians, vegans and GF folks love this place, and you can see why when you visit. They offer bowls, smoothies, juices and wraps and make it right in front of you. Its a happy lively store and their staff of six will put a smile on your face with your happy bowl.
Le Catalan is right by the water and run by Mary and Pierre who have managed the place for 14 years now. One of the first French restaurants to set up shop in the area and also to serve Rosé wine, they served a cold platter of spreads and bread with some nice white wine. The food here is from the Catalan region of France and some of the favorites locals like here are the quiche, au gratin and cassoulet. Keep an eye out for interesting cork decor all around!
Our next stop was the Fork n Cork, famous for beer floats from Texas. Owner James served a nice trio plate of mac'n'cheese (featuring gouda, gruyere and cheddar cheeses), seasonal salad and beef brisket smoked 14 hours and doused in mesquite and hickory sauces. Quite frankly didn't focus on my notes here since I was really trying hard to focus on the food. A good beef brisket commands your full attention!
Lastly, we checked into Aubriana's who are open only for dinner and were going through a menu change that night but still welcomed us for a sampling of endive two ways...simply divine. Chef Tyson and a minimal staff cater daily to a restaurant capable of seating 70 in this European influenced eatery. Chef Tyson is well known in the area for his finishing techniques showered on all his dishes. I actually suggested this spot to one of my new friends I met at the inn I was staying at and they reported the new menu for dinner was fantastic!