Summer Road Trip First Stop: Keep It Local
Get away and (barely) leave town
With the advent of summer, people’s thoughts naturally turn to vacation. But what if they already live in paradise? This month, WILMA explores some waterside mini-escapes right here at home, spotlighting fun-day activities in Carolina Beach, Wrightsville Beach, and downtown Wilmington.
In July and August, WILMA strays further afield, visiting a one-tank-of-gas destination for mid-summer and a leafy mountains getaway as a last vacation fling in August.
Paddle your way through nature
Stand-up Paddleboard is one of the best ways to experience Wilmington area waterways, and it’s easy to do at Wrightsville Beach. Several shops, like Wrightsville SUP, whose boards are pictured here, rent paddleboards and provide basic instruction for neophytes. Once on board – literally – you can explore the sound, Banks Channel and surrounding marshes in a leisurely way that allows conversation with your paddling buddies.
WHAT: The Blockade Runner Beach Resort
WHY: Learn to sail! You don’t have to be a registered guest to take sailing lessons at this landmark Wrightsville Beach hotel. Learn the ropes on a 14-foot Hobie Wave or a J22, or just enjoy an evening sail on Blockade Runner’s 44-foot cat ketch. The resort also rents paddle boards, kayaks and canoes.
DINE WITH A VIEW
WHAT: The Holiday Inn Resort
WHY: In its Oceans dining facility, the Holiday Inn, located near Wrightsville Beach’s north end, offers a panoramic ocean view to accompany its bountiful breakfast buffet as well as lunch and dinner offerings. The restaurant is open to the public as well as to its guests.
EAT FRESH & LOCAL
WHAT: Wrightsville Beach Farmers’ Market
WHY: Find local seafood, produce, baked goods, seasonings and crafts at the weekly Farmers’ Market, which is held Mondays from mid-May through October from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The market takes place at the municipal grounds adjacent to Wrightsville Beach Town Hall, with free parking available.
WILMINGTON WATER TOURS
By sunrise, sunset & moonlight
Capt. Doug Springer knows every ripple of the Cape Fear River, and shares tidbits about the river’s history, ecology and lore with passengers aboard Wilmington Water Tours’ catamaran. The boat, which is equipped with a bar and can be fully enclosed if the weather warrants, accommodates up to 49 people and maintains a regular schedule of cruises. It’s also available for charter.
BARGE RIGHT IN
WHAT: Anne Bonny’s Bar & Grill
WHY: This pirate-themed barge establishment is moored along Wilmington’s Riverwalk and offers a relaxing waterside experience. With a full bar and extensive menu, Anne Bonny’s provides an inviting way to spend an afternoon or evening.
SIP & STROLL
WHAT: Le Catalan Café & Wine Bar + the Riverwalk
WHY: Who says Wilmington isn’t cosmopolitan? Savor the European art of sauntering as you navigate Wilmington’s vaunted Riverwalk and stop in at Le Catalan for a soupçon of French wine and cuisine.
WHAT: Thalian Hall
WHY: Thalian Hall is one of the oldest theaters in the United States and has been in almost continuous use since its opening in 1858. In 2017, it was the site of nearly 500 performances and special events, and the venerable theater shows no sign of slowing down. Catch a live show or an art film and marvel at Thalian’s splendid ambiance.
Off-Road & Oceanfront
Drive on, park, and play. Stay for the day or reserve an oceanfront campsite and spend the night with the sand, surf, and stars.
It’s one of the most memorable spots in the area – and, since there is no easy way off – Freeman Park encourages folks to settle in and really escape. It’s one of the few beaches that permits campfires and daytime (leashed) dogs.
You can bring just your towel and cooler, or go all out: speakers, corn hole boards, candelabra – whatever.
A 4-wheel-drive vehicle is required to drive into the park. The user fee ranges from $30-$50, depending if you are camping or not. The beach is free to walk on.
HIT THE DECK
WHAT: High Tide Lounge & Grill
WHY: Located on the top floor of – and connected to – Carolina Beach Fishing Pier, and near the entrance to Freeman Park, High Tide Lounge’s wrap-around deck offers some of the best views in town while holding on to that little beach town vibe. Get a drink, order a cheeseburger, and enjoy the breeze.
ROCK THE BOAT
WHAT: Moonlight Dance Cruise on the Intracoastal Waterway aboard the Winner Princess
WHY: Departing from the Carolina Beach Marina, this party boat cruises the Intracoastal Waterway offering views, brews, and a chance to dance the night away. The boat has a full cash bar.
WHAT: Carolina Beach Boardwalk & Amusement Park
WHY: Retro, kitchy, and fun, the Carolina Beach Boardwalk recalls the way beachfront boardwalks used to – and some say, still ought to – be. Revel in the arcade’s pleasures: ice cream booth, doughnut shop, air-brushed t-shirts, nearby amusement park, and, every Thursday evening throughout the summer, live music and fireworks.
SIP & SUP SURFSIDE
WHAT: Ocean Grill & Tiki Bar
WHY: Built on what was left of Carolina Beach’s Center Pier after Hurricane Fran, the Tiki Bar serves up casual local seafood, signature drinks and live music as the waves crash in the background. Tiki’s summer band series starts June 7 and continues every Thursday through August. Shows begin at 7 and end around 9 p.m., just in time for you to enjoy a perfect view of the town’s weekly fireworks display
To view more of photographer Terah Wilson’s work, visit www.terahwilson.com.
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