Visitor Parking, Pets and Other Frequently Asked Questions
From where to go and how to get there to parking options and insider tips, make planning a trip to Wilmington and Island Beaches easy with a list of the most frequently asked visitor questions and answers. Not seeing the answer you need? Reach out to our Visitor Information Specialist or stop by one of our Visitor Information Centers.
Know Before You Go
For the best beach parking experience, stay in the center of the action and book a place to stay on the beach or check for proximity to the beach in our walkable beach towns! If not staying on the island or beach, best time of day to find parking availability is in the early morning by 9 a.m. Visit our beaches during off-season for free parking in Carolina (Jan. 1 through Feb. 28), Kure (Oct. 1 through March 15) and Wrightsville Beach (Nov. 1 through Feb. 28).
- Carolina Beach:
- Paid parking is in effect year-round.
- March 1-Oct. 31, 9 a.m. - 8 p.m. $5/hour or $25/day; Nov. 1-Dec. 31, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., $2/hour or $10/day.
- Kure Beach:
- Paid parking is in effect March 15-Sept. 30 from 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.
- Parking rates are $5/hour or $20/day, weekly pass for $100 or full season pass for $225.
- Wrightsville Beach:
- Paid parking is in effect March 1-Oct. 31 from 9 a.m. - 7 p.m.
- Parking rates are $5/hour or $25/day.
- Paid parking is in effect 9 a.m. - 8 p.m. in the following parking lots: South Lumina Parking Lot (near the Oceanic Restaurant), East & West Salisbury Street Parking Lots (adjacent to Johnny Mercer's Pier), North Lumina Parking Lot ("L" shaped lot) and North Wrightsville Beach Parking Lot (adjacent to Shell Island).
- Paid parking is in effect 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. in Wynn Plaza.
Find more information here on transportation and accessibility in Wilmington, Carolina, Kure and Wrightsville Beach.
- Carolina Beach:
Check out local rental companies for all your beach gear like umbrellas, carts, beach chairs, cabanas, canopies and more.
- Carolina Beach/Kure Beach
- Wrightsville Beach:
Find rental equipment like bikes, standup paddleboards, surf boards, kayaks, jet ski rentals, golf carts and more. Check through the listings below.
- Carolina Beach:
- Kure Beach:
- Wrightsville Beach
- Aquatic Safaris
- Aussie Island Surf Shop
- Cape Fear Beach Rentals
- Cape Fear Paddleboarding
- Crystal South Surf Camp
- Epic Excursions
- Nauti Time Rentals
- Sea Gate Boating
- Sean's Private Surf Instruction
- Soundside Adventures
- South End Surf Shop
- Sweetwater Surf Shop
- Wrightsville Kayak Company
- Wrightsville SUP
Prepare in advance for visiting our most popular attractions with these insider tips.
- Airlie Gardens requires advance tickets and must be purchased online. Open daily 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. (last entry 4:30 p.m.)
- The Children's Museum of Wilmington requires advance tickets and can be purchased online.
- Bellamy Mansion Museum of History & Design, Burgwin-Wright House and Gardens, Latimer House Museum, Cameron Art Museum, Cape Fear Museum of History and Science and Wilmington Railroad Museum sell tickets on site and do not require advance ticket purchase.
- Battleship NORTH CAROLINA is open every day of the year, including all holidays and rain or shine. Ticket sales are from 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. The ship closes at 5 p.m. No advance registration is required. Tickets are sold on site. The ship is not air conditioned so please plan accordingly.
- Horsedrawn Carriage and Trolley Tours conducts tours Monday-Saturday and meets at Market Street located between Water and Front Street in downtown Wilmington. Check website for information.
- Wilmington's Historic Walking Tours
These tours are popular and tend to sell out. We recommend making reservations in advance or calling ahead to check on availability.
- Historic District Walking Tour requires reservations ahead of time. To make your reservation, please call (910) 762-0492 ext. 2
- Historic Wilmington Walking Tour offers specialized walking tours on select Sundays of each month. Reserve your spot online or call (910) 338-6443 for more information.
- Ghost Walk of Old Wilmington/Haunted Pub Craw offers tours year-round. Call (910) 794-1866 for more information or visit their website to purchase your tickets.
- Tour of Old Wilmington offers tours daily, call (910) 409-4300 for more information and for tour availability.
- Carolina Beach:
- Access passes for 4X4 are required year-round at Freeman Park. Passes must be displayed on the vehicle's dashboard. Daily passes are sold only at the entrance of Freeman Park using a 24 hour pay station: April 1-Sept. 30, Monday-Sunday $50 per day; Oct. 1-March 31, Monday-Sunday $30 per day. Visit the town of Carolina Beach's website for more information.
- Carolina Beach State Park is open yearly from December to January 7 a.m. - 6 p.m.; February 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.; March to April 7 a.m. - 9 p.m.; May to September 7 a.m. - 10 p.m.; October 7 a.m. - 9 p.m.; November 7 a.m. - 7 p.m. and closed Christmas Day. Visitor Center (1010 State Park Road) is open daily from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. and closed on Christmas Day. There is no fee to enter the park. Fees apply to boat slip rentals, boat launching and camping. Check the state park's website for more information.
- Kure Beach:
- The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher requires advance ticket purchase online.
- Fort Fisher State Recreation Area's 4WD Beach is open: Sept. 15-March 31 24 hours a day; April to May 8 a.m. - 7:30 p.m.; June to August 8 a.m. - 8:30 p.m.; Sept. 1-14 8 a.m. - 7:30 p.m. and closed Christmas Day. Beach vehicle access permits are available for sale at the park's visitor center (1000 Loggerhead Road) daily from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Permits are $20 per day Monday through Friday and $30 per day on Saturdays and Sundays. Annual passes are available for $150. Go to Fort Fisher's website for more information.
- Fort Fisher State Historic Site is open Tuesday-Saturday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., closed Sunday, Monday and most major holidays. Admission is free.
- Cruises and water tours are extremely popular in our destination - especially in the summer. We recommend booking your tickets in advance, calling ahead or checking the company's website for availability. Find a full list of operators here.
Wilmington and its island beaches are home to some of the state's best chefs and restaurants serving fresh coastal cuisine, Southern-inspired dishes, farm-to-table entrees and kid-friendly menus. Before heading out, we recommend calling ahead or visiting the restaurant's website/social media to book reservations and/or to confirm hours of operation. Discover local eateries in Wilmington, Carolina, Kure and Wrightsville Beach.
Yes! Please call us at (910) 341-4030 with your information questions and requests or you can request information.
The University of North Carolina Wilmington is located at 601 S. College Road, Wilmington, NC 28403. Find more information about the university including things to do on campus and places to stay nearby.
Yes! Please contact our Sales and Services team who can assist you with your questions and planning. Find more information on Meetings & Conventions, Groups & Weddings or planning a Sports Event, including venues, services and more.
Sales and use tax on purchases, including food, clothing, and other retail are taxed at the rate of 7%, grocery store food designed to take home is 2%, and prepared food at restaurants is 7%. In addition to the 7% sales tax, there is a local county room occupancy tax at a rate of 6%.
Transportation and Accessibility
The City of Wilmington has 970+ metered spaces downtown, four city-owned and two other parking decks plus two surface lots. City decks on 2nd Street and Market Street are free the first 30 minutes. You can park free of charge at on-street meters after 6:30 p.m. daily and all day Sunday. Parking in metered spaces is $2.00 per hour and is enforced Monday - Saturday, 9 a.m. - 6:30 p.m. Metered on-street parking for those with properly displayed, valid handicapped placards is free of charge. Find more parking information including a map of city lots available.
One hour parking is available on some downtown residential streets. Be sure to observe all posted parking signs and time limits on residential streets in downtown Wilmington as some are permit-based only.
Bike Cycles Shop rents bicycles and provides delivery for a fee. Shore Break Bikes offers bicycle rentals for pick-up as do many outfitters at our island beaches. Find a full list of bicycle rental outfitters and more information about bicycling in the area including trails and self-guided bicycle tours.
The Gary Shell Cross-City Trail and River to Sea Bikeway are two of the major bicycle trails found in Wilmington. Find biking trail maps for the Wilmington area and information on biking and nature trails.
No, the Wilmington Riverwalk is designed for pedestrians. Find information about bicycling and nature trails in the area including trails and self-guided bicycle tours.
For information on free beach ability equipment and services, call Carolina Beach Parks and Recreation at (910) 458-2977, Kure Beach Fire Department at (910) 458- 2014, Fort Fisher State Recreation Area at 910-458-5798 and/or Wrightsville Beach Parks and Recreation at (910) 256- 7925. Find a list of handicap accessible hotels, restaurants and attractions. For more vacation and travel information for people with disabilities, visit ACCESS North Carolina.
- City of Wilmington Parking:
- The Market Street Parking Deck has Chargepoint DC-Fast Electric Vehicle Chargers and ChargePoint Level 2 Electric Vehicle Chargers on the ground floor
- The 2nd Street Parking Deck and the RiverPlace Parking Deck have ChargePoint Level 2 Electric Vehicle Chargers
- Businesses in Wilmington:
- Tesla Supercharging Station in Mayfaire Town Center
- Homewood Suites Wilmington Mayfaire
- University of North Carolina at Wilmington’s Central Parking Deck
- City of Wilmington Parking:
Things to Do
The azaleas generally bloom in early spring. Experience the blooms at our parks and gardens. The North Carolina Azalea Festival is a celebration of Wilmington's exceptional artwork, gardens, rich history and culture during its five days of pageantry taking place annually in April.
Some museums are handicap accessible. Accessible museum sites include the upper deck of the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA, Cape Fear Museum of History and Science, Wilmington Railroad Museum, Cameron Art Museum and the Fort Fisher State Historic Site. Find a full list of handicap accessible museums.
From Oct. 1 - March 31, dogs are allowed on the beaches and must always be on a leash. Dogs are prohibited on Kure and Wrightsville Beaches from April 1 - Sept. 30. Beginning April 1, 2023, dogs will be allowed on Kure Beach between 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. These hours will be in effect April 1 - Sept. 30. Carolina Beach allows dogs on the beach before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m. from April 1 - Sept. 30. Owners must always remove their dog’s waste. There are several pet friendly lodging facilities that allow pets in guest rooms or you can call (866) 534-0845 for local kennel information. Find a list of pet friendly things to do and places to eat with your fur babies.
Dog parks in the Wilmington area include:
North Carolina Jazz Festival, North Carolina Azalea Festival, Carolina Beach Music Festival, Riverfest, Cape Fear Kite Festival, NC Holiday Flotilla and Festival in the Park, and Island of Lights Festival are just a few festivals taking place annually. Find a list of all festivals searchable by date and region.
A great way to see the Venus flytraps, and other carnivorous plants is at the Carolina Beach State Park or Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden.
There are various tours to learn about the area including Springbrook Farms horse drawn tours; river tours with either Cape Fear River Boats or the Wilmington Water Tours. Take a Ghost Walk of Old Wilmington at night or Tour Old Wilmington with a Victorian tour guide. Find more information on guided and self-guided tours.
Tour Wilmington on a variety of informative tours, including History Tours, Arts Tours, Historic Homes Tours, Famous Film Sites, Haunted Tours and Food and Brew Tours, or set out on a cruise to explore Wilmington and our Island Beaches from the water. Find more information on guided and self-guided tours, including tours in Carolina, Kure and Wrightsville Beaches.
In downtown Wilmington you can fish the Cape Fear River at the Conlon Pier on the Wilmington Riverwalk. Our coastal destination is a fisherman’s paradise with both saltwater and freshwater options available throughout Wilmington and on our island beaches. Find more fishing opportunities including charters, piers, shore fishing and more.
For kayak rentals, please contact Kayak Carolina, Wrightsville Kayak Company or Pleasure Island Rentals. For boat rentals, please contact Nauti-Times Rentals or Carolina Beach Pontoon Rentals. Find more information on a full range of water activities, including rental outfitters.
Gift shops and boutiques offer a range of souvenirs to take home. Find a list of places to buy souvenirs or see a full list of shopping options.
Yes. All of our beaches are USLA Certified with lifeguards on duty every day from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.
Food & Drink
Yes! There are several restaurants located on the Cape Fear River. On the south end of the riverfront find Floriana, Anne Bonny’s Bar and Grill, The George on the Riverwalk, Elijah’s Restaurant and the Pilot House Restaurant. On the north end of the riverfront is Board & Barrel Coastal Kitchen (inside Hotel Ballast), Steam Restaurant & Bar (inside the Embassy Suites Wilmington Riverfront Hotel) and Marina Grill.
Dixie Grill has been serving breakfast to downtown Wilmingtonians since the early 1900s. You can also have breakfast downtown at The Basics at the Cotton Exchange, pick up to-go donuts from Wake n Bake, enjoy breakfast pastries from the coffee shop at Aloft Wilmington or grab a bagel sandwich from Beach Bagels. Restaurant options are plentiful downtown and throughout Wilmington and our Island Beaches. Find a full list of all breakfast and brunch options.
There are numerous coffee shops in downtown including Bespoke Coffee and Dry Goods, 24 South Coffee House and Java Dog at the Cotton Exchange. Midtown’s Bitty & Beau’s is well known for their inclusive workforce and Port City Java is a local go-to found throughout the city. Find more coffee places to perk up your day.
Wilmington and our island beaches are known for fresh seafood. Downtown, midtown, along the coast, and everywhere in between, a variety of restaurants are serving up fresh-caught seafood dishes prepared sautéed, grilled, blackened, fried and in more creative ways — too many to mention. Savor fresh flavors at Catch prepared by a Top Chef celebrity, Seabird where a James Beard Best Chef nominee creates dishes using local seafood and artisanal ingredients. Seafood lovers of all ages enjoy the casual environments at Shuckin' Shack Oyster Bar and Fish Bites Seafood Restaurant. Locals and visitors alike have been enjoying Hieronymus Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar and Boathouse Restaurant, both serving up Calabash style seafood for decades. Find a full list of seafood restaurant options including those on our island beaches.
Have rooftop drinks with a view at Cloud 9 Rooftop Bar located along the riverfront at the Embassy Suites Wilmington Riverfront Hotel, aView Rooftop Bistro on top of Aloft Wilmington at Coastline, Reel Café or The Rooftop Bar at North Front Theatre. Relax riverfront at Board & Barrel Coastal Kitchen in Hotel Ballast or Elijah’s, Pilot House, The George on the Riverwalk, Marina Grill and Smoke on the Water or enjoy a drink on a floating barge at Anne Bonny’s Bar and Grill. Walk out to a tiki bar on the pier or settle in along the waterway with marina views at our island beaches. Find many spots to have craft cocktails with a great view.