Wilmington, NC: Discover the migratory birds, indigenous wildlife and ancient cypress maritime forests along the scenic and historic waterways of Wilmington and its island beaches. Fall cruises from the river to the sea afford visitors the opportunity to explore these and other natural wonders. Alligators, bobcats, black bear, river otters, and rare birds are among the native species that can be found upriver in the wilderness, just minutes away from Wilmington. Migratory bird species that nest along our beaches include brown pelicans, terns, gulls, willets, American oystercatcher, herons, and black skimmers. Here’s a roundup of guided nature cruises:
Cape Fear Riverboats: Black River Nature Cruise. During the fall, spring and summer months, Wilmington’s original 4-hour Black River cruise offers narrated plant and wildlife interpretation by coastal ecologist and author Andy Wood. Cruisers aboard the Captain J.N. Maffitt or Jacob’s Run will experience the tranquility, breathtaking scenery, and amazing wildlife along the northwest Cape Fear River and the wilds of the Black River. Just minutes after leaving the dock, passengers will experience a river that appears almost as it did to the early explorers—rich, dark waters surrounded by moss-draped cypresses and other ancient trees. Wildlife may include alligators, snakes, bobcats, river otters, black bear, deer, fox, and rare species of fish and neo-tropical songbirds. Cruises board on September 6 and 20; October 4 and 18 at 9:30 a.m. at Cape Fear Riverboats’ South Water Street Dock in Downtown Wilmington. More cruises may be added; group charter cruises also available. Pre-paid reservations are required. For reservations, tour calendar, and details about this and other sightseeing cruises, contact Cape Fear Riverboats: 800-676-0162 or 910-343-1611 or cfrboats.com.
Wilmington Water Tours: Black Water Adventure Cruise. Board the Wilmington, a state-of-the-art catamaran, for a memorable fall nature cruise featuring views of unspoiled nature. This 2-hour cruise heads up the Northeast Cape Fear River to the upper reaches of the black water system of this fascinating river. Photographers, birders and nature buffs will love the variety of wildlife and native plants that adorn the river banks, such as osprey, alligators, sea turtles and river otters, just to name a few. On most Friday and Saturday mornings from now through early November, these cruises are available for groups and individuals. Cruises depart at 10:00 a.m. from the Wilmington Riverwalk, 212 S. Water Street (between Orange & Ann sts.). For reservations, tour calendar, and more information about this and other cruises (Eagles Island tour, Down River Maritime History, sunset and special theme cruises), contact Wilmington Water Tours at 910-338-3134; wilmingtonwatertours.net.
Wrightsville Beach Scenic Tours & Cruises: Eco-Tours. Join Captain Joe Abbate, the Cape Fear Naturalist, for a cruise and guided tour of Masonboro Island, a North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve. Morning and afternoon eco-tours aboard the M/V Shamrock (a 27-foot motorized catamaran) depart for Masonboro Island, a pristine, undeveloped 8 ½-mile barrier island just south of Wrightsville Beach. This ecological jewel and its miles of unspoiled beaches is accessible only by boat. Captain Joe and his crew will get you there and help you explore its intricate eco-system with a focus on ecology, birds, wetland plants, shells and beachcombing. Special fall birding, shelling, eco-scavenger, and fishing tours are also available. Tours depart across from the Blockade Runner Resort (275 Waynick Blvd., Wrightsville Beach). For reservations, tour calendar, and more information about this and other island excursions (Inland Bottom Fishing, Pirate Treasure Hunt, Narrated Harbor, and Dolphin Sunset cruises), contact Wrightsville Beach Scenic Tours & Cruises at 910-200-4002 or wrightsvillebeachscenictours.com.
Prefer to explore by land or on your own? You’ll find nature hikes and birding tours at state and municipal parks, bird sanctuaries, botanical gardens, carnivorous plant preserves and estuaries. Or rent a kayak, canoe, sailboat or paddleboard from local watersports outfitters. From the island beaches of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach to Wilmington’s award-winning riverfront, there are outdoor recreation opportunities galore. For special offers and seasonal highlights, click here. For a Free Official Visitors Guide, call 1-866-266-9690 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.