Wilmington, NC – Wellness travel is rapidly becoming one of the most popular forms of travel, expanding 50 percent faster than the overall tourism industry, according to Virtuoso. The key to finding the right destination is seeking out those that fulfill travelers’ fitness desires, while still getting to experience the location as one would on a traditional vacation. Wilmington, NC and its island beaches treat visitors to mild temperatures year-round allowing them to get out and enjoy an abundance of active things to do, on foot, wheels or water.

On foot

If you’re someone who loves to hit the ground on your own two feet, Wilmington and its island beaches offer plenty of places to hike, run or stroll. Selected by Runner’s World as the “Best Waterfront Run” and featured in popular television series including One Tree Hill and Dawson’s Creek, Wilmington’s award-winning riverfront and its nearly two-mile-long Riverwalk is an iconic place to get your feet moving and heart pumping. Plus, restaurants, cafes and shops are aplenty along the way for a well-deserved bite after your excursion. To get a little sand underneath your feet, travel to Wilmington’s Island Beaches: Carolina, Kure and Wrightsville Beaches. Start your day with a sunrise run along the ocean or the 2.45-mile scenic Loop in Wrightsville Beach. Then, take in a hike along the 761-acres of natural land at Carolina Beach State Park or historic Civil War sites at Fort Fisher  near Kure Beach.

For a more relaxing activity, play a round of golf on the Donald Ross-designed Wilmington Municipal Golf Course, or if you’re more of a fan of a non-traditional round, grab a Frisbee and head to Joe Eakes Park at Kure Beach for 18 holes of disc golf. If your idea of wellness involves finding your zen, take in a yoga class at Salty Dog Yoga & Surf at Carolina Beach; Wilmington Yoga Center, the largest in the Southeastern U.S.; or at the largest barrier island sanctuary in the region during the Masonboro Yoga Experience with Wrightsville Beach Scenic Tours.  

On wheels          

Grab a bicycle and pedal along Wilmington and its beaches. The Gary Shell Cross-City Trail is a 15-mile primarily off-road, multi-use trail connecting Wade Park, Halyburton Park and Empie Park to the Heide-Trask Drawbridge at the Intracoastal Waterway. Mountain bikers will revel in the challenging six-mile course at Blue Clay Bike Park in Wilmington. For the ultimate coastal ride, pedal along the River to Sea Bikeway. The 11-mile route follows the Historic Beach Car Line that carried vacationers from downtown Wilmington to Wrightsville Beach by trolley starting in 1888. Visitors will find views worthy of an Instagram break like Riverfront Park, Airlie Gardens, the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History and Johnnie Mercer’s Pier along the way.

For a beach town bike ride, Wheel Fun Rentals at Carolina Beach offers a self-guided tour that takes riders to see the sites of Carolina Beach and island neighbor Kure Beach, including a few from the Civil War including the Kure Beach Post Office where Union troops defended their position in 1865. The shop also rents surrey and double surrey bikes, cruisers, tag-a-longs, and single and double tandem bikes for a group outing full of island adventures. If a board and wheels are more your style, stop by one of the area’s two skate parks: Ogden Park in Wilmington features a state-of-the-art 10,000-square-foot concrete park complete with a skate bowl, rails and steps and was partially funded by a grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation; Mike Chappell Park at Carolina Beach features 8,000 square feet of skater’s paradise.

On the water

Grab a surfboard or paddleboard and head to Wrightsville Beach, named one of the world’s top surf towns and the birthplace of North Carolina surfing for endless waves. Watersports reign supreme at this island destination, and visitors will feel it as soon as they cross the Intracoastal Waterway. Surf and paddleboard shops that sell the latest gear and have onsite rentals are aplenty. Cape Fear Paddleboarding has a style of SUP for everyone, South End Surf Shop comes with a sense of historic appeal while offering lessons, rentals and contemporary apparel, and Annex Surf Supply has all of your watersport essentials plus coffee, trendy fashion and live music. Need a lesson? Tony Silvagni Surf School at Carolina Beach offers SUP and surf lessons led by Olympic gold medalist, Tony Silvagni, who will make you an expert on the board in a no time.

If competition is more your style, Wrightsville Beach hosts internationally acclaimed watersport competitions throughout the year. The North Carolina Surf to Sound Challenge will attract over 100 paddlers from across the globe on Nov.3-5, while the Wahine Classic and O-Neill Sweetwater Pro-Am in August bring out some of the best surfers from the around the world. Paddlers and surfers can also test their skills during the 2018 Carolina Cup,  one of the largest SUP events in the world, and Wrightsville Beach SUP Surf Pro-Am in April. Wrightsville Beach is such an ideal destination that the PPD IRONMAN 70.3 NORTH CAROLINA starts its qualifying event to the 2018 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship right here with a swim to Wilmington on Oct. 21.

For those that enjoy more tranquility on the water, hop in a kayak with Kayak Carolina for exotic wildlife sightings such as white ibis, Venus flytraps, sea turtles and more. Guided trained naturalists and certified instructors take guests to Zeke’s Island Reserve at Kure Beach, Masonboro Island just south of Wrightsville Beach, and Sugarloaf Dune Hike at Carolina Beach State Park for a day of adventure. Or hop in a kayak or canoe to explore the wildlife and history of the Cape Fear River with Cape Fear River Adventures.

About Wilmington and its Island Beaches

One destination and four unique settings promise extraordinary experiences and unlimited vacation choices in Wilmington, North Carolina and its Island Beaches. North Carolina’s most accessible coastal destination is surrounded by water, history and natural beauty at every turn. From a 230-plus-block National Register Historic District, to colorful beaches – Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach – each destination with its own distinctive personality is the perfect connection to see where the water takes you. For more information, go to WilmingtonAndBeaches.com or call (800) 641-7082. Find us on Facebook at Facebook.com/CapeFearCoastNC and Twitter and Instagram, @WilmingtoNCoast.



Leah Knepper
French West Vaughan