Bike & Nature Trails Roundup
Historic Airlie Gardens encompasses 67 acres of beautiful Gilded Age gardens and lakes. Admire the azaleas, gaze at the camellias, and stand in the shade of the historic Airlie Oak tree, which dates back to 1545. Airlie Gardens is also home to the region’s first permanent butterfly house with some of nature’s most delicate, lovely and ephemeral creatures.
NEW HANOVER COUNTY ARBORETUM
The New Hanover County Arboretum lies on almost seven acres of land with beautiful educational gardens. Enjoy a little taste of Japan in Wilmington with a ¾ acre water garden filled with colorful Koi and beautiful lilies and an authentic Japanese garden with a tea house surrounded by Japanese maples. A children’s cottage also is at hand for the kids to explore with painted fantasy characters and a rose garden, perfect for your family vacation photo-op.
BLUETHENTHAL WILDFLOWER PRESERVE
As you explore and walk the cypress and pine covered trails of the Bluethenthal Wildflower Preserve, marvel at the insect consumption of pitcher plants or relax to a symphony of songbirds. This quiet nature sanctuary is a pure delight in the midst of University of North Carolina Wilmington, making it a perfect escape for midtown locals and visitors alike
This 33-acre park features the Althea Gibson Tennis Complex with 18 tennis courts and a clubhouse, multiple outdoor basketball courts, a large dog park equipped with a canopy and benches, and a large playground suitable for children of all ages. In addition, Empie Park also offers shelters with picnic tables, horseshoe pits and even has part of the Gary Shell Cross City Trail going around the park.
With 250 acres, Greenfield Park is one of the best spots for a variety of outdoor activities. Located next to Greenfield Lake, it features two unlit tennis courts, the Greenfield Grind skate park, an outdoor amphitheater, boat rentals and a beautiful five-mile biking/walking trail through lush gardens. Kids can enjoy the open space and playgrounds while adults can sit back and relax in picnic areas, shelters or even fry up some food with the grills.
LONG LEAF PARK
Long Leaf Park is made up of several intertwining paved trails lined with lush green grass perfect for riding your bike, walking or running. Long Leaf Park is also equipped for sporting events with four soccer fields and three softball fields which are both lighted. The park also has a large on-site parking lot and shelters for anyone who just wants to sit and relax.
Nestled in the northern end of the city is Ogden Park. With a dog park and a winding nature trail around a serene pond, the park is a great place to spend a morning or afternoon with family and friends. Ogden Park offers something for sports players as well with three lighted baseball fields, one lighted softball field, a lighted youth football stadium, nine lighted tennis courts and three soccer/football fields also equipped with lights. The park also is outfitted with shelters and an off-road trail through the woods.
PINEY RIDGE NATURE PRESERVE & STANLEY REHDER CARNIVOROUS PLANT GARDEN
This ADA accessible passive park on 29 acres of land features a concrete walking trail, wooden observation decks and a collection of native carnivorous plants such as pitcher plants and Venus flytraps. As these plants are indigenous only up to a 60-mile radius of Wilmington, this garden is protected by a conservation easement held by the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust.
Enjoy America’s Best Riverfront, voted number one in USA TODAY’s 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards. This 1.7-mile historic Riverwalk includes markers of history, over 200 unique boutiques, restaurants, attractions, tours and cruises, art installments as well as beautiful views of the Cape Fear River. Many events are held on the Riverwalk throughout the year with everything from concerts to festivals and parades.
GARY SHELL CROSS-CITY TRAIL
The Gary Shell Cross-City Trail is a 15-mile primarily off-road, multi-use trail which provides bicycle and pedestrian access to numerous recreational, cultural and educational destinations in Wilmington. When finished, the Gary Shell Cross-City Trail will provide a bicycle and pedestrian connection from Wade Park, Halyburton Park and Empie Park to the Heide-Trask Drawbridge at the Intracoastal Waterway. For a bike map for the Gary Shell Cross-City Trail please click here.
RIVER TO SEA BIKEWAY (WILMINGTON TO WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH)
The River to Sea Bikeway is an 11-mile on and off-road bicycle route that follows the Historic Beach Car Line, which in the past carried vacationers from historic downtown Wilmington to Wrightsville Beach by trolley. This trail begins at the foot of Market Street at the Riverwalk and is comprised of residential streets, off-road multi-use paths, and a few arterial roadways all the way to Wrightsville Beach. For a bike map for the River to Sea Bikeway please click here.
CAROLINA BEACH LAKE PARK
This 11-acre lake was once noted in the Guinness Book of World Records as being the closest freshwater lake to salt water. Carolina Beach Lake Park, complete with paddleboats that operate daily in the summer and weekends/holidays during the off-seasons, four gazebos, restrooms, a sheltered picnic area, playground, an amphitheater and a walking path that circles the lake, this park is perfect for a day out in the sun.
CAROLINA BEACH STATE PARK
With a marina providing access to some of North Carolina's best fishing spots, a secluded camping area beneath towering trees, and miles of hiking trails on 761 acres of natural land that traverse a variety of distinct habitats it's no wonder Carolina Beach State Park is a popular coastal attraction for both visitors and locals alike. Located in an area steeped in both history and natural diversity, the park includes a visitor's center with exhibits depicting the wonders of its environment.
FREEMAN PARK RECREATION AREA
At the north end of Carolina Beach, visitors have long enjoyed the beach area now known as Freeman Park. You can access this portion of the beach with your four-wheel drive vehicle and find your own beachfront area even on the busiest summer day. Whether you are coming to the area to fish, swim, surf, kayak, go boating, crabbing or casting for minnows, you will be sure to have a great time at Freeman Park.
FORT FISHER STATE HISTORIC SITE
In addition to being a historical landmark for the Civil War, the Fort Fisher State Historic Site is equipped with a self-guided tour trail that is approximately one-quarter mile long and encircles the remains of the fort along the ocean side. Exhibit panels containing photos and text are located at many locations along the tour trail as well having a restored gun emplacement located on top on one of the batteries.
FORT FISHER STATE RECREATION AREA
At the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area you can wander through the marsh on a short trail that will give you a good look at sound-side flora and fauna or enjoy a leisurely day at the six miles of ocean shore. Explore Fort Fisher State Recreation Area by foot and comb the beach for sea stars, keyhole urchins and whelk shells or simply lie back on the sand and enjoy the aerial acrobatics of seagulls, terns and brown pelicans as they soar above the waves.
ZEKE’S ISLAND RESERVE
Revel in the dynamic landscape of 1,635 acres of barrier reef, slight elevations, tidal flats, salt marshes, dunes and ocean beaches at Zeke’s Island Reserve located off Kure Beach. The lagoon-like intertidal complex found at the Zeke's Island Reserve is one of the most important shorebird feeding habitats on the East Coast. Bird species such as dunlin, black-bellied plovers, short-billed dowitchers, white ibis, and great blue herons, as well as black ducks, mallards, and pintails have been recorded at Zeke's Island.
MASONBORO ISLAND RESERVE
At 8.4 miles in length, Masonboro Island Reserve is the longest undisturbed barrier island ecosystem in southern North Carolina. The reserve protects coastal habitats for long-term research, education, and stewardship. Take a boat cruise or tour and see pristine examples of a barrier island, salt marsh, and tidal creek ecosystems of which sustain birds, fish, invertebrates, and sea turtles. The reserve offers several education and citizen-science programs that engage learners of all ages.
THE LOOP AT WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH
The Island's scenic 3-mile loop offers an experience you won't find anywhere else. Test your running or biking skills or just stroll as you enjoy views of the Intracoastal Waterway, Banks Channel and beautiful salt marshes.