Wilmington is brimming with outdoor activities for the whole family to enjoy. Find renewal in more than a dozen parks and trails in Wilmington, plus two neighboring state parks. Spend time reconnecting with nature and finding wellness in this refreshing coastal destination.
Flora, Fauna and Beyond
Experience Wilmington’s scenic beauty and surrounding waters during the 2023 NC Year of the Trail, an initiative celebrating the state’s trails, greenways and blueways.
At the Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden, take the walking trail to the wooden observation decks. You’ll spot plenty of native carnivorous plants, including Pitcher plants and the rare Venus flytrap, which only grows natively in the Wilmington area.
Explore lush gardens, wildlife and lakes at Airlie Gardens, spanning 67 acres and featuring the centuries-old Airlie Oak and over 75,000 spring-blooming azaleas. In the summer, visit the seasonal butterfly house filled with native North Carolina butterflies in an open-air structure.
At the New Hanover County Arboretum, wander through seven acres of seasonal gardens and unique sights, including one of North Carolina’s largest water gardens full of hundreds of colorful Koi. Make your way to the Japanese specialty garden with an authentic tea house and numerous Japanese maples. Little ones can enjoy the children’s garden and a cozy cottage.
Home to moss-draped cypress trees and indigenous wildlife, Greenfield Park boasts 250 acres filled with biking and walking trails along the lake, which paddlers can enjoy aboard single and tandem kayak rentals. You’ll also find tennis courts, a skate park, playgrounds and picnic shelters. Visit Ogden Park, which has a variety of sports fields and courts where you can play your favorite pick-up ball game. Discover their state-of-the-art skate park, playground, off-leash dog park and walking trail with an exercise station.
Stroll down the scenic Riverwalk past restaurants, cafes, boutique shops and art galleries to Riverfront Park. This family-friendly, award-winning waterfront park contains an ample green space, a playground, seasonal water features and gardens. Plus, the state-of-the-art Live Oak Bank Pavilion at Riverfront Park hosts year-round Live Nation-produced concerts to enjoy alongside views of the Cape Fear River and the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA.
Nearby Fort Fisher State Recreation Area boasts six miles of protected shoreline. Its picturesque Basin Trail journeys through the marsh's edge past a WWII bunker. Nestled along the Cape Fear River, Carolina Beach State Park offers 8.5 miles of hiking along nine trails, including the Flytrap Trail.
Get your body moving and feel the salty breeze as you pedal along the River to Sea Bikeway, an 11-mile on- and off-road trail taking cyclists from downtown Wilmington to nearby Johnnie Mercers Pier. Take a ride on the Gary Shell Cross City Trail, a 15-mile off-road, multi-use trail that provides bikers and pedestrians access to numerous recreational, cultural and educational spots. Bikes can be rented from Bike Cycles Shop.
Thrill-seeking cyclists will want to check out Blue Clay Bike Park, an eight-mile off-road trail system for mountain bikers, hikers and runners. As the county’s most extensive bike trail, it generates an adrenaline rush for experienced and casual cyclists alike.
Activities on the Water
Embark on a new seasonal eco-tour led by a local wildlife expert with Wilmington Outdoor Adventures. The Shark Tooth Hunting Eco Tour offers a chance to explore an uninhabited island and search for coveted shark teeth, artifacts, whale bones and other fossils. Take to the water and soak up sights of the Riverwalk and beyond with Cape Fear River Boats. Their sightseeing cruises travel down the riverfront, while their nature tours follow the cypress-lined Northeast Cape Fear River as you learn about local wildlife. With Wilmington Water Tours, embark on historic eco-tours and narrated journeys along the river, like the Eagle Island Cruise which provides views of unspoiled nature and varied wildlife.
Seasoned and aspiring anglers will find numerous ways to drop a line in Wilmington. Feel Good Fishing Charters & Adventures offers charters that can be customized to include inshore, nearshore, deep-sea and fly fishing for up to six guests. Interested in more than just fishing? The outfitter offers adventures like Family Explorer Day, which teaches kids the basics of fishing, clamming or crabbing. The Sunset/Scenic Cruise is a perfect evening date night activity for couples. Test your wild side with Mahanaim Adventures’ team-building challenges, personalized kayaking experiences and overnight kayak camping. Visitors can choose from a variety of themed and wildlife-specific outdoor adventures.
Wilmington is an ideal destination for nature lovers and wellness enthusiasts thanks to its many outdoor attractions and waterways. Experience Wilmington’s natural beauty with an escape to the best of the Carolina coast.
Discover more ways to soak in wilderness and wellness just minutes away in Wilmington’s scenic island beaches: Carolina, Kure and Wrightsville.