River to Sea Water Experiences

With the Cape Fear River, Intracoastal Waterway, Atlantic Ocean and other tributaries surrounding Wilmington, it should come as no surprise that the coastal city has a number of attractions and activities that revolve around the water. From boat tours to watersports, fishing and waterparks, Wilmington and our island beaches have its fair share of ways to take to the water.

Read on to get your feet wet, or view the full list of water recreation and local outfitters.


Scenic Cruises and Excursions

Embark on a kayak or canoe excursion with Cape Fear River Adventures for a firsthand look at the wildlife that calls the backwaters of our local rivers home. See the Colonial rice canals near Eagles Island, or discover the oldest known living bald cypress trees in the Three Sisters Swamp on the Black River.

Explore Greenfield Lake on a guided canoe or paddleboat tour with Cape Fear River Watch, which aims to protect and improve the water quality of the Lower Cape Fear River Basin through education, advocacy and action. The group also conducts eco-tours and bird watching tours, as well as environmental education classes, throughout the year.

Hook, Line & Paddle offers guided kayak and stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) adventures throughout Wilmington, Masonboro Island Reserve and nearby Figure Eight Island. From eco-tours exploring one of the largest undisturbed barriers islands along southern North Carolina’s coast to kayaking fishing tours where visitors can cast a line to hook redfish, flounder, trout, bluefish or Spanish mackerel, this outfitter has a water vessel and excursion fit for any visitor.

For kayaking, birding, backpacking, hiking or camping adventures, book an individual or group excursion with Mahanaim Adventures. Excursions range from half- to full-day adventures, as well as birding kayaking tours, river paddle trips or romantic sunset cruises in a tandem kayak.

Take in views of Wilmington's Riverwalk while cruising along the Cape Fear River in an environmentally friendly paddleboat with BrewBoat Wilmington. Your group will provide the pedal power necessary to turn the paddle-wheel at the back of the boat or use the boat’s solar panel-powered electric motor. The 90-minute BYOB (Bring Your Own Beverage) excursion starts at Port City Marina at the north end of the Riverwalk. The boat can accommodate up to 15 passengers and can be reserved as part of a group cruise or a private charter – ideal for groups of friends and family or making new friends!

Wilmington’s longest continuously running boat tour, Cape Fear Riverboats, Inc. offers daily, narrated one-hour sightseeing tours from March through October that will teach visitors all about the Cape Fear River and downtown Wilmington. Or take a four-hour relaxing getaway to the pristine Black River where coastal ecologist and author Andy Wood will divulge everything there is to know about the local ecological hot spot. In the evening, take in pristine historic downtown and river sunset views during a narrated cruise aboard the Henrietta Riverboat that includes an on-board bar and light snacks. Private tours and charters are also available for large groups and parties.

Choose between historic and eco-tours, sunset cruises or narrated tours of the beautiful Cape Fear River with Wilmington Water Tours. Cruises are offered morning, afternoon and evening all year long with signature cruises like the Champagne Sunset Cruise, Music Sunset Cruise and more available on select days.

Set sail on a classic 42 ft. Sparkman & Stephens with Shamrock Sailing Adventures and explore the waterways, barrier islands and marine life surrounding Wrightsville Beach. Choose from three departure options per day with each two-hour cruise exploring extensive birdlife, unbeatable scenery and wildlife spottings that include dolphins surfing the bow. Take a specialty sail to Masonboro Island, embark with your significant other on a half-day private charter or increase your skills with a two-day Leadership Academy course with Captain Jim.

Water Activities

Wilmington and our island beaches are also home to a number of watersports and activities. Learn how to hang ten with a surf lesson taught by certified instructors, paddle through area waterways on a stand-up paddleboard or kayak, cruise atop boats or jump in a sailboat and learn to be your own captain and explore the coastal waterways at Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach. Various outfitters provide rentals, lessons and excursions for you to embark on the journey that suits your interests.

In Wilmington, Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park is the perfect spot for a day filled with all that the name implies: family fun. Jungle Rapids features a waterpark with a million-gallon wave pool, speed slides, sidewinder, super bowl, lazy river, volcano mountain and a kiddie splash pool.

Fishing Adventures

Anglers visiting Wilmington will find numerous places to bait a hook and drop a line – whether from the surf, piers, fishing charters or head boats. Offering inshore, nearshore and offshore fishing tours, cruises and family adventures, Feel Good Fishing Charters & Adventures offers a variety of fishing excursions. Book a four-, six- or eight-hour charter for fly-fishing or deep-sea fishing or partake in an old-fashioned fishing adventure using Scarborough reels from days past to get a feel for how anglers used to hook their catches of the day. Hot Ticket Fishing Charters specializes in offshore Gulf Stream and deep-sea bottom fishing charters, with half-day Spanish and Blues trips or half-day shark fishing trips. The company also offers a half-day dolphin watching charter for those looking to see the bottle-nosed sea creatures dive through the waves.

For more ways to cast a line, visit Carolina Beach Fishing Center and Marina, Carolina Beach Fishing Pier or Carolina Beach State Park, Wrightsville Beach's Johnnie Mercers Pier and Crystal Pier or one of the oldest fishing piers on the Atlantic Ocean, the Kure Beach Fishing Pier, among other options at Wilmington's nearby island beaches.