Discover Nature All Around

When in Wilmington, it’s easy to find nature around every corner. The Atlantic Ocean and Cape Fear River provide a diverse ecosystem that invites unique wildlife, gardens and scenic trails. Embark on nature walks and cruises to maritime ecosystems, waterways, wildlife and flora. Visitors will also find entertainment from live music to sport facilities within Wilmington’s picturesque parks and gardens.

Read on or get inspired with a full list of parks, gardens and eco-adventure.

.

Pristine Gardens

Connect with nature at the Arboretum at New Hanover County. Visitors can explore seven acres of scenic gardens with unique features including a Japanese garden with an authentic tea house and Japanese maples; a water garden with colorful Koi, catfish and lilies; and a Contemplation Garden that honors the five branches of military.

Embark on a nature-lover’s dream with a stroll through Airlie Gardens. The beauty of Airlie Gardens’ more than 67 acres has been showcased in a number of Hollywood and television hits such as “28 Days,” “One Tree Hill” and “Dawson’s Creek." One of the South’s most premiere gardens is home to walking paths, seasonal blooms, a Butterfly House home to North Carolina butterflies, mighty live oaks including the Airlie Oak that sprouted in 1545, historic and contemporary structures such as the Bottle Chapel, Azalea Earl the Frog and birding trails. Participate in the monthly Bird Hike to find a variety of colorful wildlife and up to 200 bird species. For entertainment, the Airlie Gardens Summer Concert Series is the ideal spot to eat, drink and relax on the lawn while enjoying musical performances.

Noted as one of the best dog-friendly spots for outdoor activities, Greenfield Lake Park & Gardens is home to 250 acres of scenic views, lush gardens, five miles of walking trails, boat rentals and more. While walking, biking, paddleboating, canoeing or kayaking the area, visitors will find moss-draped cypress trees and indigenous wildlife. You can even sign up for a guided walking or kayak tour. The park and gardens offer restroom facilities, water fountains, playgrounds, shelters, picnic areas and grills, making it the perfect place to enjoy time outdoors. If you enjoy live music, check out a show at Hugh Morton Amphitheater, which hosts popular acts throughout the year.

Entertaining Parks

Hugh MacRae Park offers a beautiful garden area with a pond and gazebo, picnic areas, a fully-accessible playground, splashpad, 1.55-mile walking trail and off-leash dog park. For a little friendly competition, check out one of the park’s baseball fields, basketball, tennis and sand volleyball courts, or its equestrian ring.

Soak up the great outdoors at Ogden Park, where you can play a round of your favorite sport (soccer, football, basketball, baseball, softball or tennis), stroll along a one-mile paved walking trail with an exercise station or pop a wheelie at its state-of-the-art, 10,000-square-foot concrete skate park.

Head to Arrowhead Park for a round of 18-hole disc golf. The park also offers tennis courts, a basketball court, multi-purpose field and a playground.

Explore the blissful wonders of Halyburton Memorial Park. The 58-acre nature preserve invites visitors to embark on a 1.3-mile walking and birding trail, participate in fitness classes, nature programs and events, and discover the wonderful world around you during its environmental education sessions.

Mountain bikers will revel in the challenging 8-mile course at Blue Clay Bike Park – New Hanover County’s most extensive bike trail. This off-road trail system is suitable for all levels of cyclists, as well as hikers and runners. Parking, restrooms and a sheltered table are located at the start of the trail.

Eco-Adventures

Gain a new perspective of the history and ecology of our waterways and the area surrounding the Cape Fear River aboard a catamaran with Wilmington Water Tours. Cruise by historic downtown and Eagles Island during the Eagles Island Cruise where you can learn about local rice plantations, flora and fauna. Tours are offered daily on even hours and last 50 minutes. Or, book the Black River Cruise to enjoy the variety of wildflowers, wildlife and spectacular trees along the meandering river, oxbows, artesian springs and mature swamp forests. Get a double dose of the “B’s” when you hop aboard the cruiser for the hour-and-a-half Breakfast With The Birds tour. Visitors can also book customized, private charters mornings, afternoons and evenings year-round.

Cape Fear Riverboats invites visitors to partake in a 4-hour tour of the Black River. On the nature cruise, visitors will learn about plant and wildlife from local coastal ecologist Andy Wood and see amber-colored waters framed by spectacular swamp forests that appear similar to their original views. Cruises happen twice a month from May to October, and guests are free to bring food and drink aboard.

Walk along the Riverwalk to explore a part of the Cape Fear Estuary. This estuarine area is an extremely important ecological system that’s home to animals that you can see and learn more about from signage displayed on the 1.75-mile Riverwalk. Animal species you might find include the American Alligator, River Otter, Snowy Egret, and even manatees, among others.

Peruse 11 sites on the North Carolina Birding Trail across Wilmington and our Island Beaches, including Airlie Gardens, Zeke’s Island Reserve, Oakdale Cemetery, Fort Fisher State Historic Site, Fort Fisher State Recreation Area and more. North Carolina's unique geographic setting along the Atlantic coast flyway provides both breeding and wintering grounds for many birds, making the state a premier birding destination.

Wilmington’s nearby island beaches all have their own eco-adventures, parks and gardens that are just waiting to be discovered. At Carolina Beach, you’ll find carnivorous plants at a state park; at Kure Beach, an estuarine reserve; and at Wrightsville Beach, barrier islands and more.