Summer Fresh & Fall Refresh in Wilmington, NC

Coastal Fun Still in Season

In Wilmington, NC and Island Beaches, outdoor adventures and sunny days carry on. With our premier parks and gardens, beautiful beaches and many nature-related activities to choose from, visitors find rejuvenation and relaxation wherever they go. Family-friendly trip ideas, self-guided tours, water activities and alfresco or takeout dining make it easy to get away from it all. Plan an end-of-summer trip or get a head start on fall now to enjoy continued warm days, fewer crowds, off-season rates and all the outdoor activities Wilmington is famous for well beyond summer. Whether it’s a sunset over the river or stroll along the waterfront, Wilmington and our beaches – Carolina, Kure and Wrightsville – are ready for whatever brings you joy.

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What to Expect When Visiting

Thank you for trusting us with your care and safety as you travel to the area. We encourage you to travel and enjoy responsibly by practicing social distancing, wearing masks and following other guidelines for your safety. With safety concerns top of mind for travelers, many lodging properties are following enhanced safety guidelines provided by corporate offices, as well as guidance from the American Hotel & Lodging Association, U.S. Travel Association, and the CDC that are designed to provide consistent cleaning safety standards. A statewide “Count on Me NC” program with the N.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association, Visit NC, and N.C. State University provides specific guidance and training to local restaurants, hotels, and other public-facing businesses on best practices. Find a map and list here of businesses who have completed "Count on Me NC" training. Please find on-going travel updates here.

End of Summer Beach Trip Ideas

It’s not too late to plan a last-minute summer getaway to experience a variety of outdoor activities and beachside fun. Cool off with the family at Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park featuring a million-gallon wave pool, lazy river and more. Head to our island beaches for time on the sand and rent kayaks, paddleboards and bicycles from area outfitters. Embark on an eco-adventure by way of water aboard a catamaran or head to barrier islands like Masonboro Island or Zeke’s Island for a fun day of bird watching and shell collecting. Catch a wave or learn from the pros in surf school at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina’s birthplace of surfing. Kick back at Carolina Beach and stroll the Boardwalk for sweet treats or hike one of seven trails spanning from the secluded Flytrap Trail to waterside walks at Carolina Beach State Park. Kure Beach is the perfect summer retreat and was just named one of 11 Secret Beaches Perfect for Social Distancing on the East Coast. Get outside for a hike through salt marshes along the Basin Trail at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area or rent a Jeep from SunFun Rentals and head out on the secluded four-wheel-drive access beach.

Find the Perfect Rates & Places to Stay

Be in the center of Historic Downtown Wilmington while taking in riverside views. Take advantage of amenities at full-service hotels and resorts like a rooftop bar, farm-and sea-to-table restaurants or stay oceanfront and play cornhole in plush gardens. Boutique hotels and B&Bs offer a curated experience along the Wilmington Riverwalk or in the Historic District. Feel at home while on vacation with beach home or condo rentals at our island beaches. Our lodging options are upholding cleaning and safety standards that will help you find comfort and peace of mind, no matter where you stay. Check out lodging partner websites to discover off-season rates when booking for this fall.

Fall is the New Summer

Thanks to mild temperatures, fewer crowds and off-season rates there’s a lot to love about Wilmington and our island beaches in the fall. With warm water that extends well into the season, you can still catch a wave or kayak on an eco-adventure. Enjoy the shades of a fall seaside landscape as you explore Carolina Beach State Park and choose from nearly nine miles of trails that wander along the water and through the long-leaf pines. Kure Beach’s Basin Trail at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area is the perfect short nature walk for all fitness levels, or walk or jog along the Wrightsville Beach Loop featuring scenic sound, channel and town views. Find breathtaking blooms as you explore seven acres of scenic greenery including a koi fish water garden and Japanese tranquility garden at the New Hanover County Arboretum. For more breathing room, stroll the many walking paths within the 67 acres of Airlie Gardens, one of the South's premiere gardens (closed temporarily for maintenance). August through November, look for Airlie Squirrels! the art exhibition, featuring larger-than-life squirrels decorated by local artists on display throughout the grounds. Head downtown for a self-guided tasting tour along the Wilmington Ale Trail or dig into coastal fare still in season on outdoor patios. Take in a river sunset as you stroll along the Wilmington Riverwalk to end the day. We’re ready for whatever helps you discover new paths.

Alfresco Dining

When the fresh-food cravings hit, head to Wilmington's new alfresco dining and shopping scene, Downtown Alive. Downtown streets turn into an open-air pedestrian walk featuring a variety of sidewalk cafés and retail stores that expand into the streets to safely serve customers and allow diners to enjoy our restaurants responsibly. Four blocks in downtown Wilmington are closed to vehicular traffic four days a week on Thursday and Friday between 6:30 – 10 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. through September 7. Advance reservations with participating restaurants are encouraged. Catch the energy of our downtown main streets during Downtown Alive while devouring oysters on the half-shell from Dock Street Oyster Bar, enjoying comfort food and unique grilled cheese flavors from Crust Kitchen and Cocktails or savor tapas from Circa 1922. If waterside dining is more your style, venture to the Riverwalk to enjoy the spectacular river views and fresh seafood at The George on the Riverwalk, Elijah's Restaurant or Pilot House Restaurant. Check out new restaurants like Michaels on the Waterfront and Floriana for balcony dining served in historic buildings by the riverfront.

Foodie Favorites

Wilmington’s dining scene has evolved with a focus on safety, featuring new no-contact ordering options and unique curbside pickup. Head to Midtown to indulge in award-winning coastal creations to-go from "Top Chef" contestant Keith Rhodes at Catch. Enjoy certified Angus Beef burgers, Ahi Tuna and Crab Dip at JohnnyLukes KitchenBar, offering visitors with mobile phones a contactless menu and takeout service. Savor fresh flavors of the sea with marina-side meals-to-go from Dockside Restaurant and Bluewater Waterfront Grill in Wrightsville Beach or Stoked Restaurant in Carolina Beach. Jack Mackerel's Island Grill in Kure Beach features Calabash platters and local softshell crab sandwiches packaged to go. Order a customizable seafood steam pot to-go from Topsail Steamer or Cape Fear Boil Company. These ready-to-boil meals are perfect for a family night in at the vacation rental. 

Self-Guided Tours

Embark on a self-guided tour of Wilmington's African American Heritage and discover critical religious, educational, social and cultural sites. Download the map and brochure to begin your tour of more than 35 historically important locations. Wilmington’s craft beer scene is booming, and it couldn’t be easier to explore with the Wilmington Ale Trail as your guide. With eight breweries located in downtown Wilmington alone, and many more within a short drive, pick up growlers to-go curbside and enjoy local hops, loggers and everything in between. Grab your binoculars and zoom lenses to spy feathered friends along NC’s Birding Trail. Rent from a local outfitter and travel by kayak to Zeke’s Island Reserve off Kure Beach, walk the sandy shores along Wrightsville Beach’s Waterbird Management Area or head downtown to Oakdale Cemetery to see a variety of Plover, Ibis, Heron, Pelican and many more bird species. Download the Wilmington History Tours mobile app and explore downtown’s National Register Historic District with 230-plus blocks of historic homes and buildings. The app includes five different tours, so choose your adventure and explore at your own pace.